Is it dance or is it theater?

Recently, I spent about a month calling artistic directors, dancers, choreographers, and producers across the country asking them the same question: How do you define dance, theater, and dance/theater? It’s no marvel that everyone I spoke to gave me a different answer. Some said art has no definition. Others said that theater is more narrative based and dance is more movement based. More often than not, they said that the blurring of the lines between disciplines was an artistic dream come true.

I started asking this question, because I was writing an article for the March issue of American Theatre magazine and the whole issue, which has Mikail Brayniskhov on the cover, is about dance/theater. My feature in particular is about dance/theater trends across the country and the ways in which cross-disciplinary collaborations were being used as a way to attract millennial audiences to performing arts venues. Gone are the days of 90-120-minute fourth wall realism and here we are in a time of audience participation and experiences that are worth tweeting about.

Is it dance or is it theater? You decide, or just say yes.

Be sure to pickup a copy of the March issue of Atlanta magazine and read the article here: http://www.americantheatre.org/2016/02/23/dance-or-theatre-yes/.

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What is the line between inspiration and appropriation?

“Many photos of Wenger show her wearing dresses made from Ankara fabric and outfits made with kente cloth. Where is the line between inspiration and cultural appropriation? Where does cultural assimilation┬áturn into caricature? Would the fact that she helped the region become an artistic hub and restored the sacred shrines be taken into account? Would it matter?”

I was recently assigned to review an exhibit of the artist Susanne Wenger’s work, “Between the sweet water and the swarm of bees,” at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum. Wenger is a European artist who moved to Nigeria in the 1960’s with her husband who was a professor there, and her aesthetic is very heavily informed by Yoruba mythology. She fell in love with the region, the religion, and the people and became a high priestess in the area. The exhibit featured screenprints of her work, and as I was looking at them I couldn’t help but wonder whether a white woman would be accepted creating African artwork today.

Sometimes the internet gives us buzzwords that have been traditionally reserved for academics and we toss them around like balls on a playground. I see the terms “cultural appropriation,” “respectability politics,” and “whitesplaining” all over blogs and social media and I can’t help but wonder whether the sometimes misuse of this rhetoric will hinder great artists from gaining large-scale exposure. There’s no blanket answer or solution either, because I have a totally visceral reaction to blackface, but have no problem with a white woman wearing cornrows and kente cloth. The line of what is appropriate moves depending on who you talk to, however, the issue now is more about who received the opportunity over whom because of race. If one of Wenger’s contemporaries was a black Nigerian woman artist and Wenger became famous, but the black woman did not, we would automatically attribute it to white privilege. This is the issue with racism and inequality– no one can shine, reign, and be excellent totally guilt-free, because someone, not something, was the opportunity cost. Just some food for thought…

Read the full review here: http://burnaway.org/review/between-cultures-susanne-wenger-carlos-museum/

 

 

A journalist’s life

What if most journalists are fiction writers who stopped dreaming too early?

This question has been on my mind a lot lately, mostly because it applies to me more than I want to admit. When I was younger I wanted to write children’s books and young adult fiction. I wanted to be the editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine. I wanted to start my own magazine called Soul Teen that featured black, Latina, and Asian girls on its pages, so that we could be cover girls, too. Then, somewhere in all that dreaming, I decided that being a journalist was the way to make money before the fiction thing took off. Just before I was a New York Times best-selling author, I would fill my time writing for The New Yorker. Gotta love a 14-year-old’s conception of how work works.

Now, 12 years later, I’m questioning more and more whether I was too practical in my dreaming. I recently started taking a creative writing workshop because it occurred to me that since my day job isn’t writing fiction, it will never be my passion. I’ve been asking myself whether I can stand making my money at something that isn’t my passion. It’s been a real buzz kill to have to ask myself the tough questions, but it has also been necessary.

I work at a magazine and what has become increasingly clear to me is that a career in publishing, particularly in mass media, never gets any easier. Whether you are 20 or 50, you have to hustle just as hard to get the story, to sell the advertising, to close the deal. Do I want to have to pound the pavement for the next 30 years for something that does not fulfill me? The answer is no, so now what? I don’t have the answer today, but I’m hoping by this time next year, I will have had a stroke of genius and a shower of clarity.

Here’s to the New Year!