Well, folks, it’s time I expand my little storage unit of dance reviews and branch out into the general realm of talking about some issues. After all, there’s something on my mind.
On Sunday, the San Diego Union Tribune ran a feature article about the use (and abuse) of standing ovations. Actually, make that five articles. For some reason, they thought it would be a good idea (or cute, or something) to get every critic to weigh in on the important issue of ill-deserved standing ovations. So the theater critic, the art critic, both the classical and pop music critics, and another staff writer chimed in to lend their thoughts. You can read the various posts at:
There’s certainly nothing wrong with this discussion. My recent residency at the American Dance Festival definitely provided some strong examples of enthusiastic standing ovations for sub-par performances (see Pilobolus and Hubbard Street) but my lengthy discussions about the desperate state of arts coverage and criticism in print media also made me realize how important every inch is when it comes to the newspapers.
So the UT’s little indulgence on Sunday was like watching someone water their driveway during a draught. What should have been a very interesting online discussion on the UT webpage was instead the total consumption of the three entire first pages of the Sunday Arts section (save a short article on the Dead Sea Scrolls). Above the fold was a picture of an audience clapping. The next three pages were all personal anecdotes and musings about “the Standing O”. All made good points and were well-written. But at what cost?
At the cost of some strong in-depth arts coverage that gives visibility to artists and arts organizations that could really use the attention. And if you’re going to have your critics all address the same issue, is this really the most pressing one? What about funding for the arts? The need for a major performing arts center downtown? The fact that there are no presenters for local dance?
It’s like talking about Paris Hilton when the country’s at war. Oh. Right.
Well, I just think the Union Tribune can do better.