Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dancehunter Interviews Herself, Year 3

What gives with interviewing yourself once a year?

It all stems from something my father said to me after reading one of my interviews. “Why do you let the other person talk so much?” It's my version of the year end wrap and round up. I have probably interviewed a good number of artists this year, it's my turn. It feels like a timely juncture to look back, around and ahead.

Ahead to what?

More change, a new president, more slippery days in the writing biz, and the best, more art to write about. No matter what happens in the media, artists still keep making work. I don't know of a better sign of hope than that.


Well, I have company, and fine company at that. Cassandra Shaffer's witty observations can be found at Notes from Upstage Left. Shaffer, still dancing herself, gives an inside look at the swirl of her dancing life. Nichelle Strzepek at Dance Advantage where she links teachers, students and dancers.

Molly Glentzer of The Houston Chronicle shares a blog with the other arts writers at Arts in Houston. Dance fan Toby Atkinson discusses his dance watching adventures at Out in the World.


My colleague Susan Yung keeps me informed of all things dance in New York at Sunday Arts Blog. Arts Journal dance blogs, Foot in Mouth and Seeing Things are good places to park as well. Get danceblog informed at Voice of Dance, and Explore Dance.

The death of newspapers?

Old news, it's happening, accept it and move forward. Some will survive. Look at The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast as the new models.

Big learning?

Listening to Doug McLennan of Arts Journal tell a group of critics at the Institute of Dance Criticism at ADF this summer that we were like a survivalist camp. According to McLennan, we are caught in the transition between paradigms. He suggests to wait out the drought. What will come next will be better. I'll buy that.

Big dance moments?

Listening to Sophiline Cheam Shapiro of Khmer Arts tell me about Khmer Rouge guerrillas watching her perform in 1979. She speaks about the near extinction of Classical Cambodian Dance as a loss much larger than just for Cambodians. I got it, finally, all dance belongs to everybody.

Dianne McIntyre's acceptance speech for the The Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecki Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching.award where she spoke about seeing her students as light.

Filling in the blanks about American modern dance, cultural trends, (and politics) to three Columbian Journalists at ADF this summer. After my fill-in on the culture wars, Jesse Helms died, on cue.

Watching Paul Taylor's masterwork Promethean Fire on the fourth of July while the skies broke out in a tremendous lightening storm.

Watching a room full of dancers who moved to Buffalo to dance with Jon Lehrer.

Finally getting in the rhythm of Maguy Marin's work just as a third of the audience bailed during Umvelt.

My ongoing conversations with Ad Deum Dance Company's Randall Flinn about faith and dance.

There should be more, no?

There should be, but there isn't. Not a great year for dance watching.

Less dance to see, or did you actually see less dance?


Big losses?

Clive Barnes. The letting go of staff critics all over the country.

Houston dance?

Becky Valls' Memoirs of a Sistahood stayed with me. Stanton Welch's Cinderella took me by surprise. It's dark around the edges, just as a fairy tale should be. Houston dance is all about the people, strong, colorful, and energetic characters.

What are you grappling with?

Dancing, always dancing, more so than choreography. Tap is still a mystery to me. Tried lessons, and I was amazed the relationship with the ground one needs to cultivate. Need and want to learn more. Doing that right now. Dance audiences always intrigue me. One day I would like to do exit interviews, and find out exactly why each person came. I have an endless fascination with cheerleading, dance teams, and other forms of Americana mostly around football.

And football?

The movement is superb, the violence, not so much.

The year in theater?

A good one. Meaty, lots to see, with many choices.

Big theater moments?

Sitting in the audience for Lane Nishikawa and Victor Talmadge's The Gate of Heaven, presented by The Asian/Pacific American Heritage Association and Nova Arts Project on December 7th (Pearl Harbor day) among Holocaust survivors and WWII veterans with my husband, whose father left Pearl Harbor days 2 days before the attack. The Gate of Heaven follows the friendship between a Japanese American soldier and a Jewish prisoner. I believe there were members of the famed 442nd Infantry Regiment in the audience as well. As a daughter of a WWII veteran it was monumentally intense. The interment of Japanese Americans, a sub-theme of the play, is another shameful event in our history, and one that I have a bit of borrowed guilt about. Italy declared war against the Unites States, but no Italian Americans were ever interned. Jerome Vielman and Bobby Haworth delivered fine and moving performances.

Taking my son and husband to see The Catastrophic Theatre's production of Mickle Maher's The Strangerer two days after Barack Obama was elected president. It's was a joyous, crisp, and hilarious performance by Sean Patrick Judge, Troy Schulze, and Paul Locklear of a wonderfully surreal and soulful play.

My head hurt after Maher's Tempest-ian talkathon Spirits to Enforce, but it was a good kind of hurt.

John Harvey's Rot, a collaboration between Bobbindoctrin and Mildred's Umbrella, was deeply original, twisted, and full of mouthwatering weirdness. I left feeling immensely satisfied.

Jeffrey Bean's performance as Cyrano de Bergerac at the Alley.

Seeing August: Osage County with my son Phil. I didn't love the play but I treasured the experience of watching it with him.


I am a heavy user. And it's not just me, the nation quit caring about celebrities and woke up to the crumbling world around them.


I am interested listening as a theatrical and embodied event. My opera habit continues....

Advice for arts writers?

Get handy with a camera and video. A day job is always a good idea.

Advice for artists?

Be aggressive with PR. Ask for more. Follow-up. You are a prized citizen as a culture maker. It's the person's job at the other end of the phone to take your call. Have great pictures, and always send with a caption and a photo credit. Know that if and when you get that feature, there will probably be something in it that makes you unhappy.

Advice for audiences?

Keep going, look for bargains, don't bail on your board positions. Don't quit giving even if you have to give less. Bring friends to a show. Send an email to your art going buds if you have seen a good show. There are lots of ways to support the arts that are not financial.

Surviving without reviews?

Whole countries do it. If you make work to get reviewed you will not survive.

Do blog reviews count?

Sure they do. Invite bloggers to your show, give them tickets in exchange for a post.

Print vs.web?

Get over it. Print costs more on every level.

Will the government ever bail out print media?


You have become a Facebook monster.

I prefer the term Monsterette. I am a nosy person. I really want to know what complete strangers are doing. I love the “people you might know” thing. I never know those people. Plus, I am a sentence lover. Rarely, do people need more than a sentence to re-connect.

Twitter in your future?

It's just a matter of time. Although, Phil says he will leave for college early if I do.

Art writing in Houston?

It comes and goes. Look for coverage in unusual places. Write about your own stuff. Craft your own message. Just because no one will pay an arts writer to write about your work is no reason for pens to stop spilling the news.

Words that need to die?

Hot, buzzy, maverick, uber, mega, and we need a new word for “edgy.”

What drives you nuts?

Forced pith, undue snark, bad photos, and sentences that begin. “I am thrilled.”

Looking forward?

To writing more health pieces, more soma-investigations, plays that baffle me, and my bike life.

Signs of hope?

I am hopeless melancholic, but if you must. Houston Young People for the Arts, Dance Source Houston, Dance Houston, the ever growing theater scene, Spacetaker, Artshound, Glasstire, and the tremendous amount of arts activity happening in Houston.

What keeps you in the game?

The muck of perception, the push and pull of attention, the carrying of place, defining the operative forces of any work of art, trying to figure out what makes a dancer distinct, and all the craftiness artists put forth to keep going.