The critics decide …

THE February/March issue of Dance Australia has the magazine’s annual survey of dance during the past year. It takes the temperature nationally by asking critics – 18 this year, of which I am one – to name their best, worst and most promising people and events. It’s always a good read, highlighting artists and events that may not otherwise get much or any attention outside their own city. I travel a lot, and yet it’s impossible to see anything but a small slice of all the work, particularly in the contemporary sphere where seasons may be very short.

The survey is also a good reminder, if one were needed, that critics, like audience members, see things differently. It’s always amusing when outraged readers demand to know if a critic was at the same performance they were at. Well, yes and no. A certain number of people will be in the auditorium at a certain performance but see it in different ways through the lens of individual experience, knowledge, tastes, favoured or not-so-favoured performers and, yes, mood. And we are in a sense all at our own individual performance too – not all sitting in the same seat with the same perspective on the stage, not all directing our attention to exactly the same person or place on the stage at the same instant, hearing the music differently depending on our interests and predilections and so on.

One critic’s highlight can be another’s lowlight, a cause for interest rather than anguish. Unless, of course, you’re the person or company designated someone’s lowlight.

For my 2013 highlight I chose the Bolshoi (seen in Brisbane) because apart from their very individual impact, the company performed as if it didn’t have a care in the world. This was in the middle of the appalling damage done to the Bolshoi’s reputation after the acid attack on artistic director Sergei Filin. I could have chosen Paris Opera Ballet for its sublime season of Giselle in Sydney, but you have to make choices. Or Sylvie Guillem.

Do these superstar visits make it hard for local companies to get a look-in? Not necessarily. Bigger is not always better. But that was my pick for the year. If you want to know about the others you’ll have to buy the magazine …

But here’s a sneak peek:

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