Criticisms are complex, even those couched as comment, evaluation or review, and especially those that have friend and family attached to them. Ultimately, delivery, tone and an informed perspective play an important role in how an opinion is received. It seems that even with good intention to inform and the recipient remaining positive, or neutral, the words, once gifted, our inner critic often surfaces, ready to judge what has been stated. This inner voice is often the harshest of assessments, affecting our hopes and desires, and how we view and judge our work. It is not a coincidence that we have the adage, “we are own worst critics.”
I do believe that cultivating a critical eye for personal or professional matters can be a healthy way to bring analysis, problem- solving and perspective to the work at hand. Whether spoken or captured in print, the delivery of the analysis can be the trickiest to do well. Then, there are the ideas, opinions, and/or reviews you never wanted to hear about in the first place. This might entail an outsider’s judgment of your artistic practice and life, and depending on the perspective, can take matters to a new place where worlds of misunderstandings collide, yours and there’s, and occasionally, implode, all based on so many factors, not the least of which is someone’s vulnerability. We know everyone is well meaning. Right?
I am an immense fan of food reviewers because they try an eatery two or three times before submitting an opinion about the food, service, noise level and decor. I, not so secretly, wish that dance reviews could be done the same way. Have a reviewer attend a show over a period of time to better understand the range of the movement experience, and also to put into perspective a lack-luster dance offering, that like a dish, might have been under-or over-seasoned on one night and perfection, another. Yet, our current dance model of presenting work over a few nights, and reviewing one performance, does not allow for a more in depth relationship between viewer and dance. This is just one of the reasons for appreciating our Critical Dialogues series; a forum to help reveal the complex meanings and possible misunderstandings of an artist’s work. This month, Rachel Howard speaks with Gregory Dawson about his latest performance.
By now many have learned that Rita Felciano ended her 30-year tenure with the San Francisco Bay Guardian as their dance critic. Rita’s opinion of dance, and especially our local community, was as an informed researcher, a dedicated writer that attended dance shows even if she didn’t have space for a review. For me, she was like the best of the food critics, gathering and comparing information— imbibing it—so that the other dance dishes served up by that artist could be put into perspective. Rita, always interested in how that artist situated her/his work in an evolving nest of ideas. Her departure from the Guardian pages was compounded when a few weeks later that same publication completely shut down its operation. A double unpleasantness for the many progressive voices the paper covered over the years. And with its demise, so go the annual GOLDIE awards in which so many worthy artists were yet to be honored.
Dancers’ Group put a call out for reflections on Rita’s contributions over the past three decades, and along with a feature article by Ann Murphy—“Team Rita”—we captured a variety of your perspectives that pay just tribute to a respected critic and ongoing observer and supporter of dance.
As I was looking for ways to handle criticism, I ran across a wonderful quote from Eleanor Roosevelt.
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
Do your hearts right.