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September 13, 2012

 

To Whom It May Concern:

It was my pleasure to share six working sessions with the participants of the Critical Endeavour program this summer. I would like to state, unequivocally, that I found these individuals to be absolutely engaged and committed; they were always willing to plunge into conversations and exercises, and they were exceedingly eager for meaningful interaction. What a generous and lively group. During our time, we engaged in hybrid writing and movement exercises, group activities involving conceptual and durational work, workshop sessions, interviews and meetings with ImPulsTanz artists and staff members and numerous organized and impromptu conversations about the performances we were all seeing.

That said, I found myself terribly frustrated by the overall CE structure—and lack of structure. It seems that far too little thought had gone into how best to meet the needs and interests of these particular individuals, and how to organize in-depth dialogues with the dancers and choreographers gathered for the festival. I must implicate myself in this, of course—and yet I also found it very difficult to get concrete answers in advance regarding what was expected of me, how I would fit into the larger structure, etc. And, well…improvisation only gets you so far sometimes.

We are in a really exciting time now for writing around dance. Many artists are finding their way into all sorts of intriguing possibilities, viewing writing as an extension of their art form rather than something at odds with it. And writers are seeking to break down traditional boundaries between watcher and doer, reinvigorating the tradition of criticism as a literary art. A program like CE could serve as the bridge for galvanizing encounters between dance artists and writers, leading to all sorts of collaborations and conversations and debates.

But this, by and large, did not happen, except when individual CE and festival participants sought out these connections on their own. Instead, the CE group was hidden away in another building far away from the Arsenal (we eventually made our way into the Arsenal—thank you, Rio), in an airless little room in which the idea of dance seemed impossible. No space to move or breathe. This is such a wasted opportunity; shouldn’t the two groups be mixing as much as possible? Shouldn’t we aim for total integration? There are so many ways to do this, from joint working sessions to DIY book-based projects to simple conversations over meals—but the groundwork for this has to be laid in advance, before everyone is swept up in the craziness of the ImPulsTanz schedule. It cannot be ad hoc.

Further, the experts brought in should be chosen with great care, and be very firmly prepped on what is expected of them, what the conditions and context will be, etc. It’s all well and good to  say, on paper, “just come and share your practice”—but in theory this leads to a lot of redundancy, missed chances, chaos, etc.

I gather that the program is in a state of flux, having abandoned the idea of the participants serving as adjudicators. I am all for this, and excited to think of the numerous directions in which the program could go. But it has to go in some sort of direction, and not just float in an indeterminate space….

Best,

Claudia La Rocco

 

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