December 11, 2005
A Positive Developmentby
Before acquiescing immediately to the idea that New York is no longer the world capital of dance, I think it’s worth acknowledging the creativity of the many choreographers who call New York home – Merce Cunningham is certainly the acknowledged grand old man of the field. But one has to add Paul Taylor, Trisha Brown, Mark Morris Bill T. Jones, Elizabeth Streb and Shen Wei only to name a few from a number of different generations to show that New York is still a rich center of dance. Twenty-five years ago, a fair number of those names would already have been on the list of someone watching the dance scene in New York and most dance watchers would have had relatively few names to add from other parts of the country or of the world if their primary interest was modern or postmodern dance. Ballet always had centers outside of the United States even if Balanchine (and, perhaps to a less extent Robbins) towered above other choreographers of the form.
That said, if New York is no longer a self-sufficient center of any art form, it is a sign of a city and a country much more aware of the rest of the world than was necessary even twenty-five years ago. To my mind one of the most exciting developments of the last decade or so is the immense appetite audiences I am familiar with (in Charleston and New York) have for work that comes from traditions beyond the Western European/American canon. I believe that this is a welcome evolution rather than something to be decried.
Moments & Economicsby
It's a complex question. New York had its moment, is still having a different kind of moment (there is in fact a LOT of exciting stuff here) and will have more moments. Other towns had/have/will have their moments, too, and Gia is right that there's a lot of life in Europe these days. Japan, too.
As for NY, economics is a big problem. Virigil Thomson once gave a two-word explanation for why there was an American expat scene in Paris in the 20's and 30's: "real estate," meaning cheap rents. Rents are not cheap in NY today. Also, there is a certain nostalgic provinciality about NY, and by no means focussed on presenters, as Gia seems ot imply. Critics, fans, the fabled "dance community": all seem to me a little too ready dismiss stuff as Eurotrash. Some Eurotrash is trash, but some of it is downright interesting, and we don't see enough of it. But it seems to me that the presenters are in fact opening up more and more to what's going on abroad: look at this fall's Dance Theater Workshop and Next Wave offerings. And it's easier to do that in "contemporary dance" than in ballet, since the troupes are less expensive to import.
Looking for A Critical Massby Douglas McLennan
How is it that some cities or countries at certain points in their history gather up a critical mass of brain power, creativity, aesthetic sensibility, money and demand (among other things) to establish themselves as the "center" of anything? Throughout history, certain places have emerged as creative capitals, inevitably to recede as innovation rises up somewhere else. This constant renewing strikes me as a healthy thing, essential to the development and renewal of a healthy art form.
While it's certainly true that artforms such as movie-making have established strong roots in Southern California, that dominance is being challenged in the current technology revolution, and places such as Bollywood now out-produce America in the volume of movies made. In music, the center broke apart a long time ago; there are many thriving capitals, and energy shifts with the seasons. Visual art too has its centers, but look how quickly Art Basel Miami Beach became the largest art fair in the world after only three years, while art fairs such as Chicago now languish.
New York's contemporary dance scene has so towered above anywhere else in America for so long (if even in volume if nothing else), I'm wondering whether this is a sign of the city's unmatched creative energy, or is it the lack of an established enough scene elsewhere to challenge it. And if there's a perception by some that the most interesting work is no longer happening in New York, is that because of a creative wane or infrastructure problems (too expensive, not enough opportunity, etc)?
Or is it that better opportunities and ideas have emerged elsewhere and/or in places more conducive to supporting them?
What's going on here...by Douglas McLennan
For one week (Dec 12-16, 2005) we've asked a group of people with a keen interest in the dance world to come together online and debate. They'll be posting every day and we invite readers to join the conversation. Reader posts will be accessible by a link at the bottom of each blog entry, at the bottom of this side column, and we'll also excerpt reader comments in the main part of the blog. The intent of this discuassion, as in all AJ topic blogs ... ... is to debate ideas, in the belief that vigorous public discourse makes for a stronger culture. Our bloggers were chosen as sparks to that discourse. They don't represent all points of view. They are not intended to represent all points of view. Rather, they are people we believe will provide a strong beginning to a smart debate. In previous AJ blog events, some of the most insightful (and inciteful) participation has come from readers, and we expect the same to happen here. I'd like to thank Bob Yesselman from Dance/NYC for his help in suggesting this debate, and several others, including Andrea Snyder of Dance/USA and Diane Ragsdale of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their help.
Posted by mclennan at 3:08 PM
Our topicby Douglas McLennan
Is it true, as Gia Kourlas declared in the New York Times in September, that "New York is no longer the capital of the contemporary dance world"? New York has, for so long, been at the center of dance, the idea is taken on faith in the US. Has the city lost its edge? And if not New York, where are the new capitals of dance? In Amsterdam or Bucharest? Berlin? Brussels, Paris or Vienna? Or has some of the energy that used to propel the New York scene spread elsewhere in America?
Posted by mclennan at 3:06 PM
Our bloggers...by Douglas McLennan
Performing Arts Strategies, Pittsburgh
Former director, Dance Theatre Workshop
Dance Theater Workshop
Anouk van Dijk
On the Boards
Lincoln Center Festival
The New York Times
Time Out New York
Posted by mclennan at 2:11 PM
Links to related storiesby Douglas McLennan
How New York Lost Its Modern Dance Reign by Gia Kourlas, The New York Times 09/06/05
Hot Topic: Has NYC lost its leading edge in contemporary dance? - by Wendy Perron, Dance Magazine 12/05
Posted by mclennan at 12:25 PM