Some artists want dance critics to exists, some prefer direct audience and friends feedback. Some audience members like to read reviews and critics and compare different of them with their own opinion, some prefer just seeing work, some never goes to see any work. Still it seems that those are almost eternal topics whether dance critics are needed or not, if needed – how should they act and write? That’s great that those things get questioned almost at the same extent as arts itself, it means that writing is integral part of the arts process. There is an essay written by New York based dance and music artist Miguel Gutierrez and we want to share it. Even if it was first time published 10 years ago, not much has changed and it still sounds very fresh.
The Perfect Dance Critic
by Miguel Gutierrez
The perfect dance critic does not exist.
The perfect dance critic works for the perfect arts editor, who does not exist. The perfect dance critic writes in the perfect arts publication, which also does not exist. The perfect dance critic doesn’t secretly wish that everything was the way it used to be. The perfect dance critic doesn’t secretly love ballet more than anything else and feel like she’s just slumming when she sees “downtown” work.
The perfect dance critic can talk about individual pieces in relationship to the pieces that the choreographer has made before, and can write about how the piece fits in terms of the evolution of the work. The perfect dance critic understands that “technique” is a vast term that applies to the ways in which dancers can access effectively and intelligently the numerous expressive possibilities that are available to them in their bodies. The perfect dance critic understands that “virtuosity” can apply to the most idiosyncratic of weight shifts.
The perfect dance critic has an awareness of what the postmodern movement in dance expressed, achieved, and how it lives in our consciousness today.
The perfect dance critic does not live in a time warp that shuttles him between now at City Center and 1950 when he irreversibly decided what dance was, is, and can only be.
The perfect dance critic can describe movement vocabulary, and speculate as to what the choices of movement vocabulary mean in relationship to or how they help to shape the larger vision that the dance artist offers.
The perfect dance critic knows that the choreographer’s choices are integrally related to the selection of dancers that she has working with her.
The perfect dance critic understands that the dancer is an artist and not merely a tool of the choreographer’s or director’s work.
The perfect dance critic can articulate the qualities of individual dancer’s energetic presence in the work.
The perfect dance critic understands that beyond movement vocabulary, dance work is a total aesthetic experience and can therefore elaborate on the contributions or selections of music, set design, costumes and lighting in more than one-sentence toss-offs. The perfect dance critic can write about these aspects of performance with ease and intelligence because the perfect dance critic is well-informed has a comprehensive interest in all aspects of performance.
The perfect dance critic can make references to artists and ideas from other forms of performing and visual arts when trying to contextualize work.
The perfect dance critic discusses the implications of the different cultural representations of gender, race, sexual orientation or class in the work. The perfect dance critic acknowledges his own cultural position when addressing these issues, and how that cultural position may shape his feelings or responses.
The perfect dance critic gets excited when she sees something that’s different, unusual, challenging, or thought provoking, rocks her world, and writes about it with accompanying vigor.
The perfect dance critic writes in a way that is contemporaneous with the time we are living in.
The perfect dance critic knows when it’s time to quit, change careers or retire.
Published in the Movement Research Journal #25 Dance Writing, Fall 2002