Following a panel at a recent Dance/NYC symposium, the debate on “snark” – excessive sarcasm in criticism – was reignited when panelists Robert Johnson of the Star-Ledger and Wendy Perron of Dance Magazine each published articles clarifying and expanding their positions – and coming down on different sides of the matter.
I asked my fellow Board Members of the Dance Critics Association to weigh in on the issue. My response in below. Visit the DCA Blog page to see what Texas-based writer and professor Ali Duffy and New York Times Chief Dance Critic Alastair Macaulay had to say.
A writer that limps along with snark as a crutch does a disservice to dance and criticism by failing to do what I consider to be two of the most important things in criticism: write beautifully and care about the subject (by which I mean care about dance, not necessarily every artist or performance). A critic should take as much pride in her/his words as a choreographer does in her/his dance. Snark – as distinguished from wit or even biting insight because it leans toward the mean-spirited and tends to reveal the writer’s own ego – often trades in easy cliche and is a cheap tool for a writer. Regardless of whether a critic likes or dislikes a piece, if he or she cares fundamentally about elevating dance as a whole, then even a negative review can be respectful and illuminating in its honesty.