Tuesday, September 06, 2005

aug 22 New Yorker

I'm going to just ignore the whole Target ads as art thing. Wait, no I'm not. I hate the way my friends from New York, who readily mock anything vaguely suburban still shop at Target and love the deals on cheap crap.

I like "Vis-a-vis the Venice Biennale" illustrations and Alex Ross' survey of Schreker.

But about that Joan Acocella . . . now she's writing about the Bolshoi ballet company, "After the Fall" as she calls it. The thing I don't like about this piece is that it makes obvious whats so wrong with the last one (my rant on the aug 8 issue). She makes fun of Soviet aesthetics and as she does this, it becomes clear that what she likes is classical ballet as a good, old fashioned 19th C bourgeois art form, or the variations on this tradition that late capitalism has produced (ie, "downtown" contemporary dance, as in the last review). And she positions this kind of dance as non-ideological, where as Soviet dance wears its ideology on its sleeve and repulses her. In good ballet, she praises the individual dancer "She is like an animal: joyful, physical, seemingly unmindful" or, another prima donna "She belongs back at the Kirov, where such virtues - line, form - are stressed over dynamism." (77) While these are fine descriptions of physical dance, the language makes dance seem simply natural, in the first case, or formal, in the second. In both cases, empty of politics, economics or even cultural context. And is dance ever empty of these? Please.

I don't know why this is an argument worth making (is dance important in today's media culture?), but maybe it gains more relevance if its linked to Spike Lee's Bamboozled. Where dance and the dancer (here tap, which makes the audiance confront the ideological meanings of dance in the context of US race) cannot escape from its cultural and political meanings to be just dance, natural, formal, etc.

New question to ponder: Why does Ian Buruma always make me uncomfortable? His "Reports on Life in North Korea" did it again . . . after the thing on dictators in NYRB . . . an essay on Satyajit Ray . . .



Anonymous Hallvord said...

Many dance people feel those external references like ideology as a distraction. Logically they will prefer watching dance they do not read such references in.

5:43 AM  
Blogger zp said...

Thanks so much for your comment. I originally posted this, because I was wondering if dance criticism felt it was OK to try and ignore ideology - be it of the production or reception/consumption of dance.

I recently saw an ad for a published book of Arlene Croce's New Yorker magazine dance criticism, titled "Writing in the Dark, Dancing in the New Yorker." The title suggests just what you say, with "the Dark" being a space in which the audiance or reviewer cannot see, or "read" as you put it, the ideology that might distract them. But I haven't read it, and don't remember her criticism if I ever did, so this is just a guess.

Thanks too for the link to your great blog. The thoughts on dance there were really interesting to me, and helpful.

10:48 AM  

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