I saw a colleague post an advertisement for her show recently saying, “Come see some dance. It’s good for you. Like eating your veggies.” Really? Is this how we’re selling our work now?
I know, “It was a joke.” You’ll tell me. I know, I know. But it brings up a really important point, so let’s take the analogy a step further.
I have young children. They are inherently picky eaters. They don’t want to eat their veggies. So I’ve tried lots of different approaches – from bribing them to hiding their veggies in desserts. But most recently, I’ve taken a novel approach (albeit obvious to better parents than me, I’m sure)– I’ve encouraged them to taste the veggies in their natural form…To feel the texture, to observe the differences between a raw vegetable and a cooked one, to compare and contrast one veggie with another. And you know what? They don’t always like them, but sometimes they do. And sometimes, the more they try and compare a vegetable, the more they learn they actually do like it. And isn’t that better for all of us in the long run? Isn’t it better if they learn to like some vegetables rather than force-feeding all of them?
So shouldn’t we say the same of dance? Believe me, I agree that seeing dance is good for you. But if you don’t want to see dance, shouldn’t we, as the performers and choreographers, be asking ourselves why? Are we presenting something to the audience that they want to see? Are we presenting it in a way that they understand, appreciate, and relate to it? And who are we to declare what is good for another person? Shouldn’t we present the work in a way that teaches our audiences how to appreciate it (i.e. what to look for, how to better understand or “read” dance, how to compare one dance form to another, etc.)? And if we teach them thus, won’t they be able to decide for themselves what is good for them?
Let’s stop preaching about our own worth and demonstrate it instead. Rather than presenting work that our audiences don’t understand or relate to, let’s find new ways to present it, to invite them into the work in a way that helps them to discover for themselves what they like and what they don’t like, what is good for them and what is not. Perhaps they will not choose our work; perhaps they will choose the work of another choreographer. But isn’t that better for all of us in the long run?