CriticalDance Forum

DTJ Writing on Performance Conference
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Author:  ksneds [ Mon May 21, 2007 12:15 pm ]
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I would suspect that dancers' reaction to and views on critics are shaped by the critics that they are exposed to... there are unfortunately more than a few who critics who have a rather warped view of reality. Which is why so many of us are enjoying Alistair Macaulay in NY because he has none of the biases, ignorance or hang ups of his predecessors.

And I would agree that program notes are a vital and often overlooked component of dance related writing. Not only do they give you the basic facts you need to write a review (most critics I know don't have perfect memories, so it's a great help to have the facts in front of us when writing the review), but can give clues about the performance and how clear the choreographer's conception is or isn't. Overly long scenarios can suggest either a good, but detailed story or a ballet that doesn't tell enough of the story.

Here in Europe, program notes present a great challenge because in most cases they are only included in the program, which you must buy (free to critics). Cast lists are generally handed out for free or posted, but as a critic I find it inexplicable that the companies cannot at least print the name of the choreographer, composer, conductor and set/lighting designer on these cast lists. Not only does it save endless flipping through the full season's program, but it is essential information that someone shouldn't have to pay £5 to find out. Nor should you have to drag a big program back to the theatre if you are attending more than one performance.

Worse, the trend in season programs seems to be for 'artistic look', rather than for ease of finding and reading the information. As much as I have been impressed of late by Scottish Ballet, their latest program I find to be a low point for them. The structure isn't clear and the layout of and use of images in the pages makes it very hard to find vital information. Plus, the informative essays of previous years seem to have with essays that seem to have a vague point or don't really provide a lot of information.

Given that US companies, with much less government support, are generally able to give out free programs, why is it so different in Europe? Tradition? Lack of a company like Playbill? Lack of companies interested in advertising in programs?


Author:  Rosella [ Fri Jun 08, 2007 9:23 am ]
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I do not really know Kate, but the question of programme notes should be taken into more consideration.

Another issue which was quite interesting was the difference (if there is any) between academic and journalistic writing. One may think there is a huge difference, but for example Dance Theatre Journal tends to blur these differences with a hybrid kind of writing style.

Author:  shallot [ Tue Sep 11, 2007 3:30 pm ]
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As a professional program annotator for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area, I agree on the importance of the annotation that accompanies dance performance. So often those who are steeped in the art of ballet forget that, to those less well informed in the dance vocabulary, the art form is daunting in its lack of verbal expression. Well crafted notes can create just the necessary bridge of words that the audience member might cross to more fully appreciate the visual spectacle on the stage. I think that they are an indispensible, integral part of the artistry that is dance. I have found the many choreographers, composers, artistic directors and dancers with whom I have worked to be more than amenable to a collaborative effort in this regard.

Author:  LMCtech [ Wed Sep 12, 2007 11:26 am ]
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San Francisco Ballet has done a good job, I think, of providing just enough information on the background and creation of a ballet without telling the audience member what to think of it. It's a fine line, but SFB seems to be walking in well.

Author:  Rosella [ Sun Sep 30, 2007 3:02 am ]
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At the conference during the plenary session, one girl, responding to a question I had posed about dancers' resistance to words, affirmed that in many cases a person chooses to train as dancer because s/he is not interested in dealing with verbal media. I was quite fascinated by this remark and found it revealing. It was also a bit disappointing because it is not very good to choose a path in order to avoid another one...

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