Monday, August 15, 2005

Dance Recital

Dance Recital

Dance Recital (2001)

From Contemporary Dance Online -- "Why Dance Matters" by Neil Nisbet:

The arts matter because the benefit is not in things you can measure but in things you cannot possibly begin to measure. Any arts organisation from ACE to the smallest dance company will throw charts and numbers at you until you beg them to stop but the success and the reason lay not in the numbers but in the one person in the audience or in the workshop within whom the flame of inspiration has been lit.

If that one person begins to think ‘what more can I achieve, what more can I do to lift myself above mediocrity, to lift myself above the person sitting next to me?' then the process has begun. If just one person in a thousand can be motivated by dance to push themselves off the pre-determined path of least resistance then it is there that you have your success; it is there that you have your reason; that is why it matters.

A youngster who is inspired may not translate into an individual wishing to become a professional dancer and that is the last thing we should expect. Just as many who read books have no desire to become authors we should not expect those participating in or watching dance to take to the stage and use this to judge its success. Nor should we try and equate success with the audience understanding the particular motivations of an artist and their work since interpretations and conclusions can vary a great deal. The majority of people who engage with the arts in some way never write down the effect, if any, a performance or workshop had on them, they are simply collated into the numbers for the next press release.

We live in times where our politicians and public figures are looked at with both suspicion and derision in equal measure. They lie, obfuscate, pander and mislead on a daily basis on matters of grave importance, how many youngsters will tell you that the leader of the opposition is their hero? And would you really want them to? So-called sports ‘stars' are vain, inarticulate and in many cases just plain stupid to say nothing of the wide spread drug use in sports and the constant bombardment of advertising urging kids to part with their money because David Beckham [English footballer, and, according to some observers, the most famous sports personality in the world] says so! Many young people are enamoured with these individuals but again we have to ask, do you really want them to be?

In the culture and entertainment sphere this leaves us with the arts to inspire new thinking in our population and in particular the younger generation. Article19 would be first to admit that a lot of what goes on in dance is uninspiring, self involved nonsense but there are projects and individuals out in the world that are reaching just that little bit further, connecting with people on a more cerebral level and perhaps they are inspiring some, however few, to loftier ambitions and ideals.

The truth is we will probably never know the extent to which the arts impact on the lives of individuals but we can only hope that it happens and with that in mind it is of vital importance that it continues. Yes, the arts have problems and some of those problems are almost cancerous in nature but the alternative is a world where none of this activity takes place and the mass media is left to inspire the generations and that is a thought too scary to contemplate.

If you think the arts don't matter then you're a fool, a very dangerous fool.

The people who do not dance are the dead (Jerry Rose of Dance Caravan).

The Dance by Pablo Picasso (1925)
[Image from The Artchive]

From maisonneuve -- "Why I Read (and Write) Dance Criticism" by Kena Herod:

All art forms claim to be the neglected middle child when it comes to recognition and funding. I have worked for a symphony orchestra, done volunteer work for an opera company, and hung out with poets, fiction writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, composers, independent filmmakers and, of course, dancers and choreographers. All claim that their art is the most neglected. Sadly, it seems the dance people have the dubious distinction of being right in their claim.

Dance has been viewed for ages as a minor art. Perhaps as blinded by my love for the form (in whatever style) as I am, I fail to understand why an art that relies mainly on that marvelous thing called the human body is not more popular than it is. It should be a no-brainer, shouldn't it? One of the first things children do, and with great joy, is dance.


Dance is more dependent on the musings of its critics than, say, poetry and music are on the writings of their critics. Unless you live in a culturally significant city, your chances of seeing a wide range of live dance (much less different casts of a single work) are slim. If you want to hear Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, of course, your local symphony orchestra will perform it sooner or later -- it usually arrives a few weeks after Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. Why such sarcasm? Because even the most obscure post-minimalist or Renaissance composer is more likely to be culturally available -- at least, satisfyingly enough on CD -- than any well-established or even world famous choreographer. Adding to the scarcity of live dance performances in some parts is the fact that recorded dance rarely satisfies. Video and film dance recordings have yet to make the necessary jump to become their own art forms, suitable for public consumption beyond the art house crowd.


Like the artists they review, writers on dance must in turn be nearly as inventive. For anyone who has struggled to write a dance review, trying to translate the visual, kinetic, and nonverbal language of a dance work—usually seen only once—into words is a form of mental gymnastics that requires prodigious acts of memory (no rewind button, no turning back to the page!) and an ability to scribble notes in the dark without disturbing your theatre neighbours or distracting your attention from the stage.

Dance critic Walter Sorell acknowledges almost as much in his classic 1965 essay “To Be a Critic.” At the same time, he argues that dance critics must be poets themselves for “only the immediacy and remoteness of the poetic image can picture the visual image of human bodies in space and time, can make us relive and remember the elusive quality of the dance.”

I become more interested in dance when my daughter took up ballet when she was younger. Today's image came out of the remembrance of seeing one of her recitals.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enticing, the angular thrust
Against the body's equilibrium
Contorts architectural space
In poise and counter-poise
Before the final rhapsody
Fails all its keys and vortex
Devours maroon macaws
At their exact instant of flight
Arresting speech into squawks
Of delight, thumps of splayed
Toes and twists of red licorice
Turning the teakwood floor
Into a drum that worships
Light in the physical might.

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