Small Strokes of Listening: A Few Reflections on Diversity from the Dance/USA 2012 Annual Conference
The unfortunate effect was the discussion had been silenced by a dance…. It was clear that
everyone in the room wanted more space and time for the discussion….
And so I was left
wondering again: How and when do we listen to each other as a dance
field? How can we create spaces that make room both for dancing and for
Why is it that, often, when I read choreographers’ biographies in performance program notes, I can’t find any information about their artistic evolution: who they studied or danced with, who was their mentor, or who inspired them to become a dance maker? I miss learning about dance artists’ choreographic development.
I believe dancers are losing pace with their historic and artistic companions. The musicians’ protests last week against Paul Taylor Dance Company highlight the economic challenges facing today’s performing artists in New York City. Larger questions about wages, work, union representation, and economic resources for all of these artists must be answered — but especially for the dancers.
It has often been remarked that “Europe breeds artistry,” and that, to a certain extent, European dancers have an edge compared to their American counterparts. In defense of the American dancers, it is noted that they possess grit, tenacity, and a hunger that exceeds that of some of their European equivalents, yet the elusive artistic core lags or appears untapped in our culture. Certainly the environment of Europe provides a cultural banquet to nourish artistic growth, but does the European approach to training dancers incorporate more diversity, which in turn can contribute to greater creative growth? If so, can American dance schools fashion strategies based on this assumption?
American Ballet Theatre soloist Daniil Simkin examines individual branding and marketing: “I am branding myself. No, I am not applying a hot iron to my buttocks as cowboys do with steers. But I am doing something that, at least among some of my colleagues, is equally as controversial. I am attempting to make myself into a ballet product.”
Few choreographers have the power to effect life-altering changes the way Pina Bausch did over the course of her 50-year career, and, even now, three years after her untimely death. That is what Pina does. She changes your life. She changed mine.
I’ve spent a lot of time worrying and writing about what is ballet and have grown tired of reading crossover choreographers say that their works are “firmly rooted in the classical tradition” when they don’t even give a nod to “the classical tradition.” I haven’t worried about modern dance because I believe at the center of its identity is that it must reinvent itself with every generation. Each generation has a right to do what it wants. So what does it want in 2012?
What is the role of a dance critic? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a couple of weeks now, ever since reading an article on the front page of The Washington Post’s Style section in mid-October. The piece, by the paper’s chief dance critic, Sarah Kaufman, confirmed a hunch I’ve had for a while: Kaufman is making an occupation of not writing about modern dance.
Can you be still? I mean really still. For just 5 minutes. No scratching or fidgeting. Quiet the mind. Focus on the breath.
You might be saying that’s impossible, your day is already full with early morning planning and development meetings; answering emails and responding to social media; fundraising appointments; marketing strategy sessions; budget reviews; artistic decisions; production issues; and that grant application, it’s due by 5:00 p.m.
Beyoncé released her newest video, a little guilty pleasure called “Countdown.” The video is an open homage to a whole lotta stuff, from Audrey Hepburn’s dance scene in Funny Face to the seminal Vogue photo shoots of the 1960s to Twiggy’s distinctive makeup stylings. But thrown into the collage of-many-good-things-made-by-other-artists-a-long-time-ago is a one-to-one remake of Rosas Danst Rosas by Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.