The introduction to this theme has been prepared by Stuart Sweeney
, who is currently taking an MA in Dance Studies and is a regular contributor to Dance Europe magazine as well as CriticalDance. He has recently accepted an invitation to join the dance section of the UK’s Critics’ Circle.
******************************** Communication across the dance community.
I have restructured the wording from the 21st Century ballet press release to facilitate our discussions. In any event, I understand that the press release wording is indicative and further development will be carried out before the conference.
- How can we develop better communication and dialogue across the dance community? In particular:
o How can we work to bridge the gaps between ballet and contemporary dance
o How can we work to bridge the gaps between historians, critics and academics and [Stuart adds] artists and audiences?
A fascinating area for discussion, which is clearly important for the future of dance. Most of my examples concern the UK, as it is the setting I know best. I look forward to hearing the current experiences elsewhere in the world.
Regarding ballet and contemporary dance, in my view links have strengthened a great deal over the past few years. Thus Mark Morris is one of the most sought after ballet choreographers worldwide and UK contemporary choreographer Wayne McGregor, having experienced working with Royal Ballet dancers in “Symbiont(s)”, will be creating dances for English National Ballet and the Kirov in the coming year. Perhaps this trend is because of the relative weakness of current choreography from the ballet trained world, but I do see this development in a positive light. More importantly, so do the majority of dancers and artistic directors I speak to. Nevertheless, I am aware that the compartmentalist viewpoint has its advocates, who oppose such crossovers.
In the UK, Deborah Bull has been a catalyst for closer links between ballet and contemporary through the Royal Opera House Artists Development Initiative, which lead to Wayne McGregor’s “Symbiont(s)” and collaborations with other choreographers, some of which work and some don’t, but are almost always interesting. Organisations that span different dance style, such as Dance UK also have a key role to play. In their recent Choreoforum meeting, choregraphers from ballet. contemporary and stage dance came together to network, compare notes and discuss common concerns.
Nevertheless, the great differences in funding for ballet and contemporary in the UK remain a concern for many in the contemporary world and can be a source of resentment. In addition, audiences tend to be relatively separate. However, the success of the Ballet Boyz, who have been taking high quality contemporary ballet and contemporary dance works around the UK, are leading the way in exposing audiences to cutting edge dance. Many ballet schools worldwide now teach modern/contemporary dance, partly to equip the dancers for wider career options, but also as a way to allow them to learn more about their bodies – a view propounded by Gailene Stock at the Royal Ballet and Altynai Asylmuratova of the Mariinsky. All these examples facilitate greater contact between the dance forms.
Thus in the UK, the process of bridging this gap is moving ahead. Questions that you might want to address:
- Are closer links between modern/contemporary dance and ballet moving ahead in the US and elsewhere in the world?
- Is such a trend desirable?
- Are there ways that this trend can be further encouraged?
Let’s turn now to the second theme, “How can we work to bridge the gaps between historians, critics, academics, artists and audiences?”
These five groups often do seem very disparate. My own experience of academic work is that it can be remote from dance art and is often ignored by dance artists. Nevertheless, the number of dance graduates and post-graduates is growing all the time and academic institutions are seeking out new ways of allowing artists to contribute to academia. Masters and doctoral programmes which have a choreography focus are now in operation.
Here in the UK, I suspect that relations between critics and dance creators are getting worse with trenchant views seeming to occur more frequently. I regularly see newspaper reviews that would not pass Criticaldance’s courtesy rule, if posted directly on this site. Interestingly, my impression is that the Scottish critics often take a more tempered view and try to avoid strident attention grabbing comments. Communication between critics and artists has often been kept to a minimum to maintain “distance” and “objectivity”, but is this a good thing? Could greater contact result in greater understanding?
Links between dance professionals and audiences seem relatively weak in the UK and I feel that we have much to learn from the US in this respect. Stronger connections could enhance understanding on both sides and may pay benefits for artists.
Turning to methods for communication, face to face seminars like the Dance East one, which is the first of an annual series, is one route, but the cost surely means that this will be an infrequent occurrence. E-groups are used extensively now by common interest groups in dance in the UK to take forward discussions, but personally I find these an awkward way to communicate over a period. Is the Internet and forums like this one a way of taking forward debates?
Some possible lines of discussion in this topic:
- Does the work of academics matter to the art form – is greater contact between academics and artists desirable?
- Are critics becoming more fierce in their criticism? If so, is this a problem?
- How can communication between the various dance stakeholders be improved?
- Can the Internet play a major role in this area?
<small>[ 12-17-2002, 04:34: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>