foot in mouth: September 2006 Archives
Why would rhythmically based choreography necessarily have more interest than the example you give of the two sides of the body performing disparate intentions? Both utilize simple dance elements, so why the hierarchy?
[editor's note: Annie-B Parson is co-choreographer and co-director with Paul Lazar of the widely acclaimed Big Dance Theater, based in New York]
great opening gambit.
My first thought was to say, "well, Dancing with the Stars had the highest rating in all of television last week -- or some such -- so what makes you say the audiences are small?"
So you got ME going.......... and I'm all ready to say things about the arbitrariness of some modern dancers ("why not try to make the left side of the body staccato and the right side legato", which is a useful technical study but no basis for a dance) making it impossible for the casual viewer to have any kinesthetic identification with the dancers, since the impulses aren't rhythmically based and are so caught up in cognitive dissonance within the dancer's head that unless you LIKE identifying with anxiety and the stress adjacent to over-multi-tasking (and who needs more of that?), what is there to appeal to the imagination? or some such....
of course when Merce did it, part of the fabulous thing was he DID find ways to DO the impossible things he set himself, and his temperament made them strangely plausible, especially when he'd use something like that fool's-hat sweater to increase the preposterousness.
[ed. note: Paul Parish writes for San Francisco magazine and www.danceviewtimes.com, among many other publications. He was a Rhodes scholar same time as Clinton, and he DID inhale.]
(PLEASE NOTE: Entries for each week run from oldest to newest. Comments by readers on the week's piece follow below.)
If nearly everybody likes to move and watch others move, why are dance audiences so small?
When critics consider dance's tiny place in the culture, we tend to blame the dances, the dancing, the funding, the producers, the curators, the artistic directors, the marketing, and the newspapers that have shrunk us to near nonexistence, but not ourselves. So I thought I would try it.
This blog's concern is the tricky business of recognizing dance's peculiar language and history without needlessly isolating it from the rest of the culture. Dance critics have often opted for one or the other, disappearing into the arcane or bobbling along on a sociological surface.
Topics I hope to get to:
--Do I have to leave my brain at the door? Some definitions of "stupid" in dance, and why people don't need to tolerate it
--Blackface in ballet: some definitions of "offensive" in ballet, and why people don't need to make excuses for it
--Civility in criticism: what would that be and what's it worth?
--The complaints about New York City Ballet's Peter Martins, and why he's not listening
--The trend in modern dance of using untrained dancers, and the trial it puts us through
--The contempt some modern-dance choreographers have for critics: do we deserve it?
How the blog will work: I'll post an opening gambit every Monday or so and pray it prompt response.
I very much hope that not only other critics and dance writers, but also choreographers and dancers, arts producers, curators, editors, and especially the uninvested viewer, with no more ambition than to sit in her seat and have a dance wash over her, join in. (Please pass the word--and the html.)
When you post a comment, please identify yourself, where you're from, what you do. Wouldn't it be neat if we became that elusive thing, a community?
Up next Monday, October 2: When American Ballet Theatre premiered James Kudelka's "Cinderella" this summer, a few critics were withering about his feminist update of the char girl. The question: in an art with a long, revered, and sometimes ridiculous history, when is it okay--good, even--to revamp the stories?
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