Ray

David Vaughan Senior Critic Talk 2007

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Some BTers might be interested in reading Commence to Dancing, a transcription of David Vaughan's talk at the 2007 Dance Critics Association, where he spoke as the Senior Critic. The transcription is extensively illustrated and hotlinked. Vaughan, the archivist of the Cunningham Dance Foundation, embodies a rich background in both ballet and modern dance. Here's a great example from the talk:

[...] I saw Ashton’s Foyer de danse and Andree Howard’s Lady Into Fox at the Arts, then Les Rendezvous, Ashton’s new ballet The Wanderer, and the third act of Coppélia at the New. It was heady stuff. This even continued after I was drafted into the British army because by sheer luck I was stationed in London for a while, first in a shorthand typing course and then as a clerk in the War Office. There were evening performances by then and I was there night after night, until they got wise to me and shipped me off to India. There of course I would go to see any dance performance that I could, even going off limits into a rather rough part of Calcutta to see an anti-British dance drama.

The talk is introduced by Alastair Macauley.

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THanks for posting this, Ray -- David Vaughan is a brilliant critic, one of the most interesting alive today -- he knows a very great deal and he sifts it carefully and with excellent judgment. He has real training and considerable experience as a performer, especially as an actor. it would be really worth while to HEAR his talk if there is an audio version of it (podcast or some such), for he can deliver a text in a winning voice, with good accent and good discretion. If you've never heard his performances of "10 Imaginary Dances by Remy Charlip," you've really missed something.

Some BTers might be interested in reading Commence to Dancing, a transcription of David Vaughan's talk at the 2007 Dance Critics Association, where he spoke as the Senior Critic. The transcription is extensively illustrated and hotlinked. Vaughan, the archivist of the Cunningham Dance Foundation, embodies a rich background in both ballet and modern dance. Here's a great example from the talk:

[...] I saw Ashton’s Foyer de danse and Andree Howard’s Lady Into Fox at the Arts, then Les Rendezvous, Ashton’s new ballet The Wanderer, and the third act of Coppélia at the New. It was heady stuff. This even continued after I was drafted into the British army because by sheer luck I was stationed in London for a while, first in a shorthand typing course and then as a clerk in the War Office. There were evening performances by then and I was there night after night, until they got wise to me and shipped me off to India. There of course I would go to see any dance performance that I could, even going off limits into a rather rough part of Calcutta to see an anti-British dance drama.

The talk is introduced by Alastair Macauley.

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Thank you for the Link, Ray. It's a treasure, as are the photos.

Vaughan gives us many fascinating autobiographical details. I was most impressed by the following, which expresses a vision of dance criticism that strikes me as being ideal.

Do I have such a thing as a credo as a critic? When I was at school one of my teachers introduced us to Practical Criticism (1929), a book by the English writer I. A. Richards that proposed a new theory of literary criticism, which, he said, should be based on “a close reading of the text.” It seems to me that some of us who began writing about dance in the 1960s and later were similarly attempting what I would call a close reading of the choreographic text.

No wonder that many of the dance writers who are Ballet Talk favorites are also Vaughan's:

Our chief model of course was Edwin Denby—and also perhaps André Levinson. Denby’s essay on the Nijinsky photographs had impressed me years before when it first appeared in Dance Index: it was not only about how these images looked, it made you know how it felt to dance as Nijinsky had danced. Then Arlene herself, first in BR, then in DT, and most important of all week after week in The New Yorker, raised dance writing to a new level intellectually and analytically. We—people like myself, Dale Harris, Joan Acocella, Deborah Jowitt, Robert Greskovic, Marcia Siegel, Sally Banes, Alastair Macaulay—all tried in our various ways to follow in the footsteps of Edwin and Arlene.

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I'm glad that you mentioned this talk -- I was at the event and was so thrilled to hear him talk about his life in dance. He'd brought an album of photographs as well, including some of him as a young dancer in England. They were as charming as the man himself.

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i looked only quickly over this nicely done presentation, so i may have missed it, but what i don't think i saw was the comment DV as the video ended of Laurel and Hardy in "Commence with Dancing," which if memory serves, was: "And if that's not great dancing, I don't know what is!"

There are DVDs of WAY OUT WEST! and most I would assume have a 'chapter' for Commence with Dancing, which is a gem, to be sure.

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