Consumers of Dance
I've talked about this before. How I feel that, to varying extents, people know how to watch movies, read books, look at paintings and listen to music. Granted, for everyone to get it, even these things have to be pretty accessible-- there are still many books and movies and songs that most people think are too "abstract" or "weird". I've felt that way myself.
What I also feel is that somehow dance is not on this list, and somewhere along the way it became just an accessory for people in music videos. Or broadway. Or whatever. I would wager most of the general public can't name even one professional dancer, and fewer still could name three or four. I don't see this issue with singers and actors, and although there are a lot of logistical reasons for that (the permanence of a lot of music and film via cds, dvds, etc.).
All the same, right now if I had one overarching goal for my dance life (and this is subject to change in a week or two) it would that I'd like to help make people better consumers of dance. And that probably means acknowledging and thinking about some of the reasons people are generally poor consumers of dance.
Whenever I go down this path, eventually I start to wonder why dance is not studied in public school like music and art generally are. In theory, it makes a lot of sense--it's art, it's exercise and it generally requires little equipment. It exposes kids to most of the same basic principles of music and art and theatre in one go. On a limited budget, this sounds great! Kids get to run around and blow off steam, move their bodies creatively, play characters, count music, form shapes and learn about design principles, at least insofar as they apply to dance. Why aren't we doing this? Is this all it would take to foster an essential understand of what dance is? And maybe even inspire more people to continue to dance, professionally or recreationally or to become fans of dance?
I went to see the Dance Ontario showcase a few weeks ago and while not every single number was my scene, I enjoyed the event thoroughly, and recognized the artistic merit in each piece. It gave me a lot to talk and think about. Despite this, I got the impression a lot of the people in the audience were dancers, and while I love that the dance community was supporting their own, it was great stuff and I also wished more of the general public was taking it in.
I honestly don't believe it's a lack of interest, I think people are intimidated. Dance is pretty closed off, so maybe people honestly feel like if they know little about dance or aren't dancers themselves, they can't be enthusiasts. This is where I circle around and go back to thinking dance would be great in public schools. In the meantime, the more I think about dance as a career, the more concerned I become about this one issue. But it won't change overnight, and maybe I can't change it at all.
I've seen lots of belly dancers whose goals include elevating the public perception of dance, or educating the public about the middle east, and I guess my goal is a little more broad than that. If I could teach the public one thing, it would be how to watch dance and how to enjoy it because I think these issues plague all disciplines of dance, and even though I do feel isolated from the larger dance community, I think it applies to everyone.