I found a thought-provoking article via a post on a blog about Canadian culture, CanCult.ca (Is there a Vancouver dance aesthetic?).
The article, which appeared in the Georgia Straight, Do Vancouver Dancers Have a Common Link?, reports that Vancouver’s dance aesthetic is actually shaped by “economic deprivation,” or lack of arts funding, which forces dancers to be more creative with fewer resources. As a result, productions must be more sparse and rely solely on the dancing itself. Therefore, the Vancouver aesthetic is more “dance-y,” while other, more resource-rich cities (such as Montreal) have more conceptual aesthetics, since they seem to be getting more resources to fully carry out a vision. There are other factors contributing to Vancouver dance, such as the cultural diversity which brings influence from many non-western/non-balletic dance forms. There is also a common theme of “clean, precise” movement, though the root of this is not explored in the article.
I’m wondering then is the definition of a dance aesthetic how lavish the production value is on a show? The number of dancers you can afford to pay? Is it the training available in that city? The politics of who gets to perform? The sorts of ideas that get exchanged socially, politically and emotionally in a city?
I couldn’t begin to say what the DC aesthetic is because I haven’t seen enough performances here to form a cohesive view. What I have seen makes me think that there is an element of intellectualism and consciousness of politics and community– which makes sense given that we’re in a city an area with a very high average level of education, and where folks are very conscious of political and community issues. In terms of the quality of movement, I’m not sure if we have a particular aesthetic.
Please weigh in in the comments if you have some thoughts to add to this. What about the dance aesthetic in your own community?