Fascinating question, Lauren, but I wonder if it wouldn't be fruitful to narrow and define some key conditinos and terms...
"people" - do you mean any particular people? An audience conditioned to expect and understand classical ballet v. one conditioned to percieve meaning and value in a traditional dance with a shared history and language of an identified tribe?
"Contemporary" - some contemporary dance is intentionally cerebral (ref. the late Merce Cunningham's work) while others is powerfully and directly emotionally affective by design (ref. the work of the late Pina Bausch). Even within this spectrum, the question of conditioning (preparedness for the experience, recognition of the qualities of the experience, willingness to be affected by the experience) will still come into play. Also, without any knowledge or expertise in the question I would still be willing to venture that it is likely that different "tribal" dances have different intents as well, and these may need to be considered.
"technical control" you may find it is a bit patronizing to assume either that a tribal dance does not involve extensive training and preparation or that the performance of a ballet is exclusively or even primarily focused on 'technical control' (by the time one reaches professional level performance skills, technique is usually well in place and focus may be shifted to other concerns such as character or timing.) So you it might be useful to narrow this term, too. .
To say that 'intense' dances affect people more is a bit circular (they are more intense because they affect people more intensely?). So perhaps what you are looking for is some key markers that reliably stimulate responses. For example if you are suggesting that a key component is rhythm, perhaps you are looking for the ways in which patterning, effort or emphasis within patterning, repetition, duration, and pace work in one dance v. another to synchronize an audience physically (heart rates, pulse, breath) or kinaesthetically (movement feeling, mirroring) with the dance?
Yes, very relevant points made there Karen and an interesting discussion started Lauren!
Perhaps Lauren, and this is something that I have considered in my research into kinesthetic empathy and screendance audiences, you could consider narrative as a key aspect of audience affect. Ballet is narrative heavy and for some audience members, it is the combination of narrative and virtuosity that affect them. Perhaps that could be a key marker as Karen suggested.
Reiterating a point made by Karen, different people bring with them differernt personal memories and different embodied experiences that affect their interpretation and meaning making of what they view as an audience member. Nevertheless, this may result in having a similar experience to your neighbour, but what you bring to a performance is not the same. In addition, audiences may have different expectations when going to watch ballet than watching traditional, cultural forms of dances.
Food for thought!
your writings made me think of Hofesh Shechter's dances
and do you know about this book: