To the Editor:
Molly Shanahan's review of "Forward Motion" at Dance Chicago '97 [October 31] demonstrates again that reality need not be disturbed when it comes to a Reader review of an artistic endeavor.
John Schmitz and Fred Solari's production of several dance companies in one show is one where "no one is truly served, and least of all the artists." Does it occur to her that various companies are put together to draw a larger audience? To enable patrons of one dance company to see another? That even with six dance companies performing together the theater was only half full on a Saturday night? If the artists were not truly served, the fact is that without being able to perform together they would not be served at all--Mr. Schmitz and Mr. Solari could not afford to invite them in the first place.
Ms. Shanahan's review of the dance reiterates the old Reader adage that if people liked the performance it must have truly sucked. It is somewhat incredible that words such as "crowd-pleasing" are used to describe the worst of performances. While Ms. Shanahan was accurate in the small amount of print devoted to a few dancers, the opposite impression of the audience (based on my sample of about 20 people) was generally reflected in the review.
Reviewers are certainly entitled to their opinion. However, it should concern the Reader if its reviewers diverge so far from reality that readers don't have a clue of whether or not they will enjoy the show. Without some realistic portrayal of the show, why publish a review?
Finally, in her review Ms. Shanahan demonstrates a concern for excellence and integrity. With this in mind, I have three pieces of advice if she would like to apply these qualities in her reviews: First, if you are performing in the same festival that you are reviewing, disclose it. Second, if the theater is evacuated due to an electrical problem, give people a few minutes to solve the problem before walking out on the show. Finally, if you do walk out on the show, don't rationalize your actions by claiming that a "hefty segment of the audience" joined you. Since the few readers who read your review most likely attended the show, you will just be fooling yourself.
Molly Shanahan replies:
I am sorry that neither I nor my editor thought to acknowledge that I'm the artistic director of Mad Shak Dance Company, which performed during the festival. But I think I had more to lose than gain by questioning the choices of the Dance Chicago producers.