It’s no secret that as mainstream newspapers have folded or cut costs in recent years, dance criticism has taken a major hit. And while some dancers may have adverse feelings towards critics (especially if they’ve been on the receiving end of a bad review), criticism is nonetheless a vital facet of arts coverage, one that sparks debate and conversation about a performance and draws interest to the company in question. “Reading good dance criticism teaches you how to watch dance, and how to look past flawless facility and fierce technique to something deeper,” says New York Post dance writer Leigh Witchel. “It teaches you to search for context.” But without support from media outlets, Witchel fears that arts criticism is now being turned into a hobby.
Enter The Barre Flies. Launched by Eliza Minden, co-founder and head designer of Gaynor Minden, the website offers a platform for some of New York City’s most respected dance critics, including Witchel. “Informed, lively discussion is essential to the vitality of an art,” says Minden. “I wanted to promote a discussion about dance but in a modern format with the look and feel of today’s social media.”
Unlike conventional publications or dance blogs, The Barre Flies recruits several critics, an experienced audience member and a dancer to review the same production so that readers can access a variety of perspectives in one place—with intriguing results. “There are too many moving parts to a dance performance for any one critic to see it all,” says Barre Flies contributor Laura Jacobs, who also writes for The New Criterion, Vanity Fair and Pointe. “And critics have different areas of expertise.”
The latest installment covers Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes, Justin Peck’s latest world premiere for New York City Ballet. And the results could not be more mixed—some see it as a welcome alternative to Agnes DeMille’s 1942 Rodeo, while others feel Peck missed the mark. In addition, Sara Mearns, who plays the principal woman in the ballet, gives the inside scoop on what it’s like working with Peck. It just goes to show how beautifully subjective our art form is. To read the reviews, click here.