Monday, July 27, 2009


While I was in Durham, the world lost a dance innovator, Pina Bausch. I'd only seen one live performance of her company and various YouTube videos, but her death was sad in that she wasn't very old. She was not yet 60 years old and it happened suddenly, unexpectedly. I often say that I reserve my grieving for people I actually know, but it's hard not to feel sadness at her passing.

Of course, many people have been discussing the death of Michael Jackson. I might still have a Michael Jackson post in me somewhere. He was a part of my high school and college experience and there's some sadness at his untimely death, maybe even more sadness at his unfortunate life. But as far as his dancing is concerned, Joan Acocella has written much of what I thought about MJ and his dancing, so I needn't repeat it here. (I'm not entirely comfortable writing about MJ in the same post as Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham---these are entirely separate worlds.)

Today the dance world is taking in the news that Merce Cunningham has died. Some are mourning, yes. His company and the countless dancers who passed through it are doubtlessly more affected by his death than most. But I say "taking in the news" instead of "mourning" for a very particular reason.

Merce was 90 years old. He found his path and followed it with great success. He had a partner in life and collaboration in John Cage. He was innovating, using computers to help choreograph when he could no longer stand on arthritic feet. From what has been said of him, I would expect he went to sleep last night with some new idea floating in his head, some new dance that we'll never see.

And there is the sadness, I suppose. The flow of creativity and curiousity is stopped.

But for finite people, Merce had an incredibly good run (full, no doubt, of hardship and sadness of his own---one does not create the body of work he leaves without hardship and sadness).

So, for someone like me, who never met the man, who experienced him mostly through books and video, I merely take in the news that he has died. Merce Cunningham is canon, pantheon, legend. He is as alive to me today as he was yesterday.

Blessings on his memory.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

3 weeks out of 2,378

2,378 weeks. That's roughly what I've lived so far.

So 3 weeks shouldn't have too much influence, right? It's only 3 weeks out of 2,378 weeks.

Of course, when the 3 weeks in question ended just last Friday and were an intensive, stamina-testing 3 weeks of watching dance, talking about dance, and writing about dance . . .

Here's the thing. The arts are grossly under appreciated in the world. People sacrifice their entire lives in pursuit of some artistic expression and too often it is swept aside as the work of crazy people. Meanwhile, truly crazy, power-mad people are running around, claiming to be too big to fail, too important to go bankrupt, and other truly crazy, power-mad people listen to them and we're left with money being spent to keep some of these people in their penthouse apartments. Money for making beauty, for making mirrors to the society, for waking up the sleepers . . . it gets cut and what's left to spend is called waste.

All of which to say, my 3 weeks as an NEA Fellow at the American Dance Festival as part of the Institute for Dance Criticism has put me in a funk.

I don't think this was the expected outcome.

Is this fatigue or depression? Is there a difference? I find myself roller-coastering between re-dedicating myself to my sacrificing life of artistic pursuits and wondering if it's too late to learn engineering or accounting or something practical, something this culture respects.

I'm not as angry as I might sound.

I'm not as depressed as I might sound.

But I am angry and a bit depressed. And I feel a bit derailed.

Of course, 3 weeks is plenty time to influence a life. Lives are altered in much less time. Lives change in seconds.

Perhaps my greatest worry is the weight of helplessness I feel in the wake of these 3 weeks. My greatest worry is that these 3 weeks won't change a thing.

But perhaps that's up to me, eh?

A few more full nights of rest. Let's see what that will do for me . . .

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Duham Blogging

Here I am in Durham, NC, attending multiple performances at the American Dance Festival and I'm not sure what to tell you. It's been nearly nonstop talk with fellow critics-in-training, with choreographers, dancers, technicians. I've now sat in the same room as 3 former dancers who were there at the beginning of Paul Taylor's career (oh, how I'd love to spend more time with them! Delightful doesn't even begin to cover how much fun these women are!) and I've heard a lighting designer talk about his years putting illumination on Merce Cunningham's company. I've been able to ask questions of two Israeli choreographers and one Japanese choreographer, the latter through an interpreter since she doesn't speak English. I've met and been critiqued by leading dance critics in the nation. I'm colleagues with a 11 other dance writers from around the nation, most of whom have incredible careers in journalism.

It makes me wonder how a farm boy from Paige got here.

It's all too much to process as it's happening. Maybe when I'm back in Houston, I'll post the reviews I wrote for the critique sessions. Maybe I'll have time to think about what has happened here and how to frame it all, what it means for me as a writer and dance lover.

But here, on the first day of the last week here, I'm nearly fried. Really. I don't know where to begin.

It just seemed appropriate that I blog Something from this place. Pretty content free, isn't it? Well, that's a bit how I feel. Content free and full, all at the same time.