Rant! Out of the Limelight

While New York struggles, Seattle dance leaps forward.

It hardly seems fair, since New York City has had such a difficult time of it lately, but on top of everything else its position as the center of the dance world is being challenged. Reviews for the recent ballet seasons have been tepid at best, with lots of grumbling about lackluster repertory, while in the modern dance world people have realized that no matter how skilled Mark Morris is, he cannot be called a wunderkind at 46, and there doesn't seem to be anyone else in line behind him.

Attendance numbers are thrown about, studios have lost their leases, and publications have cut back on their dance coverage (New York magazine recently eliminated its dance critic position altogether). In the British newspaper The Guardian, Ismene Brown compares the New York dance world to a scene from Vanilla Sky, where Tom Cruise walks through a deserted Times Square. After detailing a list of dance stalwarts scheduled to tour London this year, she observes that "every one of these attractions relies on a presiding talent that is either middle-aged, old, or dead"—not an encouraging comment.

Without trying to sound like Pollyanna, I'm grateful to be here, 3,000 miles away from New York City, which must strive, like Atlas, to carry the dance world on its back. There's a great deal to be said for not being responsible for the health of the whole community. Dances and dancers here can be judged for themselves, rather than as canaries for the "big picture." And our littler picture is looking pretty well.

The calendar for the upcoming season is full, with some new works by seasoned veterans as well as promising newcomers. Rehearsal and performance space is always a scarce commodity, but so far we've been spared most of the displacement that visual artists have been struggling with. A year from now, the PNB will move back into a refurbished opera house, and studio theater spaces such as Velocity continue to offer a generous variety of programs.

I don't want to jinx anything—these are precarious times—but right now, I'm glad to be here, in the upper left-hand corner of the map, watching dancing get done, rather than in the upper right, worrying about the fate of the universe.


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