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Pappa Tarahumara’s “A Ship in a View” is by turns exquisite and chilling–visually, aurally, and kinetically. I would say see it tomorrow night if you possibly can, but evidently it is sold out. (Three cheers to YBCA on that front.)

The Chronicle did not have room in their budget to send me to review, so I was not on assignment tonight. I decided to sit back and watch it not as a critic but simply a lover of dance and art (which proved, in some ways that I found heartening, to be not so much different from how I watch as a critic, sans notebook and anxiety that I won’t recall enough of what I saw). What I found at the end, watching purely for my own pleasure and emotional engagement, was that I wanted to read what a Deborah Jowitt or a Joan Acocella or an Alastair Macaulay saw in the piece, how they interpreted it, how they contextualized it (realizing each would do those things very differently)–I wanted to deepen my own encounter with the work through a perceptive viewer’s writing. I realized this was exactly how I felt after watching certain challenging dance works as a high schooler, and as a college student. It made me realize that needing dance reviews written for a general public as a doorway into a deepening conversation was not a purpose of critical writing I’d invented to justify my practice; rather my practice of dance writing grew out of these high school and college experiences.

Last night, I spoke of growing up in Fresno with little access to dance and being so eager to see it, and needing that “door”–and I was asked, cynically, “well, did you want to read about it or did you just want to see it?” I couldn’t answer on the spot, but now I feel secure in my memory: I wanted to see it. And I wanted to read about it.

My belief in the value of intelligent and clear dance reviewing for a general public is strengthening again. But I must say I’m still feeling a bit beat up from last night. I don’t object to anything that was said; rather the general memory I retain is of an air of hostility and anger in the room. Did I imagine that? I don’t see the purpose in it. I hope future conversations on dance writing can proceed from an assumption of common goals, and a shared desire to see dance flourish in the Bay Area. We are in this together.

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