I Want/I Vomit
On May 12, 2015, Gibney Dance hosted a panel titled “Dance Criticism in New York.” The event was moderated by dance writer and blogger Eva Yaa Assantewaa and included fellow dance writers Rose Ann Thom, Jaime Shearn Coan, A. Nia Austin-Edwards, Siobhan Burke, Charmaine Warren and myself. The discussion asked many questions about the current state of dance criticism, among them, “Do dance critics play a useful, integrated role within New York’s dance community?” It was a lively event that lasted nearly three hours and included a concurrent Twitter chat and live stream, engaging those on the Internet as well as in the room.
As a part of our opening remarks, each writer was asked to respond to Miguel Gutierrez’s 2002 work, “The Perfect Dance Critic,” which originally appeared in Movement Research Performance Journal #25. As a means to continue the conversation and open responses to a wider audience of people who may not have been present, Culturebot has allowed me to post my poem response, titled “I Want/I Vomit,” below.
I want a criticism that is embodied
I want to acknowledge bodies as critical tools
I want to acknowledge aesthetics as a total part of culture and thus as a critical tool
I love your body
I love your body even if I don’t understand it
I love your body even if I am afraid of it
I love your body even if you don’t love it
I love what you are showing me
Even if I hate it
Because you are here in front me of me
Because you have chosen to be this
To move like this
Because you chose this life
And so did I
And we create the space for each other to exist
I see what you don’t see yet
I also don’t get your point and this is wonderful
Thank you for not telling me what this is
Thank you for showing up for no money
Thank you for showing me a world I can believe in
Or that I can’t
I vomit on descriptive language
I vomit on metaphors and similes
I vomit on privilege
I vomit on misogyny
Use the right damn pronoun for us, please
I vomit on dancing
I vomit on criticism
I vomit on these aspects of cultural capital
I vomit on the market that makes us need each other
So that we can perpetuate this separation
So we can keep not getting paid for thinking, looking, talking, making
Who are you dancing for?
Do you know you’re alive?
Do you feel alive after your show when you are waiting for the review?
Do you feel alive after your show when people you know look the other way, or congratulate you tritely before turning away?
Do you feel alive when someone suddenly wants to be your best friend after whatever review you got?
Do you feel alive making press packets?
Do you feel alive quoting critics for blurbs and applications?
I don’t feel alive waiting for a review.
I don’t feel alive after my show when people I know look the other way or congratulate me tritely before turning away.
I don’t feel alive when someone wants to be my best friend after a review I got, or after a review I wrote, or because they want me to write about their work.
I don’t feel alive making press packets.
I don’t feel alive quoting critics for blurbs and applications.
I am here to have a conversation.
I am making work to be in dialogue with other artists and makers and subjects in this world.
I am writing about work as a dialogue with other artists, makers, and subjects in this world.
I curate to make a world I want to see, to make a world I feel I can inhabit.
I vomit on your hierarchy.
I vomit on your veiled or not so veiled condescension.
I vomit on your lack of context for my work.
I vomit on the clout that comes with roles.
I want you to shatter me.
I want you to bore me.
I want you to make me feel like I need to come up with another language to talk about you.
I want you to be honest about what you don’t know.
You don’t have to dance for me to believe that you are a dancer.
Please, don’t be fierce.
Are you crying in your studio right now?
Good. So am I.
Are you feeling alive when you are crying in the studio?
Writing in the studio.
Thinking in the studio.
Lying on the floor in the studio.
Napping on the floor of the studio.
Do you feel safe in the studio?
Did you ever feel safe?
Did you move to New York for the same reasons I did?
Were you or are you a degenerate?
Were you or are you different from the people you grew up with?
Did your parents care that you wanted to make art, as in perform, dance, write, think, protest?
No? Mine either.
Did you move to New York to make it?
If so, have you made it?
Did you move to New York because you couldn’t lead a normative life somewhere because you feel shame, you feel hurt, you are in pain, you have inherited a diseased society.
Did you move to New York for your parents to buy you an apartment so you can make your art and get an amazing review and be a fabulous artist?
Do you have an MFA?
If you don’t, do you want one?
If you do, do you feel proud of it?
Do you feel like you earned it?
Do you feel like it qualifies you to be an artist?
Are you in debt from your education?
Are you living your dream right now?
Do you have the gig of a lifetime?
If so, are you scared?
Are you scared of what the critics will say?
Do you know the moment is passing?
The gig will be over.
You will have spent all that money.
You might not have paid yourself.
Can I pay for your groceries instead of writing about your work?
Can I watch your child while you are in rehearsal?
Can I pay for your medical bills and physical therapy bills from that piece where you made $15 an hour?
Is this working?