Tuesday, 7 March 2006

End of the Tour

After that, Stephanie Schober & Dance Company performed at South Bank Centre in London on 24th February, then had the end of the touring at Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield on 2nd March. The Sunday just after our last performance in this season, we found an awful review about our performance at South Bank Centre.

The Observer by Luke Jennings

I don't appreciate it at all.

I feel this person has some frustration generally about art that has the minimalist approach. How he describes the dance movement and John-Marc's music is offensive. At the same time I think he is brave enough to show his personal taste and opinion. Partly because he is a famous critic writing for the Observer. And I wish the readers of the Observer is wise enough to see the point that a review is just a personal opinion of a critic and there are more different ways of seeing art.

We know that not everyone likes our works, and they are not the mainstream anyway. So if we have a critic like him who does not understand this kind of works and hoping the art is going to a different way from a way you are going, it is just unlucky. Not right combination. But still it is worth showing a name on paper, and anyway it is good to have any kind of strong reaction: love or hate. I think art can be art because an artist explores their original way.

I also feel he has a prejudice about Stephanie's medicine background. The background might tell a bit about how the person thinks, but I don't think people should see a work from the artist's background, especially "medicine" does not give any idea other than a stereotypical image of medicine... For me it is a bit annoying that the critic said things on this article from some academic categorisation, perhaps preoccupied with medicine. This is not how I want to see things.

One thing I can look back ourselves, is that probably our performance at South Bank was too tense and too nervous. I see the point of "work" as the critic says. Depending on how we perform, your works look like labour, tasks, and that makes me wonder how these dancers are motivated or forced to move like this. Probably he saw that...

So anyway, in reality, we have got good reviews and bad ones, and the world is not rose-colour. I don't get disappointed by this review. And this is not too bad review in the end since it makes me think and it will be benefit of us.


Luke Jennings said...

Hi Katsura, just a couple of comments on your post concerning my review.

Firstly, I have nothing whatever against minimal dance. Minimal dance is fine, and some is wonderful, and when it is I'm always happy to say so. But it has to communicate with an audience. This programme didn't, which is why I found it hard work to watch. To suggest that I have negative feelings towards Stephanie Schober because she trained in medicine is frankly bizarre. I mentioned it because the programme mentioned it, and because I thought that readers might be interested in Ms Schober's cross-disciplinary journey. That's all.

You suggest that I don't understand what I am watching. Well, I'm an ex-dancer who has been performing and watching contemporary dance for more than 30 years, and writing about it for 20, so let me turn that question around. If the work is so complex that I can't understand it - and that's perfectly possible - then who exactly is supposed to understand it? Is it really exclusive to such a tiny minority? Because if so, with respect, what are any of you doing in the business of the very public and unexclusive medium of theatre?

In another post, you say the following: "As for the audience, dance students could be either good or bad. When we performed in Bedford last autumn, I felt the audience - dance students really did not understand or enjoy our performance". The fact that you characterise students who do not understand or enjoy your programme as "bad" tells the whole story. People either accept the programme on your terms or are condemned. Hmmm.

Is it not possible that while these pieces mean a great deal to Schober and yourselves, they are simply too inward-looking and enclosed for a general audience? That their meaning just doesn't cross the divide between stage and auditorium? Those Bedford dance-students clearly thought so.

As a critic, I promise you that my comments are absolutely impersonal. You can try and convince yourself that I am ignorant or prejudiced if you want (and as an ex-dancer who was in some pretty unwatchable productions myself I can understand that temptation) or you can ask yourself if there might just be some truth in what I'm saying. That you're simply asking too much of your audience, and offering them too little in return?

Sincerely, Luke Jennings

katsurabbit said...

Dear Luke,

Thank you so much for finding my blog, reading my post seriously, and writing your opinion about it. I had never thought you were going to read my post. How amazing the internet communication is!

I have to apologise if my comment about Bedford students caused any misunderstanding. I myself teach dance students sometimes, and I never judge students simply good or bad. We cannot judge people or art good or bad. What I meant there was good for us or bad for us, either those students are supportive to our performance or not. I would not say that they are bad because they do not like us.

And what can I say if someone did not like our works? Everyone has their own taste, aesthetics, and expectations. You would have your expectations about what you would like to see on a stage, which might be fancier than Stephanie's works.

What can I do if someone did not like our works? I still have to keep dancing. And in order to keep dancing, I have to be convinced of what I am doing. I am a dancer. I am working with this choreographer. I have to believe in her works. The creative process could be actually all about making my belief in the works. I guess there are many different way of working between a choreographer and dancers, but this is how I work.

We cannot deceive ourselves for someone. I believe Stephanie would anyway keep doing her things. She has certain issues she has been working on in her choreography. For some people, it communicates better than others. In that case, we are happy and the audience is happy too.

When things did not communicate well, it is just unlucky for both of us. However, I would still appreciate the audience for coming, and I would like the audience to respect at least the effort we made. Then if there is any discussion afterwards, like your post and mine, it enhance the experience of both sides, and it is one of pleasures of the arts.

Best wishes,
Katsura Isobe