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December 13, 2005

some questions


Gia's article, which was the inspiration for this conversation, made specific mention of "presenters, in and out of New York, who have the power to effect change yet are unwilling to take risks." My first question is: Is that fair? Are their honorable exceptions? Is it asking too much of the "bravery" of the dance community to name names? And while we're at it: Is the press (such as it is, any more) remiss in not seeking out more experimentation? Should the press be more sympathetic toward the tender budding flowers in our midst? Or is there, as Gia suggests, too much tepid praise when artists and presenters should be aggressively challenged for their lack of boldness? Have we made a fetish out of originality and experimentation when solid, craftsmanlike work within given traditions remains a worthy goal? What's wrong with dance as entertainment? IS there a lot of experimentation, Gia's "intellectural and creative rigor," out there waiting to be discovered and presented? Are artists themselves lacking in bravery, too indebted to the system or to their mentors to take risks? What kind of risks might they taking, anyhow? Where are the experiments (other than the French conceptualists) that we should prize? If the 60's are being held up as a model, what's different now, especially since there was no money in the 60's either (tho rents were cheaper)? Is it all George Bush's fault? Will it take a revolution in the Zeitgeist far greater than one art or all the arts, the kind of society-wide, wide-eyed optitimism that prevailed in the 60's, the sense that the world could be transformed for the better and that individuals, and individual artists, could do that, to re-create experimental vitality in dance and to re-make New York into the center of the ferment -- as if that were important in the first place?! (I write as a onetime Bay Area-based Ann Halprin veteran.) These are all questions. I have my own answers, but maybe I'll save them for the same newspaper in which Gia's article appeared!

Posted by at December 13, 2005 10:08 AM


I'd like to think that there are indeed exceptions to Kourlas's charge of un-brave Safety In Presenting. Risky programming for its own sake would,in most places, qualify as economically reckless. However that does not mean we (presenters of dance) don't or won't take risks. Many of us curate our seasons and ancillary community activities based on organizational mission and curatorial goals. We are not just booking by the seat of our Safety Pants.

Many presenters are less adventuresome in their programming than I would personally prefer. But it is problematic to lump presenters into a single, disappointing category. Look at what is happening at the Wexner, the Walker, Jacob's Pillow, ADF, the Krannert...an incomplete list but one that points at continued investments in creativity in the field. Are there enough of these presenters? Of course not. Are we as fully capitalized as we'd like. Hardly. But we're out here beyond the Hudson.

I was recently in Lafayette, Indiana with the Cunningham Company. In over 50 years, they had never been invited to Purdue. The presenter there -- and I will name names, Todd Wetzel -- is attempting to develop a stronger and more vibrant dance presence on his performance series. He took a huge risk at the box office in order to introduce Cunningham's work to his audience. Only he can tell you if he felt it paid off, but if you ask me, in a small central Indiana town at an engineering and ag school, that was gutsy programming.

Posted by: Bonnie Brooks at December 13, 2005 3:18 PM


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