Why Isn't Dance Part of the Culture? Here is my Top Ten of 2012.

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Every week my New York Magazine arrives and I devour it; sometimes slowly over the week in pieces, sometimes in one shot on Friday mornings. It is often a test of my hipness: do I already know why they are writing about the people, places, products, performances, and books they are writing about or am I about to be schooled in everything cool and current? Either way, this time spent with a weekly I have thoroughly enjoyed…until today.

This week’s issue, where “our critics reckon with the most gripping, unexpected, head-scratching, and lovely moments in the arts over the past twelve months, then unveil their top-ten lists…”, is the annual Year In Culture, a summit of 2012. It was disappointing to me to find that in one area–dance–the editors and critics of NY Magazine seemed to have no overlap with me. In fact, it would appear from this issue and their wikipedia page, that the publication does not even have a dedicated dance critic amidst their stable of fine cultural critics.

Yes, I know. Reporting and reviewing of dance is often scant, relegated to quick interviews, summaries of coffee table books of sculpted bodies or glittery tutus that make good gifts, or those exciting moments when dance enters a bigger more important category worth talking about such as movies (Black Swan). At best, and like other mainstream media, NY Magazine chooses to lump dance into the same category as classical music each week. But that is another issue for another day. My problem today, is that classical music, along with books, theater, art, pop, television, and movies all had features and top ten lists in this particular year-in-review section. Dance didn’t even get lumped.

Quoting Jerry Saltz, art critic, from this week’s issue, “about 85 percent of all the shows of contemporary art are bad. But 85 percent of all art made in the Renaissance was bad. Of the good shows I saw, some really stood out.”

I couldn’t agree more, in relation to contemporary art AND dance in general (except Jerry, I preferred the Oh Canada! show at MASS MoCA infinitely more than the feeble Whitney Biennial). More often than not though, I was pleasantly surprised with the dance performances I saw in 2012. It has been a good year to be out there seeing and writing about the art form I love. I have nothing but respect for its practitioners, whether or not their works made my top ten list.

Deborah Lohse in her minute length solo that was also the audience favorite from the 2012 DANCENOW Festival at Joe’s Pub. I am certain the extended version will be on my 2013 list. Photo by Steven Schreiber

But for those who did make the cut, they deserve a mention as much as any other art form:

1. David Rakoff performing a solo by Monica Bill Barnes (This American Life live show)

2. Einstein on the Beach (yes, a significant part of this opera is the dancing!) at BAM

3. Kyle Abraham’s Pavement¬†at Harlem Stage

4. Hofesh Schechter’s Political Mother at BAM (I did not write about it exclusively, but it influenced my viewing of Doug Varone and Dancers)

5. Steven Reker/People Get Ready’s Specific Ocean at NYLA

6. Brian Brooks Moving Company at the Joyce Theater

7. Wim Wender’s 3D movie Pina (from 2011 though this was the year most of us saw it, this is a link to Heather Toner’s experience of it)

8. Paul Taylor Company, 50th Anniversary of Aureole at Koch Theater

9. Shiva, a dance film by Zachary Finkelstein

10. David Hallberg and Natalia Osipova in MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet at the Metropolitan Opera House (the first time I ever believed two leads in this ballet could be impetuous teenagers)

Beyond wishing for 2013 to bring more great dance to the city that is purported to be the dance capital of the world, I am also holding onto a New Year’s hope for NY Magazine to engage dance beyond the upper right quadrant of their awesome Approval Matrix (ex. Paris Opera Ballet, NYCB artist de jour, and one of my favorites, Emery LeCrone). Dance is more than just highbrow. It is an integral part of what just might be the decade of performance, emanating from the stage to museums and lowbrow television series…..but wait, back to the present, who made your top ten list in dance for 2012?

And NY Magazine, consider this my calling card.




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Showing 3 comments
  • Lara

    I agree that dance gets the short end of the stick in the major publications, even those with excellent arts sections. Not to mention that sometimes reviews that do get written are largely disputed by the dance community itself. Recently, The New York Times (specifically dance critic Alastair Macaulay) received backlash for its reviews of Tere O’Connor, Deborah Hay, and Crystal Pite, although the Times itself has not yet published these letters (I found links to rants like this one on Facebook: http://dfoyble.com/?p=1021). Regardless, there has indeed been some marvelous dance in 2012. My favorite was a work-in-progress by Alonzo King for both LINES Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presented by Laguna Dance Festival in September. The work will officially premiere next year.

  • Aili Bresnahan

    I found this article fascinating, Candice — thank you for writing it! I recently presented a paper at a philosophy conference where the participants were surprised to learn that Hegel did not consider dance to be among the fine arts that can contribute to culture. I think they would have been even more surprised to realize that the problem still persists.

    Best regards,

    Aili Bresnahan, JD, PhD
    University of Dayton

  • candice

    Aili–Could you elaborate on that? Did Hegel just not mention dance at all or was there a specific reason he gave for it being a noncontributing art form?Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate the philosopher’s perspective here.

    And Lara–thanks for your mention of the dismissive reviews of 2012. I think that is a different beast than just a plain and simple negative review. Negative reviews can still excite interest and intrigue, dismissive reviews send the message that there is nothing new to consider here.

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