Poets & Dance Writers and Romantics & Poseurs

I’ve been so busy lately trying to juggle various things I got very behind on my reading, particularly dance reading. So I spent part of my weekend browsing the online arts sections of my old favorite magazines and newspapers and found a few interesting things. I’m really loving some of Claudia La Rocco’s recent reviews. This Bayadere piece is really beautiful in her descriptions, and this one had a poetic charm to it as well — look at the Ravel simile! Made me wonder what her background was — if she was a fiction writer or poet. So, I did a Google search and found several of her poems, like this one and this one, and this one on Shen Wei. (At least I assume this is the same Claudia La Rocco!) It does make perfect sense; poetry, fiction, and dance (and perhaps music) writing have a good deal in common. It’s so hard to write about something so inherently visual or sensual and it really makes you strive for that perfectly specific adjective or metaphor or simile that will convey to your readers as precisely as possible what you saw and what it felt like, how it touched the senses and the soul, without resorting to cliche (which tells the reader nothing). Of course you also need analytical faculties, but I personally find the most challenging part is just getting a well-written, apt description down without over-using the “amazing”s and “beautiful”s, etc. etc.

I was also looking through Time Out, after Ariel pointed out a few Gia Kourlas pieces, and found this interview with Tom Gold, who recently retired from New York City Ballet, particularly interesting. About halfway through he talks about how City Ballet has changed over the years and how technique now seems to be stressed over developing the dancer’s personality, conveying the humanity of the dance. I think that’s all important. I feel like, with a few definite exceptions, dancers are focusing so much on the steps, on making them perfect without thinking about what’s behind them, what they’re trying to convey to us with those steps. Didn’t Damian Woetzel recently say people don’t go to the ballet to see technique? We don’t! Gold said he hopes we return to the age of Romanticism soon and I couldn’t agree more. He also has a few amusing expressions of annoyance at artists who are so insistent on being the “new thing,” on being original, that they seem to lose focus on what they’re doing, on the joy and spontaneity of dance, and their work ends up being contrived and derivative anyway. There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new ways of bringing things to light and exploring them.


  1. I really enjoyed LaRocco’s piece on La Bayadere as well – especially her lovely connection regarding the corps girls dancing the Shades, and their real lives as corps members of one of the top ballet company in the world.

    I, for one, don’t go to the ballet for technique – but I think there are still some who do. Many clap wildly after a series of spinning fouettes, which are completely warranted because that is a big deal, but I am often more moved by a connection between a couple in a pas de deux more than wild turns, however perfect. There are some ballerinas that definitely stress technique over musicality, and I just happen to prefer artistry even at the expense of technique (although it’s great if they have both equally).

  2. I loved Claudia’s Bayadere review also…she recently started a blog as well if you’re interested…


  3. Thanks Taylor, I think I knew about that but had forgotten… Funny, her recent post is on how dance writing can expand and become more creative!

  4. Thanks so much for your kind words. I would be so interested to hear your thoughts on what makes successful criticism (dance or otherwise), and what you think of criticism that is more artistically inclined. I was just having a discussion with another writer regarding what role judgment plays in criticism, whether it is possible to write without it., or whether judgment is intrinsic to the form.

    It’s awfully easy to use too many “beautifuls” …

  5. Hi Claudia — thanks so much for writing! I really love your poetry and poetic dance criticism, and I’ve been reading a lot of Edwin Denby lately and am loving his too. So, I definitely have a preference for criticism that is more artistically inclined. But I think the critic probably has to be judgmental too or it doesn’t really seem like they’re offering a perspective. I’ll have to think more about it when I get over this crazy migraine… and I’ll have to visit your new blog more frequently too. I’m really flattered you responded!

  6. Oh that’s wretched – I get migraines, too. Hope it passes soon, and looking forward to your thoughts.

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