The Dance Critic in Me
I used to take all the words of dance critics very seriously, attending or ignoring performances based on their opinions. When I started presenting dance in 1997, I began to see a lot more dance and consequently I began to find myself often in disagreement with the critics whose words I had taken heretofore as the gospel. As a result, I began to trust my own instincts. Now I tend to read reviews as a point of departure, just one usually well-informed point of view. The words of critics can have enormous power. Perhaps that is unfortunate, but it definitely serves a purpose. As a presenter, I search avidly for attention-grabbing phrases or words in reviews that can be used in publicity, grant-writing, and marketing. If they praise work that I think is deserving of praise, I will happily echo their words; probably secretly pleased to prove to myself how right-on I have been about my own judgement.
I have read negative reviews of work that I believe have elements of truth, but in my opinion, reveal the critic’s bias, or are unkind and not generous enough to the artist. When I read a positive review of a work I’ve found tedious, dated or clichéd, it can make me wonder what universe the critic is living in.
The truth is that there is always some indefinable je ne sais quois that makes one’s relationship to art highly personal. Obviously, dance and choreography can and should be judged on a technical and craft level of competency and mastery, but beyond that, response seems to come from an inchoate place deep within the psyche. Personally, when I “like” a piece I’m watching, I have a simple visceral response to it, which means that I lean forward in my seat. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I know I’m hooked..
Recently Larry Keigwin got a lovely review for a work he set on Julliard students. And even though I haven’t seen the work, I am delighted that Claudia La Rocco recognizes Larry as the major talent that he is!
I am also happy to share another glowing review for Doug Elkins‘ most recent version of Fraulein Maria at Dance Theatre Workshop. There’s one more weekend left, if you have a chance to see it, do not miss.