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Article by Anne Midgette for Andante

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Below is a link to an article recently written by the music critic Anne Midgette for Andante, which discusses, in relation to the world of classical music, the role of women in the arts, as consumers, spectators, and, increasingly, as critics. I thought that some of the points she raises are relevant to dance as well, as comparison or contrast. For example, she says :

In fact, classical music badly needs to be helped out of its privileged position and to play on the same field as the other arts. Film critics, after all, men and women, express themselves strongly all the time, in terms that would make classical audiences sputter in horror. Unlike film, pop music, art or literature, classical music is widely seen as an endangered species that needs special protection, special advocacy. Meanwhile, it threatens to lapse into mediocrity, in part precisely because its pretensions of privilege ensure that many non-aficionados in the audience, when they fail to be transported by an orchestra concert, assume that the fault lies in their own lack of understanding rather than in the indifferent quality of the event itself.


Isn't it funny that her [the female critic of classical music] increased acceptance in the ranks of critics - that is, among the shapers rather than receivers of opinion - happens to coincide with the striking decline, purely in terms of space, of classical music coverage in news outlets across the nation?

Here's the link:


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Thanks very much for finding this for us, dirac. I read the article as much more about sexual politics than the decline of classical music, and I think she's absolutely right. Women have dominated American dance criticism for the past three decades, and I'm convinced it's because men don't want it. If there were money in writing about dance, if it were prestigious, the ratio would be quickly reversed.

The author's "old she-goat" line reminds me of something I ran across when researching my book. In a certain northern European city in the 1970s and '80s there were two older critics who happened to be female (the men of their generation had left the field because of death, or other good reasons) and who understood classical ballet. The younger men who were entering the field were very much dance-theater people many of whom, I am convinced, didn't have a clue what ballet was about. Pretty steps set to music, an old-fashioned awful thing that should have died in the 1950s and, since it hadn't, they did everything they could to hasten it out the door. The women were called "the aunties."

What's fascinating about dance, especially classical ballet, is that it gets it from both sides. The intellectuals scorn it, the "general public" likes it -- at least the "Swan Lake" or the musical-like ballets like "Merry Widow" although many, especially those who've never seen a ballet, seem afraid of it.

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