Out with the critic, in with the enthusiast [A letter to my critical eye, and note to the critic in all of us]

March 26, 2015

Dear Critical Eye,

Pause. I ask that the dance critic be put on hold and that the dance enthusiast be let loose. Who do you think you are? Judging as if you are right and certain… convinced somehow that there is a clear good and bad in the realm of the arts. May I ask, with which stick do you measure? Why tear down an art form that instead needs to be rebuilt? Why turn audiences away when audiences create new advocates? See dance, take in the movement—as human, breathing in the air of artistry and exhaling the air of predetermined aesthetic preference.


Dance is both experimental and visual and I urge dancers to see more dance. Watch dance, see what is being curated, see what is being funded, and leave your critique at the door. We need fewer critics and more enthusiasts in this field. Less opinion and more information.

I believe there is value in seeing all art—“good” and “bad”. What is “good” to you may be “bad” to another—a typical “one man’s trash” story. Knowing what appeals to you and doesn’t, I would argue, develops your preference, it hones your personal aesthetic as performer, creator, and audience.

With the emergence of video at the tip of our fingertips, I fear that contemporary dance is loosing its audience. Yes, a whole new genre of dance for film has been ignited, and yes, there is the opportunity to weave video into live performance. However, I have found that video—intended as a marketing tool, is instead serving as an audience deterrent. It is a movie preview that allows audiences to decide if they would like to purchase a ticket or not. The critic arrives before the curtain opens. Curiosity ignited by an upcoming performance is squelched by a quick search on YouTube or Vimeo. What do you think? Are two minute company previews killing curiosity, or are they igniting interest?

I don’t think choreography intended for live performance can be fully captured on film. I don’t think these snapshots are doing contemporary dance the justice it deserves. I urge you, buy the ticket—tell your friends. Be the audience for the art form you love, and let us reinvent the audience our form so desperately needs. Close your computer, bring an open mind, bring a friend, and leave your critical eye at the door.

Ideas for reinvention? Please share!

What has Kylie Seen Lately? :

Adam Barruch’s Belladonna at 92 Street Y
Cedar Lake’s Installation 2015
Steps Beyond & Reverb Dance Performance Lab Series
Dante Brown/Warehouse Dance and Quentin Burley at Triskelion Arts
Malpaso Dance Company at the Joyce
Platform 2015 at Danspace Project

Next up? :

Crawl presenting Band at Gowanus Loft March 14th
Warehouse Dirt: Dante Brown and Daniel Holt at Martha Graham Studio March 20-21st
BPopular Summer 2015: balletpopular.com

– Kylie Michelle Phillips
Operations Manager, Steps on Broadway

Photo: Nan Melville, Steps Repertory Ensemble 2014

Out with the critic, in with the enthusiast [A letter to my critical eye, and note to the critic in all of us]