Editor’s Fanfare Vol IX, No. 2

Talking About a Non-Verbal Form of Entertainment

I try to read as many reviews of contemporary dance companies as I can find.  Usually the New York Times if full of them, so I try to limit my reading to reviews of the most important choreographers and companies.  I do this because reviews of circus companies are extremely scarce, and since dance is a form of physical expression that eschews words much as the circus does, this kind of study helps me find ways of talking about the circus other than merely listing acts.  One of the choreographers of  whose work  I am particularly fond and intrigued by is Mark Morris .

In a recent review of Morris’ memoir ironically titled Out Loud, the choreographer echoes certain sentiments I have often pronounced in regard to contemporary circus.  In talking about the work of other artists in his field of artistic endeavor he says that he has a special aversion to pre-show talks and program notes. These are two ways in which choreographers and directors of contemporary circus productions try to explain what they obviously feel needs explanation about their work.  The reason for his (and my) aversion to these practices is because, as Morris says of his own work, “The dance is all I want people to see.  If it’s not in the dance, it’s not there.”  In other words the dance or the circus program has to stand on its own through what it gives an audience to see not read. 

Later in the review of the book Morris is quoted as saying, “I’m not interested in self-expression, but in expressiveness.”    He doesn’t want, he says, “To see someone pour it all out.”  These are ideas circus directors might take into consideration when they are preparing a new work and certainly when they  are presenting their work to an audience.

Reading reviews of contemporary dance I’ve also come to the conclusion that dance critics would make better critics of the circus than theater critics, especially those (which usually seems like most)  who have at best a limited knowledge of what a circus and the circus arts are all about.  Dancers and dance critics at least have an appreciation of what the human body can do.