Dance Matters: A Year in Review, 2015
2015 was the year I “danced” all over the San Francisco bay area. I love dance and I love to dance. Honestly, I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t dancing; I took my first ballet class at the age of 3, started performing professionally when I was 18, last performed in 2006, still take dance classes, and sometimes teach in dance studies – and I go see dance whenever I can.
In 2015, I went to 27 dance performances and saw 50 dances. I wrote about every single one. Sometimes I only wrote one sentence, other times I wrote paragraphs. I have a very large stack of programs; Yes, I kept every single one.
Sometimes I went by myself while other times I had company – friends, former students, colleagues, my husband, my brother, and at least once, my 3-year-old daughter. We talked, debated, and reveled, which fed and inspired my responses. I often found myself connecting dots between performances, things I’d read, classes I attended, or workshops I took part in and I realized that even when one sits alone, one is never alone when going to a dance. I always had “company” no matter where I went, and I went to venues all over San Francisco and the East Bay.
Why go? What compels someone to buy tickets, leave a screaming toddler at home to go sit in moderately comfortable seats for an hour or more?Why bother doing this again and again? I couldn’t see everything so how did I choose? Often it had to do with what or who I knew. I opened emails. I read flyers. I listened to friends. Sometimes I did a little research before making a decision. Other times I just jumped. I spent a lot of time jumping this year.
Why write about it? This project emerged as a challenge to myself to develop a writing practice around dance. Embedded in this challenge was a desire to find out way dance matters to me By the end of the year, I realized that the writing enabled me to think about my practice as an audience member as part of a larger community of dance.
I am a trained ballet dancer, yet out of the 50 dances I saw in 2015, only 2 of them were ballet – specifically, The San Francisco Ballet. Honestly, the only reason I went to see The San Francisco Ballet was because I got free tickets (thanks to good friends). The rest were a mix, of modern, hip hop, performance art, contemporary, and others. Over ½ of these were local dance companies and choreographers.
What does it say that I only saw two ballet performances? It’s hard to pinpoint why. I had ample opportunity to see other ballet companies. It’s not that I don’t love ballet, I do. I take ballet class on a regular basis and firmly believe in its importance as practice and art form. Even so, I found myself drawn to other kinds of dance. Perhaps I am seeking a different kind of challenge as an audience member or maybe it was just easier to get to these other events. Maybe I’m more a ballet dancer than a ballet audience member.
At the end of the year, I was struck by how I watched, what I thought and why dance matters. As I look at the stack of programs sitting my desk, I do not wonder why I kept going back. I go because I am a dancer that can’t stop dancing. I go because I have to. If I don’t go who will? I go because dance matters to me and the community I am committed to cultivating in my small way with each ticket purchase, with each seat I occupy, with each conversation I have. In the end, it doesn’t matter what I liked or didn’t like. What matters is that I show up.
San Francisco has a thriving and dynamic dance scene, and I can’t wait for another year of dance watching and writing.