CLAUDIA: Say It Ain’t So…

I’ll forgive Ms. La Rocco for apparently not reading our review of Jeremy Wade’s “…and pulled out their hair.” I’m sure she’s busy, what with all the insightful, awesome reviews she writes. (I’m being serious here.)

But I cringed (on the inside) when I read the first line of her review:

For one night at least, the cool kids took over the Joyce SoHo.

While, on one hand, I kind of agree with her (Wade is one cool cat), the phrase “cool kids” expresses an attitude toward the artist (and company) as juvenile (kids on a playground) and a regard for the work as without substance (like how social popularity frequently occurs despite any noticeable achievement by the individual on whom it is bestowed). It’s a backhanded way to say Wade’s work is edgy.

The only reason I haven’t given Claudia the full DUCHY, is for this insightful point about the skill involved in executing Wade’s thorny movement patterns:

You could easily bat this away as flailing, but the skill needed to sustain such muscular spasms is no small thing. (Virtuosity does not reside simply in making beautiful feats look easy.)

And yet, in the end, I still feel like La Rocco didn’t challenge herself in terms of analysis. Why is Wade’s movement not beautiful. How is that preconception formed, and what does it mean to present its antithesis as dance? Alas, this is the great failing of news-media criticism. Everyone wants to talk style , form and technique. Then when a work with challenging content comes along, the call to critique is waived and the work is passed off as juvenile.

Note to La Rocco (and all the old critics): It is possible for younger people to say something that you don’t readily understand. And not because it lacks substance; rather, because it is a new perspective.


  1. I think your interpretation of Claudia’s review is a little off.

    “Cool Kids” is actually a complement to Jeremy and a dig at the Joyce Soho. The Joyce Soho presents some of the most tepid and tedious works by very young choreographers. “Cool Kids” is also a reference to a certain kind of downtown dance audience that has been following Jeremy’s work and rarely attends the Joyce Soho.

    And Claudia isn’t questioning beauty. She’s looking for substance, which she had trouble finding in Wade’s new work.

    And, by the way, she’s rather young

  2. Aw, yeah. Now we’re talkin! Somebody fire up the grill…

    “Rather young” huh? Three cheers for relativity! Four cheers for ambiguity!

    La Rocco’s intention behind using the term “cool kids” doesn’t change the associations attached to the expression. People both envy and revile “cool kids.” It’s mainly an outsider’s term used simultaneously to confer social hierarchy and to disparage as unworthy. This is exactly what she did. She called him “cool” in an effort to elevate his social status in the dance world and then claimed a lack of substance in his work. That is the classic American treatment of “cool,” be it a celebrity or that cheerleader we couldn’t stop (negatively) obsessing about: They’re so hot and we want to be them, but they’re not all they’re sized up to be.

    Though, if La Rocco means to include herself in the cool set, then the phrase is being used at its worst, the insider’s usage: to elevate oneself above others.

    And it’s not about “looking for beauty,” like maybe Alastair Macaulay looks for beauty in just about everything he goes to. But when you call something grotesque, shouldn’t you reflect–especially as a critic–on why you perceive something to be grotesque, particularly when the artist is so obviously making that his subject?

    Re-reading the ending of the review, it’s interesting that her final comment suggests that there isn’t enough MIND in the work: “So what if they pulled out their hair? Hair grows back; it’s what’s under the scalp that Mr. Wade has yet to really probe.” Interesting that she should bias substance toward the mind in a dance that is precisely about the body’s dependence on cerebral functions: where the mind goes, the body follows.

    And if La Rocco is as “rather young” as you say, then she should stop writing things that make her sound like a dirty old dried up lima bean. (JK, we HEART you Claudia La R.)

  3. You are spot-on about La Rocco’s review. Successful criticism is much more detailed. She skimmed the surface with her review. There was so much more in the performance that could have been discussed, but she just couldn’t bother. Her opening line is extremely off-putting and tells me a lot about the writer’s general disapproval of and aversion to experimental dance.

  4. […] is solved!!!! As you may well remember, an anonymous reader tried to harsh my crit cuz I called Claudia La Rocco old, or crusty or something like that. The reader came to her defense, saying she was “rather […]

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