Another post by a choreographer/performer enrolled in the MFA program in Dance at GWU: part of the course I teach asks students to read different critics and analyze their perspectives. Here Dawn Stoppiello addresses a seminal piece in dance criticism.
Arlene Croce was the dance critic for The New Yorker from 1973 to 1998. She founded Ballet Review magazine and was a film critic prior to her career as a dance writer. Croce has written several books on dance but this article, “Discussing the Undiscussable,” is an important part of her legacy and recognition. Her audience includes the large readership of The New Yorker and many dance enthusiasts and professionals.
As a “newbie” in New York City in 1994, I remember vividly when “Discussing the Undiscussable” came out. With this piece Croce started an extremely important and controversial conversation on art and criticism, one that had been waiting to be had. Already somewhat identified as an old-school uptowner, with this article Croce exposes herself as a brave journalist even if (and precisely because) her expressed opinions were not in line with everyone’s.
Surely it is agreed that the quality of an artwork is subjective, but what Croce is arguing is that it is impossible to formally critique something that is, first, and foremost a “being of something” rather than a “theater of something.” I mean to say that being a terminally ill person and not acting as one has no formal perspective from which to be critiqued. How does a critic critique a real person’s unscripted and unrehearsed real story?