Choreographers’ Evening


Near the end of World War Two Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters recorded a hit tune entitled, “There’ll Be A Hot Time In The Town Of Berlin When The Yanks Go Marching In.” No further explanation for this snippet of historical pop culture is needed. The title and the context say it all. The idea is to suggest that when the righteous good guys show up, some ass is going to get kicked. It was a triumphalist, self-righteous anthem.

There’s been a hot time in the town of Twin Cities since the Walker Choreographers’ evening on Saturday, November 28. That night the Walker presented a total of 13 dance-makers, mostly under the radar, who offered an evening of work ranging from minimalist modern through text-driven performance art and including both virtuosic tap and alternatively-abled performers.  Plus post-modern. Plus hip-hop. Plus nouveau ballet.

In response to that evening’s presentation, the Walker Blog site kicked off with a barrage of negative commentaries that has since sparked a vigorous debate. The artistic Yanks marched in with a vengeance to say that it wasn’t dance, it was dull, and it was amateur. Other voices snapped back. And that’s what blogs should really be all about.

Initial comments included such statements as, “I wish I could get my money back,” “…came off as the kind of dull, amateur art-school ideas that were drudged up after 3am and should have been amply discarded the next morning,.” and  ” … In a word, awful. Left early cause I’d rather watch the paint peel at some bar somewhere.”

Well, deep breath now, those and others certainly were some negative comments.  By contrast, I had a damn good time, even though only a few works struck me as really stellar, several were flawed, and most were too long. But I always say that most dance works are too long.

I’m concerned about how audience expectations do or don’t match up with what artists are actually doing. If the mere presentation of a piece of work inspires fury there must be something wrong with the creator, something wrong with the curator, something wrong with the audience, or all of the above. We have fury in this exchange, and I offer the thought that the blame goes to more than one.

I remember 30 years ago when the Choreographers’ Evening was about experimentation, new voices, works in progress, wild deviations and a delicious glimpse into the below-radar world of what’s going on with the dance-makers who don’t have relatively high production budgets. And guess what? I think that’s what I saw on Saturday, and I welcomed it, with all its craziness, defiance, occasional flashes of brilliance, and occasional dull thuds. Apparently some other folks didn’t see it that way nor welcome it that way.

But that’s just silly old me.

I would like to see the artists defending themselves less and the audiences listening to the artists more. I would like to see the audiences attacking the artists less and the artists listening to the audiences more. Is that too much to ask? No it isn’t, but frankly it’s asking a lot.

I ask it.