Acocella Must Go

Below is a letter I sent to the NYer’s editor

Dance critic Joan Acocella is behind the times in her knowledge of contemporary dance practice and does a disservice to your readers. Repeatedly, she demonstrates her ignorance of contemporary dance practice- most recently, in her review “Think Pieces: Return of the Judsonites” in the May 24th, 2010 issue of the New Yorker. In it she writes, ” …improvisation, which by definition precludes any group pattern.” This statement is woefully inaccurate and is so subjective as to be useless for the New Yorker audience. Early dance improvisation may have had no easily discernible group patterns for minds wanting to see easily accessible forms such as found in classical ballet. However, as with all artistic practices, knowledge of the genre contributes to one’s understanding of works in that genre. Now, as dance improvisation has evolved and been more rigorously studied and performed, group pattern exists in complex, emergent and artful modes in concert dance improvisation. Granted that improvisational dance can be done poorly but it is not the definition of the genre.

The New Yorker needs more than one critic for dance. The other art forms have multiple critics writing about them in the New Yorker – Anthony Lane and David Denby for film; Alex Ross and Sasha Frere-Jones for music; Kelefa Sanneh and Peter Schjedahl for books – to name a few.

If the New Yorker’s critics for other art forms wrote articles with the same “breadth and depth” as Joan Acocella did, the only books, films, and music your readers could know about would be John Grisham novels, Tom Cruise’s latest star vehicle and whomever the latest teen pop phenomenon is. There is so much dance happening in the United States, and especially in its dance mecca – New York. It is time we hear about more of it and from more current voices.

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One thought on “Acocella Must Go

  1. Thanks Andrew. The more that I take my improv performances into more established venues the more I want someone to be able to write about a one-time-only event. A NY Times critic came to my New Museum improv a couple of weeks ago but wasn't granted the space to write about it. Then when she wrote a harsh piece about George Stamos (who dances with Sara Mann, lives in Montreal, had a show at Barishnykov Center in NY, guested in my improv), she inserted a line about how good he was in my 'brilliant' improv at the New Museum. I recognize how tough it is to write after most performances but the journalism scene is extra loaded with factors that encourage quick products, ignorance masked by unearned over-confidence, and competitive incitements. All the more reason we have to write more reviews of each other. keith

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