On dance coverage

Posted: April 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Coverage | Tags: , | Comments Off on On dance coverage

Reading the Sunday Telegraph Seven magazine today for coverage of the arts, where there is a lovely picture of Susan Sarandon on the cover. “Will she ever act her age?” Should any of us act our age? What on earth does it mean? Inside there is an article on the vanishing garden, a report on Daniel Everett’s fascinating work on language based on his experience with the Piraha tribe in the Amazon, a lengthy criticism of Damien Hirst’s retrospective at Tate Modern by Andrew Graham-Dixon, five pages of book reviews, and four single pages of criticism, one each on Theatre, Opera, Film and finally Dance. This last, by Louise Levene, is called Failure to Fly. Could this be a metaphor for the state of dance coverage?

With all due respect, who really cares if critics like a show or not if they do not take us beyond the gate of their own judgment and out into the field of well written appreciation? I am a fan of the restaurant reviews (not so much the general rants) of Giles Coren, who makes no bones about what he likes and what he doesn’t, but he says so in the context of the provenance and preparation of food in general, which he clearly loves. So even a bad review is uplifting to read, and a good one is a treat. A review that points only at the state of the reviewer is a downer. One egregious example in the dance sphere is Luke Jennings’ review of Dave St-Pierre at Sadler’s Wells*. After his fit of pique at the opening salvo of naked men cavorting among the audience, he should never have attempted a review, because all that came out was his tantrum.

After managing tours for a company of 14 dancers where one of the nagging concerns at each venue was if there would be enough people in the audience, I attended my first literary festival two years ago and was amazed to find a theatre sold out to listen to an author being interviewed on stage. Well, it was Melvyn Bragg, but subsequent literary festivals attest to the same attraction beyond the book between authors and readers. It is incredibly stimulating. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a discussion about dance at these festivals to raise the level of appreciation? Dame Monica Mason at Hay next year? Yes please.

In listening to BBC Radio 3, it occurs to me that it is not only a great champion of classical music, composers and musicians but also an enormous and effective marketing machine for the dissemination of classical music concerts throughout the country. More discussion about dance on the radio would be welcome, but dance performance belongs clearly with TV. But where is the coverage?  I’m afraid So You Think You Can Dance does not do it. That belongs more to a cultural coliseum where the thumbs up or down of  judges elevate or humiliate a given dance gladiator. I may be wrong, but I don’t think this is generating new audiences for ballet or contemporary dance. The broadcast to art house cinemas of live performances of dance, however, is a promising step in the right direction.

But there is always the writing about dance that can help raise the profile of the art in the national press and thus in the mind of the general public. There are some great examples in the past and in the present. Failure to fly in this field is not an option if dance is to re-forge its place beside the other arts.

* Soon after writing this Luke reminded me of something I had forgotten: that we had known each other when he was in the year above me at the Rambert School. We have since met and talked, though not yet about this.