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The Dance of Perception: A Series of Perspectives on Dance Reviews

Critique and feedback are integral to an artist's growth, but what do dancers truly think about reviews? This feature-series sheds light on the diverse opinions within the dance community. We reached out to dancers to explore how they navigate the intricate dance between critique and artistic evolution.

Q. In the digital age, social media can amplify reviews and critiques. How do you manage the influence of online feedback on your artistic pursuits?

A - Meera Sreenarayanan: This inquiry leads to another: for whom are you dancing? Is it for yourself or for those watching? Regardless of the answer, sharing your art with a group of people makes it a part of them, and they have the right to appreciate, abhor, or critique it. The art is no longer solely yours, from my perspective. The final collaborator and final arbiter is the audience. Now more than ever, anyone from anywhere can review a piece of art. In reality, I see it as an avenue to boost one's value as an artist. But how an artist responds to both good and negative criticism is a challenge. One must carefully evaluate the source of the feedback to determine whether it is an impartial or biased comment. As they say, criticism often reveals more about the critic than the subject of criticism. What did they critique in such a way, and why? What I've also noticed is that a lot of well-meaning, knowledgeable, and otherwise pretty sensible people lack the ability to offer constructive criticism. An artist, with time and experience, may be able to discern which criticism to accept, dismiss, or even challenge if it is detrimental. The ability to identify and then improve upon the areas of one’s work that the critics detest is another benefit of receiving criticism. The only thing you can control is what and how you cultivate out of it, and that is what defines who you are as an artistic individual.

Q - What is your perspective on Dance Criticism? How important do you believe are reviews for development of one’s artistic career?

A - Sathvikaa Shankar: Over my 15-year career, I have witnessed the significant role that reviews, especially those from seasoned stalwarts, have played in shaping my path as a performer. These insights, coupled with constructive feedback from the audience, have been instrumental in pushing me to refine my craft. However, it is essential to recognize that reviews, though valuable, are the subjective perspectives of journalists or critics. For a comprehensive assessment, they should encompass the reactions and emotions of the audience members present during the performance as well.

Reviews and media coverage also go beyond mere criticism; they serve as sources of motivation and emotional upliftment for dancers. Moreover, these platforms also provide emerging artists with the visibility and exposure needed to carve a niche for themselves in the competitive dance landscape.

However, in recent times, there appears to be a recurring pattern in the artists being reviewed and the critics who review, calling for the need to embrace fresh voices and allowing for a broader range of talent to be showcased. Especially with dance being a dynamic and constantly-evolving practice, we need more platforms that promote art criticism, as well as the need for journalists from diverse backgrounds to provide a novel outlook. Thereby, to foster growth within the dance community, we must actively promote diversity in performances and perspectives.

Q - What is your perspective on Dance Criticism? Do you actively seek out critiques or feedback, or do you prefer to receive them spontaneously?

A - Sandhya Udupa: Criticism plays a vital role in our personal growth, extending beyond dance to our everyday lives. As the famous saying suggests, 'When people throw stones at you, you have a choice: build a wall or a bridge.' Embracing criticism allows us to engage in self introspection, fostering an environment of continuous improvement. Constructive criticism, when delivered with good intentions, is always valued and welcomed.

I prefer actively seeking out feedback rather than receiving it spontaneously. Building a bond of trust and respect with the person providing feedback is crucial for its meaningful impact. Occasionally, certain feedback can leave a lasting impression on our minds. It is essential to distinguish between critiques and feedback, as they serve different purposes. Nonetheless, there are instances where spontaneity in feedback can also be effective.

Q - What is your perspective on Dance Criticism? Do you actively seek out critiques or feedback, or do you prefer to receive them spontaneously?

A - Praachi Saathi: Dance criticism can greatly influence careers of dancers, constructively helping in shaping their work and pave way for developing a more open mind. It can make them more flexible to the idea of change and also objectively look at their piece, provided its coming from someone who understands the form, its techniques, its history , its evolution and also its potential. Since the question asks for my perspective I shall answer in first person. After presenting a new work I will first reach out to my inner circle who I know will give me accurate unbiased feedback about the work presented. They are well-wishers who I am certain will not hold back from calling a spade a spade. After which I will be open to receiving feedback from the outer circle but with a filter. When critiquing it’s also critical that one enumerates the good and the bad leaving the dancer feeling confident about the work and how it can be made better. The unwarranted and unasked for criticism that at times a dancer has to face is not the best and can at times be toxic. I am referring to the imprudent use of social media that tears apart any work without considering the overall outlook of the artist as well as leading to insensitivity towards the work. Hence feedback and criticism needs to be taken from the right sources in the right state of mind.


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