Statement on dance criticism 1 Oct 2002English

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Contextual note
PC Scholtens 'Statement over danskritiek' is eveneens in het Nederlands raadpleegbaar op SARMA
Le 'Disposition sur la critique de danse' de PC Scholten est aussi disponible en français sur SARMA


“Where can a dance rest after it has been danced? Where lays the destination of dance? And how is it again brought into motion by the memory of writing? The question of fate, of the purpose of a dance, its path and its conviction, is one and the same as that of the limited view, the blindness of the eye that regards dance as ‘purely physical’.” (freely after André Lepecki)

1. Emancipation

Dance critics should take dance seriously. They should assert their place both editorially and in the field in order to establish the significance of dance as a fully developed art form. So don’t concern yourself with art forms such as theatre and music; dance, after all, is the art form of the future.

2. Foundation

Why does everyone have to make something; why does everybody have to write something? If you don’t have anything to say, you should just keep quiet.

What is a critical review, and what is its use? On what does the reviewer base his writings? In order to prevent the critic from simply exhibiting his preferences and dislikes in this or that populist column peppered with cynical cleverness (the hack at his best), he should arm himself with the question “what is the origin of dance and what is its destination?” at the moment that he sits down behind his computer and descends into his memory. This hazy place must be exploited to its fullest for what it reveals of the non-physical, non-fleeting side of dance.

3. Vocabulary

Now that cynicism has been renounced – the ego, after all, doesn’t matter any more – and a sincere attempt is being made to recreate dance in words, many languages can be drawn on. Tradition or renewal, politics, (art) history, space, time, or philosophy can be sounding boards that create depth. Because the physical aspect of dance isn’t the only thing at issue, the words that we use for it can also be allowed to return to the place from which they have been borrowed: the bedroom, the nursery school, the zoo, or the gym class. There, rolling, turning, and fluttering to one’s heart’s content are all again possible.

4. Passion

Let us assume that the dance critic started off with his love for dance as his primary motivation. A love that he wants to share with a reader. What does his love for dance entail, and why don’t we see this love being manifested as a love affair: a passionate defence of the beloved object relative to, for example, other art forms? A love-hate relation with the beloved object by means of which – either through boisterous love-making or ear-shattering argument – they together tear themselves out of the straightjacket of clichés. Our love is special, unique and different. Or . . .?

5. Politics

Embrace impartiality. But: power is not disgusting. By means of his position of power, the dance critic can foreground the dance he so loves. Take on the role of Maecenas. Broaden perspectives. Expand the forum. Use the words the dance maker cannot permit himself.

6. Politics 2

If we want to communicate with each other about this, there’s no point in setting up panels that simply oppose dance makers and dance critics. It would be much better if critics would question each other, along with their (head) editors, programmers, and policy makers.

7. Politics 3

Communication between dance makers and critics takes place via polemics. Dance makers should respond more to opinions about their performances, their thought, and their vision. The internet is an ideal means for this.

Join the debate at


Those who know . . .

In the open space before us, unburdened by a significant dance-writing tradition, we can gather together the ingredients necessary for achieving some credibility. Pinpointing the springs of knowledge from which one draws, expanding the language, embracing history, striving for renewal, exuberantly celebrating the shared passion.

And . . . always working towards yourself; always staying with the dance, never forgetting that your fascination and questions originate in it; search there, then, for the explanations; and don’t fear bringing yourself into a discussion where the search itself is as important as its possible results (freely quoting Arjan Peters)