Odd and ends: comments from readers and a question to readers

Comment from reader Christopher Pelham of dharma road productions on Apollinaire’s “How NOT to write, so Dance Will Matter”:
Your column really hit the nail on the head for me. I find former New York Times dance critic Jack Anderson among the most guilty, always describing literally what he thinks he saw with nary a word of context, much less analysis of what the work might or might not have attempted and achieved metaphysically.
And, you know, I think choreographers today are as much in need of guidance and contextualizing as the audience. So many young choreographers trot out some combination of what they liked in class and what feels good to them or what is related in their own minds to some thought or other without any real effort to determine whether the audience might actually be able to read their visual language. Or worse, they don’t have any real goal; the goal of art should be to raise the consciousness of those involved — in some way, to turn the light on. We all have to push one another.
As to that Butoh article, I thought it was a bit silly to ask if there is now too much Butoh. Is there too much ballet?
Apollinaire responds: Well, it’s nice having some crotchety company, finally! Thank you for writing, Christopher.
And this, also about “How Not to Write,” from Irene Borger, director of the Alpert Award in the Arts in California:
Hi Apollinaire,
I’ve been enjoying your blog for some time now, and appreciate what you just wrote about the use of description to the exclusion of context.
I used to take primarily non-dance students from my 20th century dance history class at UC Riverside to concerts; they were so much more open to the experience when they had been exposed to some of the ideas — and context — of a choreographer’s work. But just as with museumgoers who trundle around like sheep in a gallery, earphones intact, it seems critical to me for visual AND performing arts audiences to learn to register and trust their visceral responses as a way of entering work.
Thanks for what you’re doing.
Apollinaire responds: Irene, you’re welcome! My only thought: I don’t think visceral response and a feel for the ideas in a work are mutually exclusive. The strength of our reaction may in fact be in inverse proportion to the tangibility of its cause. Think, for example, how strongly people respond to a work’s tone. It makes or breaks many an experience. And what is tone but the choreographer’s idea about her material or about us?
To change the topic drastically, here’s a logistical question for all you choreographers who have ever made a dance to a popular song:
A reader wants to know what costs a choreographer might incur from doing a dance to, say, a Dylan tune.
In other words, if you’re doing some small production for a week — at Dance Theater Workshop or the Alvin Ailey studios, for example — and don’t take care of the issue of royalties, will you have to pay a terrible fine? get thrown in the clinker? What are the consequences?
My sense is that if you are very diligent and do all the right things, the record companies (record companies? I’m clearly living in the wrong century) will happily take your money, but if instead you are slovenly and fail to do anything, you will not be punished. The scale of our enterprises are so small, the music entertainment empires (that’s better!) probably don’t even know what to do with our requests.
But I really don’t know. So could anyone who has ever made a dance to pop please write in. (“Anyone” does not include Twyla Tharp or a choreographer for Ailey or the big ballet companies, where you’re more visible, more liable to be prosecuted, and have more resources to pay for the songs.)
Please tell me: the song and/or singer-songwriter; the number of times you performed this dance and where; what steps you took re: copyright and royalties; how much money you ended up paying; whether you think, in retrospect, you might have gotten away with not paying; and exactly how crazy you are.
I will keep mum about your identity, of course, though I may use the name of the songwriter, so people have a sense of the scale of fame we’re talking about. Otherwise, no identifying details.

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