The Margie Gillis interview and my dream ending

If you haven’t seen the Margie Gillis Sun News interview, you may not want to. Because if you actually value the arts, it may be hard to sit through it and not want to punch someone’s face in (especially the interviewer). Posted on June 1st on the Canadian news website, the video shows a rather ferocious interview with contemporary dance artist Margie Gillis. And in the past few days, the video has spread like wildfire among New York City dance circles (perhaps even across the country), striking appropriate outrage in those who view it.

While I truly admire Margie Gillis for keeping her composure through the inteview and bringing up some good points, I feel that she could have had stronger comebacks and better arguments on the importance of dance and art. (Though, the people I know that I imagine providing such responses may have been kicked off the show before getting to them.) Convincing others to value art, especially under such antagonistic circumstances, is not an easy task. But we in dance need to be able to articulate why what we do is important and deserving of respect, appreciation, and support.

If you haven’t seen the video, click on the screen shot below to view it on the Sun News website. Then come back and read my dream ending, what I wish Gillis would have said to the interviewer in a final statement.

My dream response/final comment of Margie Gillis to interviewer Krista Erickson: (more…)

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So You Think You Can Dance: Getting to the heart of the matter

Now that Season 7 of So You Think You Can Dance has come to a close and the confetti has settled since Lauren Froderman’s crowning in the season finale, I’d like to wrap up my reflection with one final post on the show for this summer. Previously I discussed the good, the bad, and the utterly frustrating with 15 reasons why dancers do not like the show and conversely a list of 10 positive aspects of the show. While I’ve enjoyed focusing on the quality of the show in these posts, what I’d really like to do is get to the heart of the matter and think critically about what it all means. Like, is it ok to hate the show? Is it really a big deal? And most importantly, what are we (particularly those in concert dance) supposed to do about it? By exploring the issues of perception, impact, and response, I hope to move from “utterly frustrating” to understanding and acting. Or at the very least, I hope to come to terms with how I regard this crazy phenomenon that is So You Think You Can Dance.

Perception: Is it ok to hate SYTYCD?

In short, yes, it’s ok, but ill feelings toward the show are really just wasted feelings. At least that’s what I’ve come to discover. See, I used to hate So You Think You Can Dance. Just hated it. To me the cons outweighed the pros, and the annoying aspects far overshadowed the few possible redeeming qualities. I hated the judges’ comments, the popularity voting, the dance choices, the belittling of my beloved art form to a shallow cheese-fest. I would get riled-up just at the mention of the show in conversation. And the few times I was forced to watch (while visiting the residence of a regular viewer), I would cope with many an eye roll and inner monologue of snide comments.

Since then, I have come to better appreciate the decent aspects of the show. But mostly I came to the realization that being mad at the show was pointless and possibly unacceptable. Why? 2 reasons. (more…)

From the mouths of teens, why arts funding should not be cut from schools

A few weeks ago, I volunteered for the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers (under Scholastic Inc.) to help run their annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.  Hundreds of middle school and high school students gathered from around the country to be recognized for outstanding visual art works or writing submissions. After seeing samples of some of the works from the award recipients, I was completely in awe at the amount of talent that surrounded me, especially at such a young age.

I was also blown away by their responses to the issue of arts funding. One of my jobs as volunteer was to survey the visual art students about their experience of taking art classes, so that their responses could be used in a campaign to keep arts programs in schools. The answers that I got from the students were amazing, so insightful and honest, many even profoundly philosophical about why art is important. I was so impressed with their responses, that I’d like to share some of them here. What follows are some anonymous responses from high school students to the last question of the survey (stated in their exact words).

Why is it not a good time to cut school art programs?

  • Why would any time be a good time to cut art classes in school?
  • It’s like dreaming – it gives anyone a reason to wake up in the morning.
  • It defines our culture and shapes America.
  • Now more than ever, students need to know there are all different ways to be happy.
  • Because creativity is the only thing to get us out of our current predicament
  • Cutting art programs would deprive the world of a generation of package and graphic designers.
  • We need a voice.
  • Because art lets us express individuality, and without that, what are we?
  • Kids will become more like horses with blinders, not observing everything.
  • In troubled times, art is the only thing we can turn to that makes sense.
  • If you get rid of someone’s creativity, you get rid of their reasons to live.
  • Because art is a very important part of everybody’s education, not just those interested in art
  • Because art is a root to what makes us human

It’s great  for teachers and parents to fight for arts programming in school, but I think it’s so wonderful to hear it from the students themselves. Their responses are such inspiring words for why arts in general are so important in our country, now and always. With such bright and talented young people, I am hopeful for the future. But I’m also struck with the need to keep nourishing these young creators through arts education, and to keep promoting art across the country.

Is Edward Hopper correct? Is pure dance impossible? (Part 3)

After much consideration and inner debate on the subject at hand, I come to my third and final entry in a series discussing the significance of a quote by the late visual artist, Edward Hopper. (If you have not read the first 2 parts, it would probably be good to do so before continuing: Part 1 & Part 2.) Previously I have discussed the meaning of Hopper’s words and how his opinion would translate to the art of dance. For my summation, I will present my perspective on the subject of “pure dance” followed by an examination of various performance examples. First, for one final time, here is the quote of interest by Hopper (as taken from a video retrospective produced by the National Gallery of Art).

There is a school of painting called abstractionist or non-objective, which is derived largely from the work of Paul Cézanne, that attempts to create pure painting – that is an art which will use form, color, and design for their own sakes and independent of man’s experience of life and his association with nature. I do not believe such an aim can be achieved by a human being. Whether we wish it or not, we are all bound to the earth with our experience of life; and the reactions of the mind, heart, and eye and our sensations by no means consist entirely of form, color, and design.

So, is Edward Hopper right? Is there no such thing as pure art or pure dance? For the most part, I agree with the opinion of Hopper as it relates to dance. I believe that there are those that create dances for dance sake, focusing solely on the medium – movement, space, energy, time, etc. And I think that some of them perhaps have the goal of creating a pure dance, a dance that is separate from the rest of human experience, while others simply do not care whether or not a piece has possible connections to reality. But whether they try to create a pure dance or not, I do not think that creating a pure dance is possible. I agree with Hopper that we are all bound to our experience of life, and seeing a dance (just another life experience) cannot be separated from the rest of our lived experiences. As an audience, we bring to the performance all that we know and have seen before. And our senses, our minds, and our hearts cannot react solely to the substance on the stage; they are naturally and automatically bound to respond to the performance based on our entire lifetime of sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Because we are human, it is impossible for a work of art to be purely non-objective or abstract, no matter the artist’s intentions.

Also, some may choose not to acknowledge the connections to human experience; they may decide to focus on the form of the art and speak to it as a separate entity. This does not mean, though, that connections do not exist. The true reality of human experience does not change because of someone’s preferences or choices.

To flesh out these words, though, let’s look at a few examples of potentially “pure” dance. (more…)

How do the words of Edward Hopper relate to dance? (Part 2)

Self Portrait (Hopper, 1925-30)

In my last post, What is Edward Hopper saying?, I began a 3-part series of entries exploring a quote by the late American visual artist, Edward Hopper. Here again is the quote of interest:

There is a school of painting called abstractionist or non-objective, which is derived largely from the work of Paul Cézanne, that attempts to create pure painting – that is an art which will use form, color, and design for their own sakes and independent of man’s experience of life and his association with nature. I do not believe such an aim can be achieved by a human being. Whether we wish it or not, we are all bound to the earth with our experience of life; and the reactions of the mind, heart, and eye and our sensations by no means consist entirely of form, color, and design.

In the previous post, I discussed the meaning of Hopper’s convictions against abstractionist art. Basically Hopper believed that it is not possible to create a “pure” painting. He felt that a piece of art could not be disconnected to one’s experience of life; and contrary to the intention of abstract works, the experience of living as a human in the world cannot be simplified to just form, color, and design. To Hopper, purely abstractionist, non-objective art, with a focus solely on the artistic form, is just not possible to create as human beings.

So how does this relate to the world of dance? I was especially intrigued by this quote when I heard it because I felt that his argument was significant beyond the realm of visual art. The ideas of “pure art” and art relating to life can certainly translate to many art forms, including dance. This is how I would apply Hopper’s opinions to the art of dance: (more…)