I’ve been told in life that my Facebook feed contains many gems. I’m honored. Recently, I shared this:
Last week, I was made aware of Wendy Perron’s (Editor At Large of Dance Magazine) response questioning both Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance AND Jennifer Homans’ Center for Ballet and the Arts [read it here].
And just as I was finding time to applaud and question Wendy all at once, I was reminded of this:
Whew! The conversation that follows that statement is epic. CHECK IT OUT if you’re interested. Since I made this blog, I figured I might as well use it to get out my commentary. AND since (as I said in the comments of that thread) dance “journalism” and funding are heavily intertwined, I am including this in my research fellowship series because I’m sure that it will make its way into the conversation at some point as well.
Let’s begin . . .
First, I do genuinely applaud Wendy Perron. Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance and Jennifer Homans’ Center for Ballet and the Arts are maintaining a hierarchy, more specifically a racist hierarchy (my words, not hers), of what is worth studying, archiving, and preserving, and what might be “dying.” I think the fact that she has challenged the need and purpose of these institutions is phenomenal. One of my favorite lines in her piece is: “before you can think you have to see.”
I also appreciate her clearly acknowledging of this hierarchy when she writes:
Yes because what is studied in the university? Well my experience, and the experience of many other dance colleagues I chat with, is that you study ballet, modern, maybe jazz, and then you MIGHT have the option of some kind of “world dance” (at NYU specifically there was only ballet and modern, with a few other workshops offered as a part of the Dance History course)
Well I’m glad you asked … YES YES YES YES YES!!! THERE IS SOOOOO MUCH MORE TO STUDY! The history of dance, the culture of dance, the legacy of movement across the world is as diverse as the world itself! And to put ballet and contemporary (or modern or whatever you call it…which is a whole other issue) at the forefront of study is to maintain a hierarchy where elite European and white American culture and history is more important than anyone else’s. And where does that leave you? It leaves you with a list of “living female choreographers” that is, um, lacking to say the least. And just to be clear I am not only referencing race. I am referencing everyone who is left in the margins. This list is “diverse” but, like many of the organizations that are supporting dance (in all facets: presenting, funding, offering space, etc), it’s got a long way to go and it leaves A LOT of people out.
So now we’re back to Wendy Perron. My issue with Wendy’s piece is that it reflects dichotomous thinking. While she tries to acknowledge the grey betwixt the black and white, there is absolutely no mention of any color (pun intended) in the questioning of these two new institutions. And as the Editor At Large, I would venture to believe she has some say in how this list of choreographers manifests. Why isn’t there a link to their work, their websites, their anything?! I’m just supposed to look at this list and go on my merry research way in the land of Google to figure out who any of these folks are? Really?! In what world is that journalism? Oh I know. In the world where Shonda Rhimes can be called an Angry Black Woman in the New York Times and where a video of a store robbery can be released before any real sound or video recordings of a child’s murder.* Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well according to Dance Magazine you should just read those words and go figure it out yourself.
So WENDY PERRON, I am humbly requesting that you take a bit more time to see. I am requesting that as you continue to write about dance that you see not only the complexities that are being created between ballet and contemporary dance, but also all that is being created outside of those worlds. I’m requesting that you implore the magazine that you edited for nine years to see all of this and more as well. I’m asking that Dance Magazine ACTUALLY represent ALL that is happening in the WORLD of dance, or at least as much as they can get their hands, eyes, feet on. Where are the stories on dance being created and studied across the world? Who is writing about dance that’s not on theater stages? These are genuine questions. What is REALLY happening in Dance Magazine?
One of my biggest questions as I continue my research for Dance/USA is WHO IS LEFT OUT? I am asking this question in any and every way I can. Perhaps, Dance Magazine, the question might serve you as well.
*P.S. Because I am not Dance Magazine, here is more on the Shonda Rhimes and the child’s murder references.