Thursday, September 17, 2009

Defining Dance: A Letter to the Broad Street Review

To the Editor:
Jim Rutter’s critique of “more.” in the Broad Street Review (“Is it Art- or Just Movement?”) evokes the tired question “Is it dance?”. Whatever Rutter’s response to Headlong Dance Theater’s newest work, I suggest that he and every critic in Philadelphia catch up to what was a groundbreaking revelation in the 1960’s at New York’s Judson Church: Dance can be all-encompassing and does not need to be fashioned of traditionally virtuosic movement. Pieces that forever changed the field include Trisha Brown’s “Man Walking Down the Side of Building” which was, literally, that, or “Roof Piece” in which semaphore-like gestures were passed, as in the game ‘telephone,’ over the rooftops of then-developing Soho. Neither of these might have been recognizable as “dance” in their day, but both have come to be seen unequivocally as dance, and as representing the commendable artistic adventurousness of an era. Must we keep going backward? Critics are responsible for speaking from a context of knowing their field, and their field of today, not that of a half-century back.
Lisa Kraus