Who Killed Dance?
Dance in America is in a slump. At century’s end, with the major choreographers of the modern era either dead (George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Antony Tudor) or nearing the close of their careers (Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins, Paul Taylor), the current lack of enthusiasm among serious dancegoers for new work is palpable, and so is the near-complete lack of interest among the public at large. Although the audience has not vanished—indeed, dance appears to be one of the few areas of high culture which consistently interests younger people—many Americans have stopped going.
What makes this all the more disturbing is the fact that this country has long been the international center of creative activity in dance. Ever since 1933, the year George Balanchine moved to New York to start the School of American Ballet, virtually every key figure, including foreign-born artists like the Russian Balanchine and the Englishman Antony Tudor, has been resident in America. Most of the distinguished choreographers who emerged since the beginning of World War II, including Cunningham, Robbins, Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Alvin Ailey, Eliot Feld, and Mark Morris, were both born and trained here.
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