What’s eating the dance world? It’s doing a pretty good job of eating itself, thank you. In the past year, we’ve learned of the attempted takeover of a major dance company by a non-artistic director and the attempt by the mother of a less-than-svelte dancer to have the government dictate aesthetic criteria.
We’ve heard about sexual harassment and anorexia, critics who are too uncritical, critics who are too brutal, critics of critics who are in the pockets of dance companies, totally clueless dance magazines. Meanwhile, outside of our tidy dance-world borders, a national newsmagazine runs a photo of Vaslav Nijinsky without identifying him, a major newspaper calls Mikhail Baryshnikov “Bratnikov,” a dance critic misspells three out of four artists’ names in an online review, and a TV reviewer raves about the dancing in a show without identifying the choreographer.
With the shift in the economy and impending layoffs, buyouts, and attrition at major newspapers, do you think there will ever be another full-time dance critic hired anywhere? If we don’t come up with constructive ways to elevate the profile of dance beyond our nibbled-to-death-by-ducks dance world, we will continue to lose what in the palmier just-past days of Silicon Valley was known as mindshare. It’s the space in the public consciousness that permits everyone to learn about dance, to support it, and to seek it out in order to love it, hate it, and fight about it as wildly and irrationally as we do.
Berman, the former editor in chief of Dance Magazine, was dance critic for New York Newsday.