We Are All Natives. Learn My Tribe.

In Ann Daly's "The Interested Act of Dance Criticism" performer/critic Sal Murgiyato is quoted as saying when "writing about world dance, it is wise to consider the way natives look at their own dances" (4). We can, and should, widen the definition of 'natives' to include a modern idea of tribe, or community. Would it not also be appropriate to consider a contemporary work of art by the norms of the community from which is arises? Claudia La Rocco writes, in her New York Times review of Simone Forti, that the setting "was an open space with... only a smattering of seats." Tying history to this setting, she notes that "the studio was covered with reclining bodies, evoking accounts of Judson-era arrangements." Creating a context in which this work evolved - Judson Church Theater - locates it within a specific community. This contextualization directly relates to Forti's work in that she "invites you to relax into your surroundings."(La Rocco) With the knowledge of the setting, both physical and historical, La Rocco's observation has more meaning and resonance for the reader.

Shifting the critical viewpoint towards a contextualized perspective causes critics to realign their approach to performances because "she is no longer judge, but rather interpreter." (La Rocco) This is true, unless, of course, the critic themselves is an insider of the community from which she is critiquing
. In Edwin Dendy's article, "Dance Criticism", the author assumes performances are in a tradition of which he is apart with his job being to give "a clear picture of the event and to place it in its relation to the art of theater dancing." Dendy does not state there are multiple traditions in which to place the performance, but only one - "theater dancing". La Rocco sums up work by Shelly Senter by writing that the dance "became a quietly shifting human landscape, the careful craft of the work’s interlocking sections often infused with a looser, improvisational physicality." She continues, there are "hints of wit and tenderness glinted throughout, though some choreographic passages felt less necessary than others; it’s easy to grow impatient with such understated material." Even in the context of the review we are left without knowing anything specifically unique - it could be a description of many performances, from many time periods and styles. But, La Rocco is assuming her audience participates in the community that this work came out of - mainly, a New York City post-modern dance crowd. The question must arise, what happens when you are reading this review and are not part of the tribe?

Dance criticism illuminates most clearly when the critic investigates the world out of which the dance evolves. This is hard. This means that not all critics can or should review all dance, because, as Dendy writes, the critic "can hardly be illuminating or right enough unless he has a fund of knowledge about his subject."

No comments:

Post a Comment