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For the past two months, I’ve been writing for Dance Informa – an online Australian dance publication, attending it’s reach into the US. Mostly, I write features for the monthly editions, profiling companies, choreographers, and exciting dance happenings. But, every now and then, I get the opportunity to see a NYC dance performance and provide an account of my personal experience with it.

The whole concept of dance critique has the gears in my head turning . . . let’s be real, dancers and choreographers crave feedback, yet don’t take critique well. So, what is critique exactly?

Critique = “A detailed analysis and assessment of something . . . to evaluate”

Viewing dance in a critical way has the potential to truly advance the art form, but some critics (you know who I’m talking about) can be down right mean. Other critics simply restate what they saw. Sometimes, choreographers play it safe, creating dance for the sake of pleasing the audience and getting positive feedback. None of this benefits dance nor inspire good art. So, what came first? The chicken or the egg?

Luckily, Houston Ballet made my job easy during their run at the Joyce Theater. This was my first review for Dance Informa and, over all, I enjoyed the show! But, (yes, there’s a ‘but’) despite the response from the audience, I didn’t love Jorma Elo’s One/end/One. To be frank, I didn’t get the point of it. It juxtaposed classic form with contemporary movement. The costumes were tutus and tunics, but the movement was quirky and freakin’ hard. I’m sorry, but hasn’t this been done before, many times over?

Karina Gonzalez and Conner Walsh in Jorma Elo's "One/end/One" Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Below is an exert from my review on Houston Ballet at the Joyce. To read the rest click here.

“It was interesting and intriguing, but asked the question, “What is the point?” This is not to say that a choreographer should ever have to explain his or her work, but the intent behind the ballet was curious. Was Elo mocking ballet with the choreographed quirks and unusual angles or simply further exploring both the formality and litheness of classical form?”

Then, I saw Program 3 of Fall for Dance at City Center. A top notch roster of companies: the Australian Ballet, Steven McRae, Pontus Lidberg Dance, and Hubbard Street Dance, gave me high expectations! Admittedly, I missed Australian Ballet in Glen Tetley’s Gemini. My friend and I were chatting too much over our martinis and didn’t realize what time it was. In the end, I was okay with missing the ballet. As much as I wanted to see the gorgeous dancers of the Australian Ballet on the City Center stage, I was surprised by their choice in repertoire. (Plus, my martini was damn good!) I think Tetley’s work is iconic, but when you have one shot . . . one ballet on the program to show innovative dance . . . why chose something choreographed in 1973?

Then there was Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, slated to perform Ohad Naharin’s Three to the Max. I’m gaga for gaga, so I was excited for this piece. However, it left me scratching my head. I saw Batsheva perform the full Three in Minneapolis several years ago, which blew me away. To date, it’s one of the best dance shows I’ve ever seen. But, I was unsure what Three to the Max was exactly. Turns out, it is a “collage” of past Ohad work. I’m not sure how I feel about a ‘mash up’ of previously created pieces. Additionally, Hubbard Street chose to censor some of the nudity, which brought up many more questions. Why would they censor this piece? Once again, I felt the repertoire choice wasn’t the best representation of the company.

The surprise stand outs for me were sandwiched in the middle. Royal Ballet Principal dancer Steven McRae tap danced brilliantly to Sing Sing Sing. It could have easily been gimicy, yet worked because he brought his own style to the stage. And, Pontus Lidberg’s Faune (a reinterpretation of Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faune) left me intrigued, wanting to see more. It was a pleasing meld of interesting concepts, well-crafted movement, and strong dancing.

Dance is such a funny thing and, as a classical dancer, it’s hard to determine which way it is going. I feel like I just answered all of my questions with new questions. I may be getting to artsy fartsy here, but I feel it’s DIYd’s responsibility to ask these questions.

How do we, as dancers and artists, push dance into the future?

Written by Stephanie Wolf

Stephanie Wolf

An Atlanta native, Stephanie Wolf has performed professionally with the Minnesota Ballet, James Sewell Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, and Wonderbound (formerly Ballet Nouveau Colorado). She has a BA in Liberal Studies from St. Mary’s College of California. Her writing has been published in national and regional media outlets, including Dance Informa, Indianapolis Star, and the Twin Cities Daily Planet. Currently, Stephanie lives in Denver, where she is a public radio producer and reporter. She loves bluegrass, cooking, Netflix, and owls.