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Amy O'Neal, a modern dance choreographer, recently took on the challenge of performing without music. (Courtesy of the artist)

Stop The Music: A Dancer Tries Silence

by NPR Staff
May 13, 2012 (All Things Considered)

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Weekends on All Things Considered continues its "Why Music Matters" series with stories of music fans, told in their own words. Today's story is about Amy O'Neal, a choreographer who took on the challenge of dancing in complete silence.

"I had to do a performance a couple years ago where I couldn't use any music," O'Neal says. "I had 15 minutes without sound. I felt like, OK, well, I need to have some kind of circumstances to deal with — so I asked people to bring me different outfits to wear. I would end up changing out there and sort of embodying whatever outfit it was that they had brought in."

O'Neal says that although she liked the idea at first, seeing video of her performance was a rude awakening.

"When I saw the video I was like — oh my god, why are you doing that? You're just doing that because you're nervous about it being quiet," O'Neal says. "These questions came up: Is music a crutch for me? Why do I have to have it? Why can't I just be up there alone?

"There's an inherent tension and beauty in silence," she adds. "Things really aren't ever silent — there's always something, whether it be your breath or somebody coughing. But then, when music happens, everything sort of becomes alive."

"Why Music Matters" is produced by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in collaboration with the Association of Independents in Radio and KEXP-FM in Seattle.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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