Friday, November 18, 2005

Apparently the Times believes there should be dance journalism

From this release:
July: Dance Reporting and Criticism, at the National Dance Institute, Duke University in Durham, N.C. The three-week institute, held in partnership with the American Dance Festival, helps 10 journalists learn to write about dance with authority and passion. The festival's faculty, visiting choreographers, scholars, teachers and distinguished critics lead discussions and the fellows also attend performances, write reviews, participate in dance-technique classes, view dance films and videos, analyze movement and study dance history.
So another ten journalists may be able to render more informed reports. Are there more than ten of us out here?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Unsolicited testimonial

One of my students explains.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wanna watch?

Dance blogs lately have been on building dance audiences, perhaps through the internet/blogosphere, in the wake of diminishing press coverage and public indifference. Downtown Dancer sums up some of the debate here, with links to Leigh Witchel's take on Great Dance's Doug Fox's plan for the net to save us, and Doug's response to Leigh. In a previous post on the subject, Doug cited several assumptions regarding dance coverage and how those assumptions don't hold in the web sphere. I'd like to look at another assumption: what do we mean by building audiences?

Of course I'd like to see a greater general interest in or at least acceptance of modern dance as a legitimate pursuit. Acknowledgement by the mainstream media is a nice but somewhat paternalistic way of achieving this, and some of the response to diminishing press coverage is not unlike what I feel when my mother pushes me to get "a real job" again.

Most of the shows I go see are sold out; and there are a good number I've missed for that reason. Generally, these are limited-run shows in smaller venues, and their scale is at least somewhat in their favor. If I produce a weekend at University Settlement (which, at my current rate of output, I should be ready for in about 2010--I'll keep you posted) I've got some shot at recouping my investment. A week at City Center can sell out every night and will still be vastly in the red. Obviously, there are several steps in between, but the jump from level to level is such that the financial headaches tend to increase with success.

So if our paradigm is a music business-style trajectory from coffeehouse pass-the-hat to Madison Square Garden, the equivalent of an album would help generate buzz. These days, more of that happens on iTunes and shared mp3s, so net-based dance multimedia could create phenomena, especially as computer video-capability improves. Video hasn't generally treated dance well--it's flat and no substitute for the real thing--but the medium is improving and, presumably, we'd want it to be just good enough to make folks want to come see it live.

Longer runs in the small houses are another solution, one that within reason would appeal to me as to many dancers who rehearse for months for the sake of a 1-4 night run. Here in NYC, the number of small and nominally affordable spaces is limited, so extending one run would take space away from other choreographer/producers, space already rapidly disappearing given the real-estate crunch. Is the paradigm here the movies: run one show after another (tough on the dancers), create double or triple features (could be tough on the audience), slice City Center up into a multiplex? Or perhaps the exclusive restaurant, wherein it could become a virtue to seat people too close together and/or raise prices far beyond where we've typically dared to go? Strategies would be different for pursuing each of those.

Another possible paradigm is sports, where a very small, elite few players/teams/leagues generate lots of attention and revenue while others, potentially just as good or nearly so, play in semipro obscurity and still others play for the sheer love of it. Dance was a participatory form long before it became a concert art. Doug of Great Dance mentions that he is taking class and expects that will help him build his understanding of the dance he sees. Classgoers, too, are an audience, and there are a lot more classes (here, at least) than performances.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Touching or touchy

DA...NCE cites a UK Telegraph article wherein the founder of a dance award claims British ballet students are no longer being taught well due to a politically-correct ban on touch. This fellow's take on how things should be:

You have to push their bottom forward, pull their stomach in and push the shoulders down and back.


Not to the pushing and pulling bit. I'm constantly with my fingers in somebody's armpits or inner thighs, have found myself completely wrapped around a student, using my arms, legs, torso, and head in an effort to guide her or him into alignment. It's a running joke that I need a student intern (or two) since I'm forever running out of hands (and, to my regret, I can't grab myself sufficiently to get my body to do some of what I ask of it. I'll do the "I'm jealous of my students" post another time). In my Anatomy Awareness classes, I'll have my students doing that as well, by grabbing one's hand to put on another's body, so she can feel what's going on and hopefully understand the physical dynamic in question that much more. I have had some underage students, and toned it down with them mostly to avoid embarrassment on their part; likewise with some of my more conservative senior ladies. For most folks, though, it's pretty literally no holds barred.

That image, though, of the butt tucked under and the shoulders dragged down...that's the sort of thing I spend my time undoing. My blog title tells part of the story, of course; I also think that it is possible to keep the shoulders out of the ears in ways that don't involve stapling them to the hipbones. My goal is that each body part have its maximum available USEFUL mobility while instilling a sense of ease throughout. There are no cookie cutters involved.

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