Hard times for modern danceArticle in the NY Observer
Posted 10 August 2010 - 09:31 PM
Posted 11 August 2010 - 08:21 AM
Even more troubling -- because it may be irreversible -- is the slow death of an aesthetic and of an audience capable of appreciating it.
Posted 11 August 2010 - 08:40 AM
The institutions around modern dance have been centered around choreographer/founder companies, like Taylor, Cunningham, Graham, Morris, Tharp, and centers like Dance Theater Workshop and university programs, although a few like Fenley still have companies. Childs, Brown, Paxton, and a handful of others are still high profile when they get commissions or revivals. Experimental dance requires an audience that is attuned, interested, and invested, with lots of time on their hands, and creators who are willing to create (and often live) on a shoestring, year after year. You can sleep through your fifteenth performance of "Don Giovanni" or "Swan Lake", especially if it's on your subscription, but experimental anything takes much more energy and engagement.
Posted 11 August 2010 - 09:46 AM
I don't think that artists who have received government funding for years necessarily deserve to continue getting it indefinitely, but cutting back on funding can have disastrous artistic consequences. (You'll forgive me for veering back into the ballet world.) When the Canada Council decided to cut back funding for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in order to give more funding to Alberta Ballet and Ballet B.C., the RWB went commercial to survive. They've been producing appalling full-length drivel ever since because ballets titled Moulin Rouge and Dracula attract audiences. But the stuff is nauseatingly horrible, and I don't know how long it's been since I haven't walked out in the middle of one of their shows.
You're right, experimental modern dance is never going to have a large audience in no small part because it is experimental, and there are only so many people willing to watch a creative laboratory. I don't see how it can survive without government funding, but, frankly, I'm not entirely sure some of it deserves the funding in the first place. I say this as a former modern dancer who admits to spending lots of time in self-indulgence that I expected other people to subsidize. Did I really have a right to expect it?
Posted 11 August 2010 - 10:00 AM
Probably some of it doesn't, but in many cases it wouldn't be reasonable or desirable for the government to demand or expect consistent returns, financial or aesthetic, from the money it gives to artists, in the same way that scientists receive public funds for research and experiments that don't always pan out. There is a public benefit involved in maintaining a healthy arts community. In these troubled times it's also an effective form of stimulus, keeping people gainfully employed and producing.
Posted 11 August 2010 - 10:49 AM
The self-indulgence is part of the creative process sometimes--it can be unconsciously working during the indulgence, you don't have to know exactly how. But you can give some of it back if you don't think you should have been allowed that. Not that I think you should feel guilty about it, but it reminded me of the Op-Ed Columnist John Tierney, who didn't last too long there either (maybe a full year) talking about how rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments were 'theft from the landlords', and that he had realized this after he had had a rent-controlled apartment himself for many years. He said nothing about remedying his own 'theft', although he could have probably found some landlords who were suffering from controlled rents that would have been more than happy to be given some relief, even if they weren't the same one he'd rented ('stolen') from (whose family might have been willing to take it too, if he felt so strongly). But sure, I've seen lots of things that I don't think deserve any kind of funding, but it doesn't bother me any more than seeing paintings (including by a friend of mine) that sell for $30,000 and more, and don't seem to me worth $300.
I didn't know Molissa Fenley had her own company.
I think dirac's point is exactly right: You can't expect consistent returns on anything you invest in in the Arts, or you can stifle the artistic process. Not that it can't go too far the other direction, but there's even sacrifice made there, as when something takes too long to get to the printing stage, for example. I know about that, as I'm lucky, because the current process I'm involved with has been pretty extravagant, and will definitely take a while to pay off--and that definitely includes me doing some paying. Lots would say I didn't deserve it to end up happening at all (and there's still a short final stretch), but I just am not that prone to worrying about the old difficulties, if it finally begins to work out, if only because the alternative--just trashing something that took too much time and effort by most assessments--is worse, at least at some point (like when you're finally close to the end).
Some of the tendency to austerity and worrying about budget deficits in general (considered to go too far by many of the best economists) surely plays into all govt. spending on the Arts, if they're also cutting back on much more basic matters in the public transportation and education areas.
Posted 12 August 2010 - 04:04 AM
Posted 12 August 2010 - 04:19 AM
As I read the article, I found myself imagining a future world in which professional, live "dance" might consist of big brands only: famous companies (many founded by choroegraphers who are no longer living), tours of So You Think You Can Dance cast members, productions of Cirque de Soleil, recyclings of Swan Lake or Corsaire, etc.
I don't know what can be done with this, considering the changing structure of our culture , which seems to be changing consumer preferences significantly. I do know that I agree with Helene's statement:
Posted 12 August 2010 - 06:37 AM
Yawn. That definition of "real women" is at once narrow and commonplace. As salutary as that strand of feminism has been, the potential audience doesn't need modern dance to find it. More importantly, real women are multi-dimensional -- are a whole lot more interesting. Of course it's unfair to judge work without having seen it, but the potential ticket buyer has to make a decision based on something, and much of Wood's work, to read the reviews on her site, is provincial. This is not the 1960's or 70's, and much of her potential audience has moved on.
As Helene says, experimental dance asks a lot of its audience, and if the audience would rather doze through another Swan Lake, I don't know why they even go see ballet, much less modern dance. But the artist has to be willing to meet the audience halfway as well, and address some of its concerns. Not just gender identity, but love. Not just aggression but inclusive community. Not just "Funktionslust Slut," but Mom.
There is no "Mom" or anything like it listed in her repertory, by the way.
Posted 12 August 2010 - 06:45 AM
Traiger's descriptions sound dimensional enough to me, but then that 'particular strand of feminism' is by no means exhausted for this observer. I'm not familiar with Wood's work, myself.
Thanks for this, Ray. Not being on the spot, it's hard for someone like me based on the west coast to gauge the accuracy of points like these in the article.
Posted 12 August 2010 - 09:45 AM
I guess I fear the loss of small-venue, small-scale, experimental work. Intimacy -- and low ticket prices -- have always been part of that culture. You could go and actually NOT like it and it was okay.
I grew up on this in New York City, spending much of my 20's in the West and East Villages and similar locales. Even though my true love was the classical arts, the opportunity to see all kinds of work at affordable prices and often from close up, was something I will always be grateful for. That this world is slowly dying out (due to high rents, changed audiences, or whatever) strikes me as very sad.
Posted 12 August 2010 - 10:32 AM
In Crosscut, Seattle Opera's Executive Director, Kelly Tweeddale, http://crosscut.com/...ng-tough-times/wrote today:
She then lists them:
Enemy number two: obsolescence.
Enemy number three: the emergence of a risk-averse approach to creativity.
This is an excellent read on the subject, particularly the second on obsolescence.
Posted 12 August 2010 - 10:44 AM
I grew up on this in New York City, spending much of my 20's in the West and East Villages and similar locales. Even though my true love was the classical arts, the opportunity to see all kinds of work at affordable prices and often from close up, was something I will always be grateful for.
Posted 12 August 2010 - 11:28 AM
Some will never actually experience live performance of non-commercial work outside, possibly, a school setting. Is she also implying that many young people may think they ARE watching "live" performances when, for example, they share something on YouTube -- or a download from a friend's phone video camera? In other words, has the definition of "live" performance art somehow changed?
Also sad is this, referring to costs:
Posted 12 August 2010 - 11:50 AM
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