I don't think that review is aptly characterized simply as "criticism of the choreography", because key to Byrd's criticism is the personal relationships between the two dancers and Wevers -- the so-called "gossip" -- and what that represents, not simply the choreography itself. Being caused to "gasp" in itself isn't a bad thing. Does his criticism stand if the dancers had been unrelated to Wevers, or if the work was performed by another company? I don't think Byrd has made that case.
Is it art? Is it misogynistic? (sp?) I was out of town so couldn't attend, but if Donald Byrd is talking about it (he wasn't gossiping, just criticizing the dancer's dry humping), I think we can have a legitimate discussion of what is dance and what is just shock value.
The author, Jeremy M. Barker, writes:
At the time, insofar as I noted the casually misogynistic representations of femininity, I wrote them off as in keeping with the work's overall themes, and, of course, sexist representations are hardly unusual in the arts. But with a few weeks' reflection and discussion, I see the largely fawning critical response to Wevers' work as a dramatic failure to address the questions the work raises.
I agree with his first conclusion, and I while I found the original rape scene a gasper, the final image, of nature being thrown into a trash can, to be more arresting for its casualness. I don't see where earlier reviewers have apologized for this or swept it under the rug.
In the blog post referred to in the critique, Catherine Cabeen discusses the historic use of pointe shoes:
Pointe shoes are a very specific medium that say one thing well; women are to be light, frail and weightless. Even direct, sharp movement is made piercing and fairy-like by these apparatus that for more than 300 years have allowed/forced female ballet dancers to embody an “idealized” version of the female form. Ballerinas are to be slight and ephemeral next to the grounded power of the male dancer, who never wears pointe shoes, except in rare incidences of drag performance. Certainly classical ballet technique requires incredible strength and the women in Wevers company performed with commitment and aplomb. I am however a feminist scholar and can not help but to point out the unspoken assumptions that accompany ballet aesthetics which in part led to the creation of modern dance by women over 100 years ago. I find it fascinating that the gendered hierarchy that is inherent in ballet not only sells out houses and gets standing ovations, but is also so ingrained in our expectations of viewing ballet, that it is for many patrons, invisible.
I think she's right to bring up the underlying assumption when a woman is seen in pointe, whether it's in Robbins' "The Cage", the women in the "Melancholic" section of "The Four Temperaments" or "3Seasons".
In her review in The Stranger, Jen Graves takes on four issues:
1. That Wevers' attempts at humor fail
2. That there is a difference in creating dance for women and men, something that Wevers disputed
3. That Wevers is tone-deaf when creating for women
4. That his approach to dance is not something that is part of On the Boards' raison d'etre
She does not address misogyny in Wevers' piece.
Barker does not agree with Graves' criticism, which he says in the article, and concludes that Byrd's point is elusive. He then writes "But with a few weeks' reflection and discussion, I see the largely fawning critical response to Wevers' work as a dramatic failure to address the questions the work raises." I have no problem with critics changing their opinion after further consideration or after seeing a work a few extra times. However, he doesn't "address the questions the work raises" except to quote other people and then refute what they say, either.