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The Buzz, 11-14: Choices
How The Dance Insider Decides What to Review

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider

PARIS -- Today I'm going to answer the most popular question asked by readers in the comment section of our Dance Insider Online Survey : "How do you decide what to review?"

To be reviewed on The Dance Insider, a concert has to interest me and a reviewer. It's more important that it interest the reviewer. Even if a company is my personal favorite, if no reviewers are available or interested, it won't be reviewed. Whereas, in nine out of ten cases, unless the company is one I really really don't care for, I'm not going to say no to a review from one of our fine Flashers, as long as we have the space.

With companies that I don't have a strong opinion about one way or the other, I may assign a review more because of the writer available than the artist. Part of the mission of The Dance Insider is to tell stories not told elsewhere, and sometimes that story is as much the perspective we can provide as the actual subject of the review.

Following are some examples of concerts we've reviewed this fall, in most of which cases there were other factors besides whether I cared for the work of the artists involved. (This might be a good point to emphasize that I speak only for myself, and can't explain what might make a writer decide to review a given concert. Often, where we don't review a concert, it's simply because no one among our writers, most of whom are themselves busy dance artists, is available.) In each case below we've provided a link to the review in question.

Gina Gibney Dance, reviewed October 8 by Douglas Frank, at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church: This is one of those companies about which I don't have strong opinions one way or the other. This program, however, was opening the Danspace Project season, and also featured a live chorus. I'd been corresponding with a chorale director, Douglas Frank, who clearly knew how to express himself. So, I thought, as music was billed to play a major role in this concert, instead of a dance critic, why not send a music expert?

Stephen Petronio Company, reviewed October 17 by Nancy Dalva, at the Joyce Theater: With all respect to the fierce dancing, Petronio's is actually choreography I don't care for. However, this concert was pitched to me by an ace writer, Nancy Dalva, from whom I would be glad to read golf play-by-play, let alone a review of any dance concert.

Complexions, reviewed November 6 by Corinne Imberski, at Detroit's Music Hall Center: Ah yes, the Complexions conundrums. Conundrum number 1: This is rather a stealth company -- in seven years as an editor assigning coverage on dance companies, I'd never received a press release from Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson's troupe. But these days, the company is represented (booked) by an ace agency that realizes the value of cultivating journalists. When World Arts Inc. sent me its artist brochure, I discovered that Complexions was playing in Detroit. Conundrum number 2: Rhoden's is also choreography that, with the exception of his solos created for Richardson, I don't care for. It's thrilling the first time you see all those legs go up, but I yearn for more than pyrotechnics. However, Rhoden and Richardson are able to attract a stellar roster of dancers, many of them veterans whose act it's hard to catch elsewhere these days. So when I learned -- from the program info sent to me by WA's Vincent Paul -- that one of my all-time favorites, Valerie Madonia (formerly of the late Joffrey Ballet) would be performing with the company, I asked Corinne Imberski to cover.

Complexions conundrum number 3: Shortly after we posted Corinne's Flash -- which mostly confirmed what I thought of Rhoden's limits -- I received my first Complexions press release, from the intrepid Sergey Gordeev, pitching the company's New York season Nov. 23-24 at the Hudson Theater, and announcing: "Complexions is becoming a repertory company, presenting works by William Forsythe, former Ailey dancer Uri Sands, and former Donald Byrd dancer Thaddeus Davis." I'm tempted, but having just reviewed the company, and negatively, I can't justify another review so soon, even if the dancer roster does include the likes of former Ailey stars Mucuy Bolles, Michael Thomas, Richardson, and Sands, American Ballet Theatre star Sandra Brown, and former Elisa Monte star Marden Ramos. However, if you want to check Complexions, please call 866- 468-7619 for more information.

But, I hear you saying, how come then, after Julia Ward, reviewing the Bolshoi June 20, called Grigorovich's "Swan Lake" a "choreographic muddle," did you assign Aimee Ts'ao to review the same company in the same ballet just five months later, in California? Initially, when Aimee pitched me, I resisted, only because we had reviewed the company recently, and our reviewer, while impressed with much of the dancing, was not impressed with the piece. But finally I realized that Aimee Ts'ao is such a major writer on ballet that we simply could not have her not weigh in on the Bolshoi, circa 2002. And the thing about "Swan Lake" is that, no matter how muddled the production, it's a standard for dancers -- and a standard by which to measure them. And because of the Bolshoi's stature among ballet companies, measuring its dancers also means measuring the field by regarding its summit.

And speaking of important writers on ballet: Susan Yung and Alicia Mosier are two of them. So -- again, speaking for myself, not the writers -- with American Ballet Theatre, which has been uneven over the past five years, I assign reviews as much (if not more) because of the reviewers as because of the company being reviewed. What I wouldn't give to have them here in Paris, our superior critics (they being superior to me), reviewing a superior company, the Paris Opera Ballet! To read Susan's most recent review of ABT, please click here. To read Alicia's, click here.

Well, I hear you asking, if you're not such a hot critic, why so much Paris Opera Ballet? Because it's the best. And because I enjoy seeing it. (And this latter is probably the major reason any of us pick certain concerts -- because we like the artists.) To find my reviews of Paris Opera Ballet, just enter "Paris Opera Ballet" in the search engine window on our Home page.

But how do you know you like the artist if you've never seen the company? you ask. For all the companies I've never seen from which I receive press releases, how do I decide whether to try to find them reviewers? Sometimes it's an interesting press release. Sometimes (though this is not a guarantee, and never plays into the reviewer's decision on whether to take the assignment) it's the company placing an advertisement. Sometimes, an artist has taken the time to make me aware of her or his work. I've wanted to check Aleta Hayes's choreography ever since we discussed it over coffee at NoHo seven years ago. So when a press release arrived earlier this month announcing a concert which included Hayes's "For the Love of the Dark One -- A Tale of Meera," I jumped on it and immediately tried to get a reviewer. I did, in Catey Ott.

Finally, when it comes to determining what we review, your input also matters. To tell us what you'd like to see more of -- and to tell us who you are -- please fill out the Dance Insider Online Survey , and include your suggestions in the Feedback section. The survey results will also help us secure more advertising and sponsorships to pay our reviewers -- also essential to getting as many concerts as possible reviewed.


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