THE RANGE AND QUALITY OF DANCE PERFORMANCES presented in the Bay Area continues to expand, and that’s the truly good news, but the challenge remains that all too frequently, many performances last only a few nights over one weekend, and compete with at least six to ten other shows, preventing me, and I’m sure many others, from being able to see many an artists’ work.
A few thoughts that might help alleviate this issue. Clone myself, so I can attend more shows. Or, unearth an enormous pile of money to liberally award dance artists the chance to extend the run of performances from one weekend to at least three or maybe a six-week run. Joe Goode has demonstrated considerable success with longer performance runs. The com- pany is finishing up a seven-week run of an installation work at his own reimagined space in San Francisco.
I will be the first to state that longer performance runs are not for every artist and/ or production. Yet, in numerous con- versations I’ve had with artists, they will often bemoan the fact that their budget will only support a one-weekend run of the work; the frustration of meager, if any, press coverage received; and wanting to have more people see their work.
Dancers’ Group has long considered the persistence of short runs of dance performances to be a significant problem facing the health of our field, both financially and artistically. Finan- cially, dance companies can only offer a restricted number of tickets for sale, which makes any return on investment unlikely. Shorter runs do not make for proportionally lower expendi- tures as sets, costumes, and rehearsal time are fixed costs.
Artistically, the fact that the dancers will perform the work only a few times brings into question how that artist can grow as a performer/interpreter of the work. Over the years, I have heard repeatedly that each performance is an opportunity to learn, and improve the work, and better understand the audi- ence in relation to the artistic endeavor.
The pervasiveness of short runs has a third ramification for the dance field that I am sure will resonate with most cre- ators: limited audience access to an artist/company’s work.
How do we shift this model of dance presentation? Does the community even want the model to shift? Or, is it just me? Does it impact small to mid-sized companies more than the larger one? What about the potential to reach audiences that can bring needed financial resources to allow the company to move for- ward? There are certainly no easy solutions to these questions.
Packed within the pages of this issue are events that typify the short run model, but they also reveal a community that— no matter the adversity—will continue to find ways to present work that spans presentation models ranging from collabora- tive showcases, to festivals, to single artistic presentations. What is apparent is that all weekends in November have more events than is possible for one person to attend; unless they figure out the cloning thing.
If there is a theme within, besides abundance, it’s that the scope of the work spans international cultures. I recommend attending one or more days of the annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival auditions happening this month. For a modest ticket price, you can, in one sitting, be treated to dances and traditions from around the globe. While this doesn’t solve the limited performance run question, it will allow you to witness exciting artistry that is like no other place on earth.
Enjoy the many choices, and discover something revelatory.