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December 11, 2005

Looking for A Critical Mass

by 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?

Posted by mclennan at December 11, 2005 3:13 PM

COMMENTS

Perhaps dance was developing in other places all along, and New York was not always the centre of the form. I am drawn particularly to Mary Wigman, Laban, Nijinsky, and others for their non-American roots which have nourished dance artists in other places for decades now, and have begun to bear interesting fruit, like Pina Bausch, Saburo Teshigawara, Holy Body Tattoo, and others with no connection to New York.

Posted by: gerry at December 12, 2005 5:54 PM

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