photo by Corinne Cappelletti

Sarah Maxfield proposes An Alternative

Creator and curator Sarah Maxfield uses poetic structure to explore gentleness in performance.

An Alternative

Gentleness takes great strength. It is not a weakness.

That is a platitude.

Platitudes are overused, but not untrue.


I am learning. Now. I am learning to be gentle. Deeply gentle. Not just for a moment, or because of a situation, but always and always gentle. Even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult. I am now a mother.


No. Don’t say, “Oh” as if it isn’t worth your attention. Why are you so much more interested in ferocity? I hear you. All the time. “FIERCE” you say. It’s a high compliment. The highest.


What does it say about us when we emphasize ferocity over kindness? Why is our goal as performance makers to “blow people away?” What if the goal was love?


That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Gentleness is not fragility. It is not simply too naive to know any better. Gentleness is savvy, worldly. Gentleness is wiser than ferocity, but we rarely see wisdom on stage. We prefer youth and vigor.

Now you’re just being bitter.

Bitterness is a balancing flavor.

I thought you were selling sweet.

Gentleness is not the same as sweetness. Sweetness occurs. Gentleness is a choice – and an active one. It is not giving up. Regardless of what Dylan Thomas would have you believe.

Poetry isn’t gentle enough for you? You’re fighting a losing battle.

Not everything is a battle.

Yes it is.

No it isn’t.

Yes it is.

No it… Oh, I see what you’re doing. You caught me. Fierce.

You’re giving up?

No, I’m just giving. There is a difference. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.

This piece was originally published on August 1, 2013 and edited for publication in September of 2021.

Cover Image description:

A solo performed as part of Lindsey Drury’s birthday bus tour roving performance; against the white marble of the Washington Square arch, a woman with short hair is silhouetted by two lights pointing up from the street grates below. She is wearing a smock jacket and is facing left with both hands pointing and gesturing, as if she is talking to someone out of the frame.

Filed under:


performance, Sarah Maxfield, writing


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Sarah Maxfield

Sarah Maxfield is a maker with deep roots in dance. She has contributed to the dance and performance community through curation, dramaturgy, writing, archiving, administration, choreography, performan...
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