Dallas — “Where are all the critics?” The lamenting cry has been heard resounding for the last few years; I’ve even uttered it myself. The issue isn’t just centered on theatre critics. Truth be told, it’s easier to find a theatre critic in this town than a dance critic any day of the week. Yet, we’ve seen a drastic decrease in arts coverage in our city over the last year, but it’s not for the lack of trying.
And if you are looking to get dance coverage; forget about it. You’re screwed. The theatre scene is feeling the hit of decreased coverage, and I don’t want to minimize that, but dancers in Dallas have been struggling to find their names in print for the last five or so years. They follow all the rules, submitting press releases and sending out invitation after invitation to opening nights, but are told repeatedly there just isn’t any room right now for a dance review. How that comes across often is that there isn’t any interest. We just don’t care. Is that true? Or is the lack of coverage of dance, dance-related, or dance-adjacent performances due to a lack of knowledge about the art form?
It used to be that you could find a dance review on nearly every site covering the arts in town, from The Dallas Morning News to the Dallas Observer to D Magazine to TheaterJones to Art&Seek. But now, only The Dallas Morning News (with only one writer on board, Manuel Mendoza) and TheaterJones are our main sources of dance-related reviews. In fact, TheaterJones is at the forefront of dance coverage in Dallas, running previews, interviews, and reviews of performances in both Dallas and Fort Worth.
But the future of dance can’t be sustained by just two sources. Works of dance need reviews. But reviews are being pushed aside; instead, replaced by interviews and previews—which are great! We need those! And at this point, it would behoove me to call out the work of Katy Lemieux of the Dallas Observer and Hady Mawajdeh of Art&Seek who both have a varied interest in the performing arts and work diligently to cover it as widely as they can.
But we also need reviews. They are a necessity, especially if you are applying for grants, residencies, or a job. Those reviews provide documentation of your work. Without them, well, then, I guess anyone can say they are a director or choreographer. Because we don’t have proof to back up that claim, and I guess we just have to trust that what a person writes down on their resume to be fact (see my column “Don’t Fudge the Truth”).
Without reviews, what will happen to the education of dance audiences? Without reviews, what will happen to the history of dance in Dallas? How will it be preserved? How will it live on? Dance is not just an isolated art form for current dancers or former dancers. Dance is one of the most accessible forms of performance that we have. So much can be said with body that words fail to convey. Yet, in a world full of click-bait, it’s difficult for dance artists to market themselves as “the must-see thing,” “the hottest seat in town,” without coming off as trite. But maybe what dance artists need and can do is to provide audiences and critics with more context for their productions. What is the show going to be about? Who are the main players? How does dance help to tell the story? Is there a story at all?
So, dancers, if you’ll permit me, let’s go over some pointers. It should be a two-way street after all! It’s important to give writers as many facts as you can because, just like they teach you in school when you’re writing research papers or any essay, you can’t assume that your reader knows what you’re talking about. You should assume that they are new to your area of expertise. So, give them all that you can. Most dance writers or critics are from outside the community—this allows them to remain objective—and if they are from within the community, they might not be as knowledgeable about your particular genre.
Sometimes, it’s beneficial to provide historical context or references for what you make; for instance, I make contemporary dance theatre and am highly influenced by German Expressionism and tanztheatre. Not everyone is familiar with this genre, or its foundational artists, Rudolf Laban, Kurt Jooss, Mary Wigman, Pina Bausch, or the fact that tanztheatre was influenced by Bertolt Brecht, Max Reinhardt, Anton Artaud, and Samuel Beckett. So, I provide definitions, references, influences. I make dance and theatre. Work that is movement, theatre, and action. I show how my work is connect to those that came before me. Context is key. Is this perfect? Not always, but I can’t rest in the shade of the media gods. I must continually sharpen what I put out there! In the same way that an audience will come to enjoy a dance show in many ways, a critic will angle in at your show from new and unexpected directions. Let’s help them!
Is there an inequity of coverage in Dallas? Yes. But what good comes of us just sitting around complaining? Where are all the dance critics? They are out there. They just need a little push to come forward and write.
Editor’s note: TheaterJones is dedicated to growing our coverage, so look for some announcements in the coming weeks about the future of this site.
» Danielle Georgiou is a dance educator, critic and writer. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) and is a working dancer and performance artist. Her column Sixth Position appears on the third Friday of the month on TheaterJones.com.
- February 2014: Cash Choreography
- March 2014: Make the Fringe Your Future
- April 2014: Don't Freak Out, It's Just an Audition
- May 2014: You Love Dance. You're Not Alone
- June 2014: Persevering Through Movement
- July 2014: Sharing in Success
- August 2014: To the Barre
- September 2014: Method Act
- October 2014: Fear of Flying
- December 2014: The Editor Dance
- January 2015: Community Relations
- February 2015: The Fabric of Movement
- March 2015: State of the Dance
- April 2015: The Dance Mom Complex
- May 2015: Who Wants to Date a Dancer?
- June 2015: Figuring How Men Fit In
- August 2015: Creative Economy
- September 2015: Dancing to Learn
- October 2015: Whose Idea Is It Anyway?
- December 2015: '15 Going on '16
- January 2016: In Memoriam
- Februrary 2016: The Politics of Dancing
- March 2016: No column
- April 2016: Defining Dance Theatre
- May 2016: No column
- June 2016: Dancing for Change
- July/August 2016: No column
- September 2016: Sweat the Details, Not the Consequences
- October/November 2016: No column
- December 2016: Louder Than Tweets
- January 2017: Making and Moving
- February 2017: Don't Fudge the Truth
- March 2017: The Collective Unconsciousness of Creating
- April 2017: Professionally Speaking
- May 2017: Dancer Depictions
- June 2017: No column (Danielle was busy preparing for Donkey Beach)