The aftermath of a performance: ahhh that amazing time when the work is done and nothing to do but bask in the warm glow of appreciation, the scent of roses, the swift delivery of crisp newspaper pages praising your efforts.
Unless you live in a town (cough cough New York) where critics are rewarded for being deliberately unkind. (For example: Just from the New York Times mind you: this description of a ‘show’ or this which is particularly nasty yet written oh-so-well, my favorite phrase being ‘variations on the leg spreading’.) Or if like in most places, your local art critics are not quite knowledgable, cut to the bone on word count, or just unsure of their audience. Some reviews are good for the scrapbook and some, let’s be honest, are hamster cage lining. (Crap inevitably covered by crap- poetic justic, no?)
I say this mostly because there was such an outpouring of press preceding the recent ‘Dance New Horizons’ Showcase that I was really looking forward to seeing the printed aftermath. There were some pretty good summaries of the show but I personally was let down by the lack of feedback, of opinion. I don’t know if anyone shares this sentiment but it seemed to me as if most of the reviews were written for the people who missed the show and wanted to know very generic details of what the pieces were like. That is fine, if that is indeed the target audience. That’s not how I’m going to write mine.
This review is intended for the people who also saw the show, who created the show, rehearsed the show, danced in the show. My hope is to share my honest feedback, interpretations and reactions, and to hopefully inspire some dialogue within our community of dance- devotees. I’m not saying that I’m ‘right’ with my feelings, just sharing them and hoping that others will too. It is only through this that we can really know how a piece touched or confused or inspired anyone out there- in the audience or onstage and can help Dance St. Louis, the choreographers, the dancers know what was successful across the board or not, which choreographers to bring back, which companies to rehire. It is this kind of talk that helps us all know what the community likes or does not like.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about who the reviews are written for, the point of art critics, and I think that the best answer that I can come up with is that reviews do not exist for the people who missed out on the shows and are playing catch-up. And they do not exist only as a bland mirror of technique. The arabesque was 90 degrees. I believe that art is so personal and expressive that the reactions to it must be also- and therefore offer not only how it reflected in the eyes but in the heart.
I respect the people up on stage, behind the stage, in the studios, in the boardrooms, in the seats, and with the blank notebooks in their laps. I think it is important that writers remember that artists do exist as people beyond their art, and those two are pretty impossible to separate anyways. I think it is important that writers write like people, and not reporting machines as well. But these are just my ideas. I’m not claiming to be any kind of expert.
Please enjoy reading my thoughts and feel free to share your own as a comment. I am thrilled to hear outside, contrasting and concurring opinions.
“Dance for yourself. If someone else understands, good. If not, no matter. Go right on doing what interests you, and do it until it stops interesting you” -Louis Horst