My fondest memories as a dance spectator stretch back more than thirty years: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in 1987 (Tampa, Florida) and every dance performance in Zellerbach Auditorium (Berkeley, California) during my last two years as an undergraduate. I was fortunate to experience Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1989 and attend performances of Twyla Tharp Dance and Paul Taylor Dance Company the following years. For those precious moments I would imagine myself into their worlds of movement that I longed to be a part of. Of course memorable music concerts also formed part of my Berkeley years like seeing Sweet Honey in the Rock at Zellerbach and Bob Dylan at the Greek Theatre, but its the images of dancers that are more deeply etched in my mind.
At that time, I had not developed an appreciation for reading reviews or feature articles on dancers and choreographers. I wanted to see and feel each performance for myself and didn’t much care what anyone else had to say about it.
Three decades later and years after researching the varied folk dances of Iran, it seems like I have come full circle. Parallel to my fieldwork, I have devoured academic dance books for years, but am just now appreciating the different lights that dance writers and critics can shed on movement.
Sanjoy Roy’s articles have been particularly wonderful to discover. As I read his Step by Step Guides, I enjoy learning more about the choreographers whose works I started watching years ago. His reviews make me imagine each experience of dance and itch for opportunities to attend live performances once again.
The pandemic only put a temporary pause on live events. In Oaxaca City, we are blessed with a vibrant and varied dance scene: from the Days of the Dead Comparsas and Guelaguetza folk dances to annual international dance and dance film festivals as well as opportunities to be constantly surprised by innovative local choreographers such as Laura Vera and Rolando Beattie. As we return to the possibilities of attending live events, I search out these extra layers of knowledge that dance writers and critics add to our understanding of dance experiences. Its never too late to learn more.