There is fantasy and then there is reality. One has crystals, one is encrusted in poverty.
Unless you’re the Paris Opera Ballet of course. I just came across some pictures of the 2011 production, ‘La Source’ which was costumed by the fantastic designer Christian Lacroix. 130 new garments were made and yes, a generous donation of crystals made by Swarovski made their way onto the stage. Can you even imagine being a Paris Opera Ballet dancer doused in crystal-embellished tutu? C’est la vie!
And then there is the reality for most of us. No crystals. No Paris Opera. A lot of companies don’t even provide the necessary tools of the trade, like our shoes, let alone a salary or benefits. The Huffington Post recently published an article from National Endowment for the arts fellow Lindsay Darst claiming dance to be the poorest of art forms, that dancers typically survive by hooking themselves like pretty flexible parasites to wealthy donors- either by sucking up to them, marrying them, or sleeping with them. Does a lot for our credibility, doesn’t it my fellow dancers? I read one response by writer Jennifer Edwards, claiming that the key to survival in the dance industry is innovation and how to then invite the audience in to a creative work. Dancer Brittany Beyer wrote what I think is a pretty brilliant retort that hits the nail on the head of WHY the finances of dancers are in such dire straights. I think her suggestions for improvement are a little lackluster though. She says things like, ‘dancers need to tell their friends when a show is coming up!’ I think we all self-promote to a degree, but it feels a little cheesy to have to be that girl that is constantly harassing my friends, ‘watch me! watch meeeee!‘
Personally, I think it’s all about changing the way dance is viewed in society. I like how Beyer highlights the cultural differences in how art is revered. I will never forget the curtain call for ‘La Bayadere’ or ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in Russia- the way the audience screamed and cheered as if their hands would never tire of clapping for the dancers. It was so different from the US where people are so rude as to rush out of the theatre before the curtain call, to avoid the traffic I suppose. Can’t be bothered to say ‘good job!’ which is often, as dancers, all we get.
Romeo and Juliet at curtain call
1. Theatres should lock the doors from the outside until the curtain call is over. Anyone that tries to open the door will then sound an alarm of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ blaring over the sound system and a spotlight will shine straight down on their ungrateful selves.
2. It is imperative that as the quality of dance made available on tv improves (there are indeed some incredible dancers on Breaking Pointe/ So You Think You Can Dance/ etc) the quality and knowledge of judges be up to par. They are not, in my opinion, only there to critique the dancer but to offer information as to why a dancer is technically and artistically worth their salt to the audience. People that do nothing but shriek and annoy me and make comments about a hot tamales train can go give themselves a healthy dose of laryngitis and leave the commenting for people who know that they’re talking about. Also, realistic scoring please. One reason that I hate hate hate dancing with the stars is because those celebs still look terrible when they’re given scores like 8′s and 9′s. I think that makes viewers think learning to dance is a lot easier than it is. If the stars have fun and get in shape and learn something, that is their payoff. Do not treat them like professionals, please. Real professionals are still critiqued to the bone by directors and choreographers. Tell them what they do well, but also tell them what they do wrong and never ever tell them they’re perfect. (Rule of thumb in dance- perfection is elusive!)
3. Arts education in school- I know I know…funding. This is where I think there needs to be some push and pull in what we do for free or don’t do for free. I think that more big businesses need to get involved in sponsoring quality art education in schools that cannot provide it. Art and movement and music is so important for a child’s development, and I think, quality of life (if the teachers are good, that is). I think contemporary audiences are mainly composed of former or current artists, people who have already had artistic experiences or exposure. Art is otherwise often looked upon as this exclusive club when the fact is that there is a place in the enjoyment and even production of the arts for everyone. I think companies need to find innovative ways to get people involved, and to bring the arts to people at a young age, an old age, at whatever price. I think artists should be generous with their art in order to help others discover that same shared love and interest.
I think art exposure (classes, and guest lectures, performances, and demonstrations) needs to exist in schools for the sake of the kids and for the arts- that students should then develop a continuing interest in attending art events.
I think that art events need to make their way back into the social scene. No more going to boring loud bars with overpriced drinks. I think that companies should offer ‘event packages’ with complimentary food and drinks and a space to hang out for people on dates or out with friends. Going to a theatre or a museum needs to become ‘the thing to do’ as it used to be. I think companies need to pair up with some event planners and create unique, exciting offerings for people who want a night on the town. A show with some lovely dancing isn’t cutting it anymore.
Those are a few of my ideas. If anyone else has any, I’m all ears. And hopefully someday, all crystals.
Until then, please enjoy this mix of my wannabe French sad self that makes me laugh through my woes and lack of money and jewels. These former things I may not have, but if there’s two things I’m never without it’s my sense of humor…and probably a cat hair or two.