Why are artists of this generation—myself included—so dispassionate? Modern dance was a rebel force. At the turn of the last century, fueled by creative necessity alone, the pioneers of this form revolutionized the structures they inherited. Now we have become dependent on the very things we should be railing against. For dance to progress and get out of this malaise will require bigger goals than box office success, fancy advertising, and the mere appearance that something is “happening.” And it cannot afford to say that it cannot afford it.
Money, space, and an audience, obviously, are necessities, but dance has thrived without some really basic resources. Theaters that were around when things were “better” should ask themselves if there’s a better way to serve artists and the arts than churning out show after show—like putting quarters in a slot machine—hoping to get something back. Dance is not gambling, it is not serendipity, it is not competitive. The power of dance—its importance in the world—is in its commitment to its rebellion and its determination to be free, not in its financial success or ability to sell clothes for the Gap on national television.
Its meaning, its immortality—its legend—is not in the marketing, but in the work. Of course I’d rather get paid and rehearse in a six-million-dollar studio with a bathtub, but that has not been my experience. Performing with artists who make work out of absolute creative necessity has. If you don’t love it, don’t do it. To quote my friend Arnie Apostol, “You can sit here and complain about it, or you can do something about it. . . . Make a piece. If it sucks, make the next one better. And if that one sucks, make it shorter. That’s all.”
Bergman will play the Devil in a new superhero ballet by Stanley Love.
She publishes and edits High Ass.
Other veterans share their stories in
What’s Eating the Dance World?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 24, 2001