Shut Up & Dance!

Gagged Dancer

Photo by Antoine Nexon — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Have you ever watched a performance and thought, “Wow. They got a grant for that?”

Many artists, especially those who push their art form’s boundaries, have suffered from overhearing such a comment. If we’re being honest, sometimes the comment is deserved. However, one way to meet the criticism head-on is to have a better understanding of the artist’s intention, in order to be able to evaluate the implications of the artist’s execution. Right?

Well, according to the editor-in-chief of Dance Magazine… Wrong!

In a recent post, as featured on KadmusArts’ daily arts news feed, Wendy Perron is angry about having to read choreographers writing about their work. You would think Dance Magazine would be at the front of connecting audiences to dance. You would be wrong.

Perron writes, there is “…an annoying new trend of blogging about the process of making a dance… I am talking about young choreographers, anxious to be in the public eye, who think that writing about what happened that day in the studio will somehow 1) bring them a wider audience and/or 2) make them a better choreographer.”

Oh, so the problem is both about using online platforms to connect with your potential audience and that articulating your vision in words doesn’t translate into what happens in the studio. Is that really a big problem in the dance field? Are their audiences growing so much and so hip to what’s taking place that they just want to watch and not understand? Are the best and brightest incapable of writing about their process?

Perron, who has taught as well as danced, covered her own inspirations as a “third-generation postmodern choreographer” in the book Reinventing Dance in the 1960s: Everything Was Possible. Well, I guess it no longer is. (By the way, anyone want to add to the blog to help us understand what it really means to wake up and approach our daily work as “third-generation postmodern”?)

Even though Perron’s approach appears to be audiences-be-damned, she is trying to help the next generation (fourth-generation postmodern?): “But explaining how you make a dance, the problems you encounter and how you solve them, is not going to help either you as the choreographer or your potential audience. To dig into your imagination enough to make a dance, you need to be embroiled in a place where there is no explanation.”

A place with “no explanation.” Oh, please. A theatre with no audience.

“What if you’re in the studio working on a piece, and you’re thinking about what you’re going to say about it in your blog? Wouldn’t that compromise your process?” Well, sure, if you had nothing to say, or were incapable of articulating your idea. The whole point is to help us dumb outsiders understand the process. There is a process right?

Connecting audiences to art is all about context. The more you know about a work of art the more you can appreciate the work of art.

High schools and universities that have included dance programs not only as part of accessible activities, but also as part of the practical and intellectual curriculum, not only produce future dancers, but perhaps more importantly also produce future dance audiences. Wouldn’t these kinds of blogs that so irritate Perron be a wonderful resource for future generations of artists and audiences?

The more an artist is part of an audience’s community, the more the community can appreciate what it is the artist is trying to do.

Many of those students who took Martha Graham classes, either from Graham or her acolytes, became the audience — and the funders — for dance in their communities. They understood Graham’s technique, expression, and mission from the inside and then became ambassadors for the modern dance movement.

The online platforms that so distress Perron are the very platforms that help us learn more about artistic work. To provide context and “backstage” access about the making of an event has helped propel audiences to the arts, to sports, and to all live events. Surely dance is not in such a strong position to be able to afford turning away from effective audience development. Online context has helped to deepen the connection to current audiences and reach new audiences.

Can modern dance really afford to be silent?

- Bill Reichblum

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2 Responses to “Shut Up & Dance!”

  1. Tweets that mention KadmusArts – where culture speaks » Blog Archive » Shut Up & Dance! --
    August 2nd, 2010 16:03

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bill Reichblum, Dr. Ashfaq Ishaq. Dr. Ashfaq Ishaq said: Shut Up & Dance!: Photo by Antoine Nexon — Some Rights Reserved Have you ever watched a performance and thought, … [...]

  2. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Dance Editor Reviews Her Critics
    August 4th, 2010 00:10

    [...] Dance Magazine Shut Up & Dance! [...]

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