Criticism of Dance Criticism
The critical reflection of dance in the media seems to vanish
The disappearance of dance criticism in Berlin is most evident in the fact that, while there is no lack of short, crisp announcements on art and cultural events in a variety of media, detailed critical analyses of premieres or performances are few and far between. In contrast to a premiere in a major theater house, a dance piece that is performed only a few times has little chance in the ever-shrinking arts section of print or radio magazines. Since it is assumed that what interests readers most in a critique is whether or not they should see the performance, it makes sense for magazines with sporadic appearances to mainly focus on program announcements. Service journalism is what counts, as art and culture become increasingly treated like mere recreational tips in lifestyle magazines.
At the sight of a glowing text with flattering photograph, why not welcome the fact that dance is being promoted and not criticized? Perhaps it’s even better when nothing critical is written at all – what artist truly welcomes criticism of their work, anyway? Indeed, shouldn’t the Berlin dance scene, which is predominately young and experimental, relish the largely uncritical shelter that the city offers?
Before we bid a gleeful adieu to dance criticism, it might be worth wondering whether or not the conditions of its quiet disappearance deserve a critical explanation. And perhaps it’s worth considering the implications when, between the innocent event announcement, the actual performance and the next funding application for a new piece there is no opportunity for reflection for the creators and the spectators beyond the praise that premieres customarily enjoy.
Maybe nothing much happens if dance does without this line of thought. The dance public is usually experienced and knowledgeable enough to compare and classify that which they have seen. Most spectators are both curious and open, allowing for a direct exchange on fundamental issues as well as irritations. Unfortunately, for readers who do not regularly attend dance performances, it’s unlikely that they would perceive dance as an opportunity for reflection – without an accompanying critical voice.
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