|"Mirror and Music" by Saburo Teshigawara. Photo by Sakae Oguma|
This morning I tried to post a comment on your review of a performance by Saburo Teshigawara only to find the comment section was closed. Although I live in California, I often read reviews on the east coast to learn about performances that do not make it to the Bay Area. It was frustrating that your review contained so much snide commentary that I could not tell what had transpired at The Kennedy Center. I checked YouTube for any material on Teshigawara’s performance and saw a 1-minute excerpt that looked nothing like your description: there are several panels of light that seem to play an important role in this section yet these do not exist in your writing.
So I figured your review of Teshigawara was a missed opportunity. Perhaps you were not in the mood to engage with an unfamiliar approach to choreography or performance? I think you make this clear in your opening line about the dread you feel when an artist explores consciousness or psychology.
For some reason you felt compelled to print an article that does little to shed light on the artist’s work and beautifully exposes your own inabilities to consider differing points of view. I especially appreciated the comment from a reader who pointed out to you that Butoh has nothing to do with Teshigawara’s aesthetic even though you compare his work to this form. Maybe staying for the post-performance discussion could have provided some insights into the work you obviously knew or cared little about?
Then yesterday I saw a column you wrote, printed on September 29, about the National Portrait Gallery exhibit “Dancing the Dream,” in which you encourage readers to do some research: “hopefully visitors will be moved to investigate some of the artists here further, for their stories are remarkable.”
I am writing to ask how you decide when an artist is worth “investigating” since apparently Teshigawara did not fit into this category for you? Or how does this exhibit warrant about 5 columns of text when the space you give to choreographers like Teshigawara, who is not well-known to audiences in the States, amounts to about 500 words? Isn’t it the latter that could benefit from more “investigation” and description?
Or maybe I am confused about how you define your role as a critic: is it someone who is curious about dance and artists’ creative work, and who uses writing to ask questions, provide insights, and suggest connections? I find your writing often comments on dancers’ technique and musicality, as critics have done for decades when reviewing ballet and modern dance, so perhaps it would make sense to assign another writer to a performance that explores other movement vocabularies. Personally I don't think it's a sign of a poor performance when audience members leave or become uncomfortable (this has happened to artists like Igor Stravinsky and Vaslav Nijinsky or more recent innovators like Jerome Bel and Alain Platel).
Or do you define your job as a critic as a judge or gatekeeper who is protecting DC audiences from the unknown or unfamiliar? Reading your review of Teshigawara it seems you prefer this role, which ultimately limits understanding of this art form, not only for audiences on the east coast but for those of us across the country as well.