Dance has become a popular acquisition of museums in recent years. Immersive, participatory, and often silly, “The Museum Workout” could be seen as a cheeky response to the trend. But the work also tackles serious questions that dance artists have long been asking about the relationship between artists and audiences and about what constitutes dance.
“At a media preview on January 9,” writes Sarah Rose Sharp, “the Detroit Institute of Arts introduced Lumin, a new interpretive guide developed in partnership with Google and an augmented reality (AR) platform creator called GuidiGO. Subsequently, a tempest of conflicting emotions was triggered in the soul of this arts writer.”
“People say, ‘I would go more if I was represented on stage,'” says one former board member. But it took until 2015 and the Minnesota Orchestra’s tour of Cuba to create a diversity committee. “There is not a single black musician among the orchestra’s permanent members.”
First of all, book review podcasts don’t pretend to objectivity. And then there’s the ease of access factor: “It can be daunting for someone who feels like a literary outsider to pick up a 10,000-word piece on three translated works in The New York Review of Books, but not to download a couple episodes of a show you can listen to while you’re cleaning your apartment.”
We’ve just gone through a political season in which parallel universes of political discourse made it obvious how easy it is to create realities that are narrowly tailored to our own beliefs. Is the same happening to culture?
There will never again be a show like “One Day at a Time” or “All in the Family” — shows that derived their power not solely from their content, which might not hold up to today’s more high-minded affairs, but also from their ubiquity. There’s just about nothing as popular today as old sitcoms were; the only bits of shared culture that come close are periodic sporting events, viral videos, memes and occasional paroxysms of political outrage (see Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech and the aftermath).
Instead, we’re returning to the cultural era that predated radio and TV, an era in which entertainment was fragmented and bespoke, and satisfying a niche was a greater economic imperative than entertaining the mainstream.
“We’re back to normal, in a way, because before there was broadcasting, there wasn’t much of a shared culture,” said Lance Strate, a professor of communication at Fordham University. “For most of the history of civilization, there was nothing like TV. It was a really odd moment in history to have so many people watching the same thing at the same time.”
Shared cultural experiences define us as a culture. But they also exclude those who don’t connect with the experience. Broadly shared pop culture can also be generic or trivial in its quest to appeal broadly.
So is the rise of niche culture a polarizing phenomenon? Or does it allow for the rich and diverse expression of individuality that enrich our culture and that we should celebrate? How do we talk to each other if our culture increasingly becomes parallel universes and we lose our common vocabulary?
“The greatest challenge was to try to change the existing culture from one that was transactional to philanthropic, removing the need for tiers and associated benefits. The Directors’ Circle was our upper-level membership scheme, designed with its own set of tiers (silver, gold and platinum) and associated benefits. The scheme itself had been relatively successful, particularly in the development of our Sponsor a Dancer appeal. The drawback to the scheme was that it was not cost-effective if supporters drew on all of their benefits. This meant that rather than creating a community of supporters we were at risk of turning those closest to us into transactional givers.”
The Met sent Pretty Yende over to sing “Una voce poco fa” from Barber of Seville, and both the studio audience and the Twitterverse were thrilled. “The question is, did the diva appearance foster any new opera fans, or was this just hopeful thinking?” Michael Vincent considers.
The director of the Elbphilharmonie says that tickets to performances by resident ensembles, touring orchestras like the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony, chamber music, new music and jazz alike are all bought up within hours. He’s even selling “blind date” tickets to concerts by artists to be named later – and people are buying those, too.
Teddy Abrams: “I thought, ‘wait a minute, instead of focusing on how to get a larger share of the state budget – which by the way is next to nothing; I think we get $30,000 from the state – maybe we should focus on getting an orchestra to serve the entire state and start using culture to break down some of these divides.’ Because this just can’t go on. It’s ridiculous: Here are people living right next to each other who can’t have a meaningful dialogue, and who assume nothing will ever change.”
Alexis Soloski: “What accounts for the remarkable rise in revenue and attendance … that the last several years have witnessed? The answer probably relies on both the type of entertainment Broadway has been offering and the new strategies it has found to price and sell its wares.”
Many countries have toyed with the idea of parting company with FM, but a combination of ageing equipment and geography mean Norway is particularly keen to replace its analogue FM system with digital audio broadcasting (DAB).
“It pays to remember that moviegoing is a social activity for vastly more people than it is a kind of religious experience, and that the respect you and I may feel ought to be accorded to the art on screen is by no means the same for most. If you think of a movie as nothing more than a diversion, why should you mind if your attention is diverted for a moment somewhere else?”
Basically, it’s an experiment: “Those buying tickets for Hamilton – one of the most highly anticipated shows of 2017 – will only receive a hard copy of their ticket when they arrive at the Victoria Palace Theatre.”
Maureen Ryan, chief TV critic for Variety: “I really take my hat off to men and women of color and women who actually fight these tropes in the room because every time you open your mouth for whatever reason to contradict the showrunner, you’re taking your career in your hands.”
Sure, 16% of the people polled read no books in the past year, but the numbers of people reading is barely down from 2002, before smartphones, Twitter and Facebook.
“Nielsen BookScan reports that a total of £83.3m worth of print books were sold in the run-up to Christmas, which marks the highest since 2007.” Perhaps not entirely coincidental that the (previously) final Harry Potter book was published in … 2007.
Sure, you can just pick up stuff – sandwiches, drinks, er, books – and walk out, as long as you have the app. And the store is supposed to “see” what you picked up. But sometimes it can’t, so “Amazon staff is asked to help out when the system used in the new Amazon Go store can’t make a determination.”
Should playwrights be making theatre that caters to twentysomethings? Or should theatres simply spend more time putting any play they do in context? Or is this all pandering? “We don’t want to create a nation of inactive blobs who passively sit by; we want to create a community of activists who, when they see someone being victimized, jump up and speak out.”
But despite the great numbers – the best total since 2012 – the numbers for visits to about half of the Smithsonian Museums were down from 2015.
“Across popular entertainment lately, science fiction, theoretical physics, and spirituality have blended to offer not escapism but wait-there’s-more-ism, offering a tantalizing hint that our perception of reality is too narrow – and that with a little bit of effort, we can see extraordinary things.”
As recently as 2014, Paris’s flagship museum had a record 9.3 million visitors – and those numbers were projected to rise to 12 million by 2025. Then came the terrorist attacks.
“[Juma’a Ali] is fiercely proud of his role as the bookseller of Malakal. His little shop stands as a source of education and distraction from the often unbearable conditions the camp’s residents live with on a daily basis.”
Christopher Connolly of Dance Manchester tells how one encounter with a homeschooling parent – along with “a few risks and a leap of faith” – led to a program for a difficult-to-reach community.
“One size stopped fitting all long ago, but now there are clearly two broad groups of music audiences which must be addressed in entirely different ways, across different channels and with different tactics. At the most base level this is a case of youth versus grey, of digital native versus digital immigrant, of playlist versus album, of sales versus consumption. But it is also more complex and nuanced than that. There are overlaps and cross pollination. They may be relatively thin on the ground right now, but like some long-lost treasure map, they may point to how bridges can be built across these two worlds.”
“Boosted by premium ticket prices, a crowd of tourists, a favorable calendar, some extra scheduled performances, and relatively good weather, … the 33 Broadway shows took in $49,677,279 … for the week ending January 1.”
A gift from a philanthropist couple has extended the no-entrance-fee policy, previously for children under 14 only, to all Chicagoans under 18 for at least the next 25 years.
“Television companies are looking for ways to build hype for their new shows and make them stand out amid a glut of high-quality original programs. This year there could be as many as 500 scripted shows on TV and streaming services, compared with about 300 in 2015, according to estimates from the cable network FX. Theater owners, meanwhile, are eager to fill seats during slow periods including the autumn months, and hoping to diversify their businesses as the box office becomes increasingly unpredictable.”
And they may just have a point, at least with respect to some visitors. “In the modern world, a trip to Disney has become a rite of passage that transforms those who make the trek … Disney World resembles a medieval pilgrimage center, designed to connect pilgrims with the supernatural.”
“Judging by the way several theatres have answered the question in recent and upcoming promotional copy, this is far from a settled matter.” Hailey Bachrach looks at that marketing copy and the approaches it takes.
“The playing is beautiful, of course – Mr. Barenboim is one of the greatest pianists of his generation – but it’s the talk that matters. It turns out that in addition to being a great pianist, Mr. Barenboim also has a knack for getting straight to the point.”