Tuesday, May 14, 2013

After Dark, May 14, 2013

Shall We Dance?
Why we are going in this direction (as well)
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I think it hit me when I thought of Agnes de Mille and Oklahoma! Then I thought of West Side Story, Chorus Line, Dancin', Jerome Robbins' Broadway.

Then there was Cirque du Soleil, Les Sept doigts de la Main, Carbone 14, the works of Robert Lepage or many, many productions of opera.

And let's not forget performance art and fusionist works at every Fringe, ever. 

It finally came to a head, for me, during a recent Tweet where Tina Rasmussen, artistic director of World Stage, wrote  - about a show called Still Standing You: "Wish #toronto entertainment critics were less siloed. #Dance #critic vs. #theatre critic. How about expertise/vocabulary in #performance?" The thing is, we reviewed SSY when it was in Montreal, and didn't hesitate for one second on why we should or shouldn't.

And all of those things above - musicals, performance, circus - I have reviewed them at one time or another and, moreover, most of the traditional media theatre reviewers have done so as well. 

So why not dance? Just dance?

And what the fuck is "pure" anyway?

Theatre - as I discussed last week - is a very pliable word. In so many cases, as spectator or reviewer, we walk into the venue and have no idea what we will get. Moreover, everything has changed in dance as well. From the works of La La La Human Steps and Dave St. Pierre to those of Granhøj Dans (which just played its Dance Me To The End On/Off Love as part of Centaur's season...which we also reviewed) all bets are off. 

No reviewer I know has ever written, "I am not reviewing this show because I realized, ten minutes in, it was mostly dance (music, film, poetry, solo) and I don't review that." Reviewers around the world have adapted. We have, instead, ceded to the reactions we have and written them up. 

I think we have realized, too, with the changing face of live performance that specialism in a field doesn't work anymore. Certainly, someone who has studied opera or ballet, say, will know how to write about it (whether they do it well or not is something else).

But let me share an anecdote. A challenging 20th century opera (adapted from a play) was presented here in Montreal years ago. It is one of my favourite pieces. One media outlet sent both a theatre reviewer and music reviewer. One didn't understand the music, the other the language. I will tell you, without exaggeration, it was the best experience I have had in 45 years of attending opera. I was literally breathless at the intermission (so much so that the stranger sitting next to me said, "I agree, this is strong stuff!") and the next day I phoned the company's artistic director to rave again and to tell her she had done the city a huge service. (I had never done that before, nor since.) My point is that if both the other reviewers had been less specialist, they might have "gotten" it. It was not pure theatre, nor pure opera.

And what the fuck is "pure" anyway?

So off we go. We have reviewers who have dance training, some who have danced, and those of us who love dance or, rather, living, breathing, heart-pumping performance. 

Come "dance" with us!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for choosing to cover dance.


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