I started doing trainings for arts advocates almost a decade ago. At that time, I gave a lot of thought to what advocates need to know in order to start being advocates. I came up with two messages. First: you already know enough to be an effective advocate. And second: carry a little water for all of us.
Some novice advocates are worried they don’t know the right thing to say. I encourage advocates to start with their individual experiences and truths. Expertise only grows with practice and even the most novice advocates already know more than enough to be effective. Second, while telling their personal stories, I encourage advocates to also carry a little water for the field, to speak to the generalities of what other artists and organizations do and need.
Writing here about audience engagement and audience development, two bourgeoning fields in our industry, I’m reminded of my “first principles” for advocates. Because while the field is busy developing all kinds of exciting new best practices we’re not doing enough to carry water for the twentieth century’s standard-bearers for audience engagement and audience development: arts journalists.
For generations, the arts community has benefited from the expertise of arts journalists in bridging the gap between professional practice and community participation. (Of course the whole story isn’t all that simple: journalism has also been a tool for exclusion.)
The digital transformation affecting the arts industry is equally impacting the field of journalism. We in the arts are not doing enough to support new business models for arts journalism that also support the arts. One reason we’re not is that we like the increased control we now have over our messaging.
Tuesday night, Trey Graham hosted the annual DC Theater Scene preview of the local theatre season at an event for The Smithsonian Associates. The discussion highlighted the breadth of local offerings and here are a few of the recommendations I presented for Dance not to be missed in the coming season.
The new Artistic Director of The Washington Ballet, Julie Kent, is about to start her first season at the helm of The Washington Ballet. She arrives after a career as a star performer at the great American Ballet Theater. Will the artistic quality of The Washington Ballet rise under her proverbial baton? The first opportunity to judge will be at The Washington Ballet’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, September 30th at the Kennedy Center. Later in the season, March 1st through 5th, the Ballet will be performing the classic Giselle, in a staging by Victor Barbee and Ms. Kent, and that, too, will be an opportunity to see what this new leadership means for local audiences.
The audience in the Opera House at the Kennedy Center last night was buzzing for the North American Premiere ofJuliet and Romeo by the choreographer Mats Ek, performed by the Swedish National Ballet. The large European ballet companies are better-funded and simply better than many U.S. companies and while Ek is lesser-known (even among those who love Bejart and Kylian) he’s a brilliant dance-maker.
Ek is the son of choreographer Birgit Cullberg and married to the dancer Ana Laguna (performing in these shows.) At 71 years old his sensibility remains distinctly modern.
Jerome Marchand as Mercutio in Mats Ek’s Juliet and Romeo (Photo: Gert Weigelt)
If you were thinking a ballet titled Juliet and Romeo would focus on the female lead, in this case you’d be wrong. Mercutio is the heart of this production, and Jerome Marchand is fully fabulous in the role. His character’s development and interactions create the core around which this reinterpretation revolves. There are plenty of dances for the main couple –individually and together – and those are lovely but among the least complex. One knows what is going to happen in that relationship, and it does. Mercutio is exciting, in one scene having an entertainingly brotherly dance with Benvolio, in another dancing topless in heeled boots and a black tutu. Continue reading “Mats Ek’s Juliet and Romeo at The Kennedy Center”