One of the many aspects of the arts that I'm interested in is how different art forms integrate into society. In my mind, for dance to become a more sustainable and dependable career, the discipline has to do a better job at integrating into mainstream society. The struggle of getting people into the theatre is a constant conversation among all artists of the performing arts variety. To me, the physical lacking of audience for performances is only a symptom of the larger issue.
I meet people, sometimes, and sometimes they ask what I “do.” This is always a hard question for me to answer because I'm wondering what they’re looking for. Maybe not. Maybe I'm looking for the most legitimate answer. Either way, I'm insecure about answering this question. Do you want to know what I do to pay for rent? Or do you want to know what I spent the past four years and $40,000 on studying? Do you want to know about the thing that gets me up in the morning and keeps me going all day? WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Regardless, eventually it comes out that I dance. And cue questions. “So... what style do you do?” “Do you teach?” “What kind of jobs can you get?” That last one’s a really good question and if anyone has the answer, you should probably start a blog! The point is, lots of people I have met who are not connected with the arts community don’t know what dance is beyond classes for kids and have no concept of how the industry works. I started to think about the lack of basic knowledge of the form and the average person and wondered, “Well, where the hell would these people learn about dance anyway?” So, I began a search. Since I currently live in Toronto, I began to look at the local and national new sources and their reporting of dance.
Buying all of the following magazines and newspapers in one week cost me more than my groceries, therefore, the following reports are based on the online content. Although at times the content between print and online can differ, often there is more content online, so hopefully what I found may be a generous estimation of how well dance is represented through the Canadian media.
The Star thestar.com
Dance is listed as one of the many components of “Stage” under “Entertainment” in The Star’s conceptual layout. Reflecting on the month of July, The Star published a piece on the choreographic works of Jonathon Young and Crystal Pite on the special day of July 19th by Michael Crabb, one of the few dance writers in the whole country. But let’s talk about that some other time.
Toronto Sun torontosun.com
I would assume that the Toronto Sun classifies dance in the same way that The Star does, however, there were no articles on dance in the month of July so its a bit hard to tell. Maybe it’s under sports...wait a minute, there’s no women anything reported in the sports section...hmmm…
Metro Toronto metronews.ca/news/toronto/
While Metro (Toronto) does not have a section of their website dedicated to art, they do have a section for “Oddities.” When entering “dance Toronto 2015” into their search bar, dance related titles do appear. Titles such as “Pan Am Games: Canadian artists to show new works at Toronto 2015” (2014) and “National Ballet to stage ‘The Tempest’” (2014). High-five Metro.
The Globe and Mail globeandmail.com
Entering the world of national news coverage, The Globe and Mail has an “Arts” heading on their website! Under that heading you will find: film, television, books, music, theatre, visual arts, awards and video. Hmmm... Luckily when you click on “Theatre” it opens up to “Theatre & Performance.” Score. Here’s the breakdown:
July 15/2015: an article about Luca Lazylegz Patuelli by Martha Schabas
June 9/2015: an article by injured National Ballet dancer Evan McKie on injury, The Sleeping Beauty and some other ballet goodies
May 15/2015: an article on Les Grands Ballets Canadiens by Robert Everett Green
May 1/2015: an article on the Royal Winnipeg Ballet by Paula Citron
April 15/2015: an “Obituary” that falls into the dance category about Willie Fraser from Nova Scotia by Allison Lawlor
March 6/2015: an article about the National Ballet’s winter season by Martha Schabas
National Post nationalpost.com
There is an “Arts” tab on the National Post’s website that brings up the options of celebrity, movies, music, books, television, Theatre and TV Listings when clicked.
Rebecca Tucker reported on the Pite-Young collaboration on July 17th. Hitting the same work as the Crabb article in The Star, the Post got their version out first but Crabb was sponsored to visit The Bnaff Centre in person. So take that.
I know, I know. Mclean’s is a magazine. But hey, it’s news, it’s national. Why not look?
Yeah, so there’s nothing. There is a section titled “Culture” which houses off shoot tabs labelled books, television. movies and art, where I imagine the potential for dance to be placed! But it’s currently not.
The Walrus thewalrus.ca
Another Canadian news source magazine. Just trying to be supportive here guys.
The layout of The Walrus is unique compared to the other sources I have been hunting through online. The Walrus focuses on their range of products versus categorizing their website into the different types of news. While scrolling through the home page of the website, I was able to find a section titled “Arts & Culture” which included three articles tagged as comedy, visual art and fashion. It seems that only the three articles are available at a time but the website does have the ability to subscribe for a digital version of the magazine which may give you a little more access to their online content.
When searching The Walrus’ website with the term “dance” a huge list of articles appear...but none of them are about dance.
CBC’s website also comes with a handy “Arts” tab, and when clicked takes you to a page listing all of their stories tagged as “art”. Scrolling through the tiles until the month of July, this is what I found:
July 14/2015: an article on a 15 year old Scottish dancer who is travelling to Scotland to compete in the international competition for the third time
July 17/2015: another article on Lazylegz and ILL-Abilities promoted through the context of panimania
July 20/2015: video report on a b-boying competition as a part of panimania
July 22/2015: another article on the Pite-Young collaboration
July 23/2015: an article on Nicole Mion (Springboard Performances) connecting neighbours in Calgary through dance and other mediums
July 24/2015: a Q&A with Guillaume Côté about his release videos on YouTube, inspired through his performance in panimania
To sum up, this hunt has helped me to discover things in a physical way. I've always held assumptions that dance does not have a consistent place in the world of the media, and actively searching for articles about dance did prove to be a challenge. Here are the major points I've discovered for myself.
1. To avoid making this blog post an essay I avoided mentioning other art forms and how represented or under-represented they are in mainstream media, however, while scouring the web I took notice. Genres such as music, TV, film, books, and even visual art and media make appearances as categorical tabs and headers for marking the division of the arts. Of course, this representation has a direct correlation with the amount this art is integrated into the lives of the general population. This leads me to believe that popularity is the basis that news sources decide to focus on certain material. Is that it?
2. The content that is published about dance is usually related to something other than dance itself. For example, all of the articles and stories spun off of performances at panimania, the injured Mckie and the three time touring Scottish dancer. This content is not about dance. It does not speak deeply about the work, the artists, the community, its growth, its struggles, or its future. The articles do not promote the idea of promoting the arts or the importance of dance to the general populous. These articles are feel good stories about the amazing work people are doing beyond the potentially unfortunate lifestyle of dance.
3. The content that is produced about dance is mostly about ballet. Of course, that statement contradicts the article interviewing Côté by CBC who claims that ballet is a dying form that people need to be educated about. Thanks to panimania, his dance film Lost in Motion (2011) has just been covered now. As you may be able to tell, I have some opinions about ballet, but I will also save those for another time
4. The content that did emerge from the typical form and format of how dance is covered is the popular exception of Crystal Pite’s work--pretty much because it’s amazing. It’s amazing enough that a range of arts editors are actually printing real stories on the art itself. Whoa.
The only other article that stuck out to me was the community geared program in Calgary hosted by Nicole Mion. Sounding similar to a Toronto (and this year Ottawa) version Porchview Dance hosted by Kaeja d’Dance. This article reported on a singular event in the dance community by a local company that was not connected to an international event. Booyah.
I think this post is a first glimpse into how dance connects to the greater world and how dance as an art form (or not) is seen by the media (or not).
The hunt shall continue.