Thursday, April 9, 2009

Review #1 from Writing on Dance

As part of the Van Lier Fellowship at DTW, i'm working as the artist services assistant - filing fiscal sponsorship, printing mailing lists, and also being the DTW liaison to a handful of workshops. Until now, they've all been pretty up-my-alley: fundraising, marketing, touring, developing a board, etc. When i learned that I was going to take the "writing on dance" class taught by Claudia LaRoco, i didn't really think twice about it. I'm a dance writer, after all.

This thought did little to calm me as i sweated through the first class realizing that OH! i still have many many unresolved issues in my mind with the role and purpouse of the critic and OH! i'm not sure that there should be dance reviews and OH! maybe my issue isn't with the reviews themselves, but the idea of performance...oh dear.

The class is really interesting thus far - Claudia's illucidations on what she views as her role as a critic (specifically her understanding of criticism as a distinct artistic entity that the writer uses to triangulate the piece and the audience) are quite helpful in my internal struggles. Which is to say, i'm still struggling, but i think it's worth it. I'm making the most of being in the class, anyway, and that includes getting to do the assignments - a review a week!

I'll be posting them on here (and at least in this first one, this blog is the intended audience) but would value any feedback etc that you feel so moved to give. Enjoy! Or Detest! Or Both! At Once!


60 x 60 provides the economy package at Galapagos

I, the epic-dance maker, stand corrected.
Turns out that one minute is the perfect length for a dance.
Or rather, sixty dances.

On Tuesday Galapos Arts space presented Jeramy Zimmerman’s collaboration with “60 x60 Dance” – this year’s rendition of the larger ongoing multi-media multi-country “60 x 60” series. Composed by 60 individual composers and then choreographed by 60 individual choreographers, this unlikely format of 60-second performances is perfect for a city such as New York that’s overflowing with creators.

It’s like a wine tasting, only you’re sampling artists, and you get to relish both discovering new flavor and spitting it out if desired. Watching a program like this your brain begins to wrap around the enormity of New York’s dance scene, and you wish that a program like this was a more frequent occurrence.

Forget the dances - the format is key.
Pieces that you felt drawn to (for me, one specific piece where dancers took nearly the whole time to approach each other, then spewed water, fountianlike, into Galapagos’s pools) were great precisely because they followed the format – one minute of concise brilliance. Though many of them made you want to see more from the choreographer or dancers, the best pieces felt complete – choreographic petit fours – and didn’t leave you wanting more from that piece specifically.

Pieces that made you yawn or gag (highly-costumed women raising their legs oh-so high while being controlled by men – gaze theory, anyone?) only lasted a minute. Then, true to format, they were done, and you could breathe a sigh of relief, remembering other shows that wasted an hour of your life rather than just a minute.

Some pieces left you unsure right up to the end. Is there a point to this? Oh wait – there it is at 0:58. Other pieces left you unsure far past the ending. Did the choreographer know she was doing the same thing everyone does, or was she commenting on it? Is this one brilliant, or just too short to discover otherwise? In a show like this, ignorance was bliss.

As dance-audience regulars, this format of performance questioned our personal rules and economics of spectatorship. If the dance only lasts a minute, what do we expect to get from it? What does it need to do to be successful? If it’s only a minute, does it really matter if it fails?

While it certainly takes a skill and innovation to create a one-minute work that really shines, it’s also hard to make anything too horrible. Additionally, the revelry of how much of the work was produced – often times only one or two rehearsals, very much in a playful response to the music – shone through the show. It’s this that makes one-minute dances stand out to me as a great form, though by no means a new standard for how dances should be made. In an economy and city where artists slave for years to create a show seen by under a hundred people, this format seemed refreshingly egalitarian and viable: an hour or two of rehearsal for a minute of performance, done not in desperation or extreme amounts of effort, but with a smile and a shrug.


Check out the 60 x 60 website here.


Nichelle said...

Sounds like a great class! And nice review by the way. I've been reviewing lately myself - a role I never really pictured I'd be taking on. It made me a bit uncomfortable actually, I think because of the triangulation you mentioned. Seeing myself as a bridge from artist to audience has helped a great deal. It feels more similar to my role as a teacher, i.e. I treat my role as a reviewer much as I would a class of students who are creating studies or choreography - I'm the mediator, the thought facilitator. I'm not telling people what to think (or even artists what to do), I'm telling them what I saw. My opinions won't change someone's mind but it may get them to think about what's on theirs.

ellen said...

I love the image of a choreographic petit fours! Would love to hear any other details about the class as it progresses.