This intrepid reviewer, a lover of the art form of dance in all of its permutations has viewed two concerts for DCDC and Dayton Ballet. Unfortunately, except for a couple of bright spots, this reviewer was left under whelmed to the point of concern.
I am fully aware that we are in perilous times in regards to funding for the arts, and as a native Daytonian I want to provide an enthusiastic, supportive review. I believe that honest dialogue about the works being presented is critical to the growth of beleaguered arts institutions. What was presented artistically by these two venerable institutions left this reviewer with a vexing quandary. I went into both concerts ever hopeful that my willingness to be in the audience would somehow be rewarded with exquisite transporting terpsichorean art that would engage me on so many levels. After attending several concerts by both companies I have shed my naïve beliefs that things will progress.
The DCDC concert, Director’s Cut, held the one choreographic bright spot of both concerts; the invigorating and bracingly contemporary work of Rodney Brown. The rest of the concert consisted of works presented in a collage from the forty years of artistic product from the DCDC legacy of classic works of the modern dance vernacular. My only disappointment in Rodney Brown’s work was that it highlighted the creakiness of everything else on the concert. I am a huge advocate of dance reconstruction and restoration. My love of Balanchine is steadfast and absolute. Unfortunately, watching the historic works of DCDC in this context was like looking at a tenth generation Xerox copy, washed out and barely legible as to render it useless.
Rodney Brown, a former dancer with DCDC, brought to the Dayton dance scene a glimpse of what is happening in the dance world. His work was a strikingly original work with a dance vocabulary shaped and influenced by the Europeans, Wayne McGregor, William Forsythe, Crystal Pite and Pina Bausch and grounded in the asthetitics of the post modernist legend Bebe Miller. Mr. Brown created a world that was both strange as well as unpredictable and utterly captivating. The Nearing was set on a quartet of the men from the company, who never looked better. The movement material was rooted in a relentless repetition that was punctutuated by moments of individual expression. It was like being transported into a dystopian dance drama that reminded me of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, the 21st century forgotten men. I have not been this captivated since seeing the restaging of Adam Hoagland’s choreography at the Wright State Spring Dance Concert in the spring.
The Haunted series presented by Dayton Ballet contained two highlights; that it was mercifully brief and was at least danced with conviction. Watching this concert I will acknowledge that choreographically Sleepy Hollow was the most accomplished work of the two ballets presented and that is faint praise.
I believe that Dayton Ballet is filled with incredibly gifted performers that are completely invested. My fondest wish is that later in the year they will be showcased in vehicles worthy of those skills and talents.
The problem with both of these ballets resides in the question of “taste levels”. This was a strictly middlebrow production that held little charm or genuine delights to walk away with.
Every major performing arts organization in the United States wrestles with creating work that will attract audiences and fill the coffers, ie., safe entertainment that will appeal to the lowest common denominator. Our dance companies are not immune to this paradox. Yet in appealing to the lowest common denominator they are exposing not only their faults, but also the audience’s as well.
The Dayton arts audiences are complicit in this spiraling artistic bankruptcy. We simply have no concept of what well-produced dance looks like. I will give credit to the valiant efforts to reverse the declining fortunes of two formerly great artistic pillars of community; this is my only act of charity. I am saving my most barbed commentary for the Dayton arts audiences.
All of the art forms that are being presented in our community are typical to any city with a significant population. You have been great in your dutifulness in attending the arts events, purchasing season tickets, and being present. I applaud your levels of support. But are you aware that you are being presented work that is not reflective and indicative of the rest of the world? You are being short changed by not asking for more and knowing the difference.
Professionals in other fields (i.e, the medical fields, accounting & finance) are required to maintain some knowledge and awareness of trends on regional, national and international levels. This is no different for the arts. Yet our arts institutions are caught in a catch-22 in which they want to embrace change and new. We [the audience] are holding the arts back in our community by being so provincial.
Dayton Ballet is 74 years old and is older than New York City Ballet and younger than San Francisco Ballet, and we don’t possess any of the artistic chutzpah or forward thinking of either organization. Dayton Ballet can’t if the audience is not receptive to it. If Alvin Ailey can come back from the brink of collapse then DCDC can do it as well. It requires that you ramp up you skills as an arts patron and embrace quality. Here is what you need.
In the day and age of the lightning fast Internet connections, YouTube is your friend. Instead of wasting so much time on the cute kittens playing with balls of yarn or the ridiculous acts of human vacuity, invest in looking at the work of other dance companies from around the world before your brain rots. I will start you off with a list of companies and choreographers to experience.
- New York City Ballet
- San Francisco Ballet
- Pacific Northwest Ballet
- Boston Ballet
- Houston Ballet
- Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre
- Cleo Parker Robinson
- Lulu Washington
- Wayne McGregor
- William Forsythe
- Bebe Miller
- Adam Hoagland
- Paul Taylor
- Merce Cunningham
- Pina Bausch
Knowledge Part 2
Read up on dance. Don’t say you love dance and your exposure is restricted to what is being seen on our stages. (And no your nieces or nephews recital does not count). It is time for you to invest a little more effort. There are excellent reviews of dance online in the New York Times. The libraries carry Dance Magazine and you can also rent DVD’s on NetFlix or stream them on Amazon. What have you got to lose?
A civilization is defined by the culture it produces and our community is being defined by the middlebrow entertainment that we seem to continually want to embrace. It is time for the audience to stop being complicit and develop a more sophisticated arts patronage. The artist in this community and this reviewer are desperately waiting for you to play catch up. Rise to the challenge.
I will start sharing my discoveries on the dance front through DMM. I will become your Sherpa guide through the vast terrain of dance material out there on the Internet. Hopefully this will lead us all to a better artistic mountain top. I believe that the arts organizations will figure out how to give you quality artistic productions if people on both sides of the curtain make the investment.