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December 15, 2005

The Anti-New York Bias

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I'd like to follow up on some of Cathy's and others comments (like Tere, I'm dizzy!) regarding the political need for the NEA and others programs funded by the NEA to include geographic diversity among their many other criteria. My concern is that this is short-sighted, diffuses artistic quality, and has not led to extraordinary work being created around the country (with a few very wonderful and notable exceptions). It would be fascinating, I think, for an economist to study the conditions under which different types of art are best created. It is my hypothesis that new dance, perhaps more than any other art form, requires the density that exists in New York City -- of peer artists, collaborators, audiences, critics and other media, funders, etc.

Posted by at December 15, 2005 7:53 AM

COMMENTS

I'd like to hear more about the advantages of, as well as the sustainability of, the density that Laurie describes. New York is inarguably our (American) location of highest density when it comes to new dance. My question is, does this primacy of scale automatically imply that the investments should be aimed so exclusively at the(NY) population? I ask this particularly given the real estate and related economic issues with which NY-based artists are faced.

A number of cities in the country have a certain amount (nowhere near as much as New York) of critical mass in terms of people working in dance, including but not limited to new, experimental, culturally and socially conscious theatrical and site-specific forms. Whether relocating from New York or having never spent much time there, dance artists are working in other urban centers (Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, to name a few) because these communities offer better working conditions or other advantages that New York does not offer. While the artistic quality of what is being made in these other locations is not yet on par with what we expect from New York, it is also true that it is extremely difficult for artists from these other centers to penetrate the larger market because of the unwritten code which says that if it isn't from New York or overseas (or maybe San Francisco) it probably isn't very good. I wonder what would happen if a major influx of funding were to be poured into alternative urban (or other) centers and how that might alter the landscape, including who is working where, making what, and under what conditions. The economic study you propose would indeed be interesting. I don't, myself, know how on earth conditions in New York are going to improve significantly in the foreseable future -- the money just is not there to do it. The circumstances in the city have changed dramatically since dance first found a hospitable environment there so many years ago. The limitations are increasing and over time I suspect that this expansion of artists and opportunities beyond the Hudson will continue, as opposed to re-directing itself back towards New York. Is there a way to embrace this movement without diminishing the hopes we all have for dance to continue to flourish in the Big Apple?

Posted by: Bonnie Brooks at December 15, 2005 3:13 PM

Anti-New York Bias?? Are you off your medication? There is a much stronger pro-New York bias, as Bonnie speaks of, that claims that you cannot be any good if you are not from New York. Which is sadly why so many young dancers and choreographers are magnetized to New York only to end up working 60 hours a week in a coffee shop in order to take class three times a week. Perhaps these artists would contribute far more to the dance world by working in their home communities - where good art does actually happen to occur, believe it or not - than to be beaten down by the economics of New York.

New York no longer the center? Sounds like great news to me.

Posted by: a choreographer no longer in New York at December 16, 2005 9:37 PM

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