What does age say about a person? An organization? In the dance world, one can imagine a host of responses to this question. Have influences of a youth-dominated culture encouraged our field to believe younger is better–only rewarding the freshest and newest? A youth ethos is evident in many western dance forms–hip hop, jazz, ballet, modern dance–however, within hundreds of world-wide cultural dance traditions, like Hula, Kathak, Balinese and folk-dances, aging is embraced as an integral part of the learning process and mastery.
Personally, I am conflicted about aging. Well, not really. These days I don’t like it much and struggle with a host of age-related realities–the most prevalent, waking up to new aches in new places. While reacting and overreacting to the inevitable passing of years, I promptly admonish myself for the often-daily diatribe surrounding my vanity.
Then I remind myself: aging for an arts organization, or any business, is a badge of honor. The other side of the aging equation is the history made from our actions. For dancers and choreographers this is often realized through a major anniversary, like this month’s celebration of ODC Dance. Keeping a company thriving for 40 years is a major accomplishment, providing an opportunity to ask the three primary founders of ODC, KT Nelson, Kimi Okada and Brenda Way, to share insights on reaching their four-decade milestone.
Also hitting a signpost of success, the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards [Izzies] marks 25 years of acknowledging the fantabulous stalwarts, rabble-rousers and champions of the Bay Area dance community. Having attended most of the ceremonies since 1985–another sign of my age–prompts a variety of joyful and tear-filled memories of colleagues and friends receiving Izzies. Julie Potter’s article provides a historical overview to the process of making these awards and opens the door for each of us to decide where we stand on the value of selecting one group over another for any such honor. I for one, like the tension created and the conversations started when members of any group are nominated and subsequently announced be it for the Grammys, Oscars, or our own Izzies.
This month, more history is made as the Merce Cunningham Dance Company takes to the stage for the final time in Berkeley. Much will continue to be written about this unique transition of a major American dance company. With a cadre of former Cunningham teachers, students and company members in the Bay Area, Claudia Bauer has asked a variety of local luminaries to reflect on Cunningham’s influence.
Acknowledging legacy within traditional dance is one part of Mary Ellen Hunt’s article on Kawika Alfiche and Halau o Keikiali’i, a local Hula institution, 17 years young. Local teacher and educator Susan Bauer writes about the San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum current exhibition “Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance” that will run for the next 8 months. This article provides a bridge to understanding the complexities of Bali’s rich dance tradition and may even spark your travel bug.
Be prepared to be wowed by an ever-growing calendar of performances and activities and be sure to read Mary Carbonara’s topical thoughts on the movie, the Black Swan. Will Natalie Portman have won the Oscar for her portrayal? What was your vote?
Next month we continue to address aging in dance, and April will bring the 13th anniversary of our local spin on National Dance Week with hundreds of free events, for all ages!
Savor the moment.
–Wayne Hazzard, executive director