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December 13, 2005

not namby-pamby

by

A year ago, I got upset reading Anna Kisselgoff's dance-is-dead article ("Thoughts on the Once and Future Dance Boom,” NY Times, Jan. 6, 2005) proclaiming the end of the American dance boom that apparently began in the late 60's and fizzled out some where in the 90's. How could she suggest such a thing, I wondered, when there are so many interesting choreographers taking important steps forward? What about John, Reggie, Sarah, Tere, Wally, Donna, etc.? What about even younger artists like Miguel and Ann Liv? What about the artists I don't even know? I mean, after all, wasn't this merely a matter of a jaded senior critic who had lost touch?

Rereading the article today, I am struck by the provocative (and obviously informed) manner in which Anna summed up the past 30 or so years of dance and pointed to an actual future, one that can include any or all of the artists I mention above. She may have gotten me upset but she also got me thinking as I've referenced the article consistently over the past 12 months. Anna-1. Lane-0.

And so it goes. Joan Acocella wrote about "downtown" dance this past summer in The New Yorker and ruffled some feathers in the downtown community who leveled charges at her being out-of-touch and not getting the work. Paul Ben-Itzak's regular rants in The Dance Insider elicit much rolling of the eyes from administrators and artists alike. Last season, I even wrote an ill-fated open letter in our program suggesting that critics in Seattle were too provincial (bad idea) after one, in my estimation, too easily wrote-off a performance by John Jasperse at our venue. How dare he? This is John Jasperse!

I find it ironic that while we (people who care about dance) are always quick to site the problems in the field--a lack of resources, waning attendance, regurgitated aesthetics, etc.--that we are also quick to take offense at precisely the kind of provocative writing that can get people to give a damn. If there is any threat to the dance field, it is that not enough people care about it. Perhaps this is because people read too much puffy marketing rhetoric (what Tere said) and too many namby-pamby reviews that do nothing to enliven one’s engagement with the form. I’m excited by the questions John Rockwell poses below because they can lead to exactly the kind of conversation and debate that is healthy and interesting.

Posted by at December 13, 2005 3:32 PM

COMMENTS

The threat is not that people do not care about dance. The cancer is that the dance community does not care about themselves. There is not one major local, regional or national organization that teaches dancers to take care of themselves in every sense of the word. Artistically , mentally spiritually and bottom line financially. The dancer and it's so called community is a one way street to nowhere. We do not produce our own work, we do not take the risk for our own work we stand by and "pretend" that we are doing something great and that the public has a moral obligation to praise us. It's like a sheep telling a wolf 'please start biting me here instead of there' we are in no position to call the shots. Which is precisely why dance has stagnated. It is now time to take pages from the playbooks of Spike Lee, Section8 films, Sundance Film Festival, from anyone in any industry who learned through trial and error to lay it on the line and succeed. Dancers seem only concerned with trial and no error to ourselves.

Posted by: David Norwood at December 14, 2005 5:44 AM

Does dance performances have to be at 8?
If there is greater demand for dance (bigger audience or an audience which wants to see dance more frequently) we would all be happier. And certainly a lot of us do not aim to compete with entertainment. If that's indeed the case why do dance performances compete with entertainment and restaurants for the 8 PM slot?? Have theaters tried presenting dance Wednesday afternoons at 2, or weekdays at 4, 5, or 6? Or at lunch time?

Posted by: Michael Mao at December 14, 2005 1:13 PM

I am glad to see that someone has brought up "the other article" by Anna Kisselgoff - "Thoughts on the Once and Future Dance Boom,” NY Times, Jan. 6, 2005 - appreciated for its more historical perspective on the sign of our times. It conjures up that we ARE at a turn of the century, just as almost 100 years ago that the DADA movement was born in the midst of the first world war and history repeats itself waiting for the next BOOM - in art and dance, that is, not more war - we can only hope. In this interconnected world -- economically - where the balance of power tips the bowl of rice (somehow Eastern countries were not even mentioned in these dance "articles"); physically - where cultures ARE mixing it up; and technologically - the leveler of the playing field and the very reason we are even having this blog -- it's hard to say if there can be any one center. It is interesting though about "centers" - in the height of the real-estate boom in NY, major centers dedicated to contemporary dance have sprung up all over the New York City - from Dance Theater Workshop, Mark Morris Dance Center, Alvin Ailey Studios, Baryshnikov Arts Center, to the multitude of artist-run studios from Brooklyn, Bronx to Queens. How are these organizations and artists doing this without the luxuries that our European allies have? I wonder this everyday as I maintain TOPAZ ARTS and create dance -- creating out of necessity and the necessity to create.

Earlier this year I was a panelist for DTW's forum called "Making Your Own Model", a discussion on supporting yourself as an artist. In the Q&A session, it was disheartening to hear that some artists are trying to follow "the corporate model" and no wonder there doesn't seem to be any risk-taking going on. We should heed these discussions and all go back to taking risks - for artists, funders, presenters and non-artists alike-- take risks in our work, in who gets funded, who is presented, who is elected - I'm all for a revolution!

Posted by: Paz Tanjuaquio at December 16, 2005 1:30 PM

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