The other morning I was browsing the reviews of Hofesh Shechter's brand new work, 'Sun'. I like Hofesh. He is one of my favourites. And I was thinking about how vital the dance critic is - after all, without these reviews, I would not have known it just premiered (although I had heard talks of the work in progress earlier in the year). And I would not now be considering seeing it. Considering.
As a former dance student, dancer-at-leisure, dance volunteer, dance critic and Hofesh fan, I am only considering it.
Why? Because the reviews were not 100% brilliant. Graham Watts of DanceTabs talks of fast-changing musical and lighting-based 'interruptions... stretched beyond the breaking point.' Mark Monahan of The Telegraph gave it four stars - but not five.
And I worry, because this is just not enough to convince me to go, let alone those who don't usually watch dance. I worry that no-one will go.
I often find myself returning to this question in my blog (as you loyal readers may have noticed): who are the ones reading and watching? Or, more precisely, is there anyone out there who goes to see dance for the simple joy of it? No particular interest, no study- or work-related need, no experience in dance. Just for fun. Is there anyone?
I would of course need some big statistics taken from substantial amounts of audience surveys to give me a valid answer. But then - don't I already know it, really? Where would I get the funding to ask such questions when in reality, everybody knows it?
The answer is, well, hardly anyone. I come to this conclusion by considering going to see an opera. I went to see one, once, when my music teacher kindly gave us free tickets and we made a night of it in London. A lovely occasion, but I remember it being rather long. Would I go again? Probably not - if anything, only for the sake of it. You know, to say, 'oh, we are going to the opera tonight', or 'my date took me to the opera. Classy.' And I wouldn't read reviews about it unless I was going for that occasion alone, because I'm just not that interested.
Therein lays a reason for my answer: contemporary dance is, like opera, one of those 'higher' art forms which tends to be more demanding of the mind to interpret. It is not always entertainment either - it can be contemplative, abstract, and even emotionally bare. (Perhaps saying 'opera' is the equivalent of calling all dance 'ballet'; like when people get tickets to Akram Khan and say 'we are going to the ballet tonight, yes, the ballet'. I am probably being ignorant of other types of dramatic song-story-telling. Sorry, 'opera' folk).
But I think what I really need to appreciate here is the fact that people do go. I am constantly concerned that contemporary dance will die out, that audiences will dwindle, because of its 'higher' nature. But generally, every time I have seen a live work (bar one or two), the theatres are packed out. It shouldn't matter that most of the viewers are theatre workers, critics, dance scholars and their students. The point is, people - whatever kind of people they are - are watching.
And for those who just want to 'go to the ballet', the reviews are there to gently guide them into something apt for their taste or occasion.
Now stop panicking Charlotte, and be grateful you have studied a 'higher' art at all.