Yesterday, I posted about a new NEA survey showing that arts-event attendance was down to its lowest levels since the organization started keeping track in 1982.
I also posted about The A.W.A.R.D. Show!, an experiment in modern-dance competition that's kicking up some controversy—12 companies compete over four days for a $10,000 prize based on popular audience vote and a panel of dance experts. (I neglected to name the experts: Kara O'Toole of Velocity, Donald Byrd of Spectrum, Linda Shelton of the Joyce Theater in NYC where The A.W.A.R.D. Show! began, and Dayna Hanson formerly of 33 Fainting Spells.)
Those two posts slammed together at On the Boards last night, which was, apparently, totally packed. According to a report from The Sun Break blog:
An audience-judged dance competition raises many questions, as Brendan Kiley points out on Slog, but one question we can put to rest is whether such a format appeals to audiences. On the Boards was packed for Thursday night's first round. We even had to do the raise-your-hand-if-you're-next-to-an-empty-seat thing.
"And Brendan Kiley wrote that arts audiences are down," snarked OtB artistic director Lane Czaplinski from the front of the house. "He did! In the Slog. You should go comment."
I'm glad to hear The A.W.A.R.D. Show! is pulling them in the door. That might quiet down some of the critics. As A.W.A.R.D. Show! judge Kara O'Toole wrote me yesterday: "I am all for anything that pulls contemporary dance into the main stream and gets people talking about dance, thinking about dance."
Last night's winner: Deborah Wolf, who choreographed dancers moving to words by Edward Gorey and music played over words by Edward Gorey. It was, reportedly, the only piece with any comedy to it, beating out Ricki Mason, Coriolis Dance Collective, and Olivier Wevers of Pacific Northwest Ballet. (Give the people what they want.)
Tonight's contenders: Catherine Cabeen (pictured above), Shannon Mockli, SD Prism Dance Theatre (Sonia Dawkins), and Scott/Powell Performance.
In my original post, I also neglected to mention a comment from Czaplinski about the experience of watching many, many videos of A.W.A.R.D. Show contestants from four different cities (NYC, Chicago, Philly, and Seattle, where the competitions are taking place).
It was weird, he said, to see the commonalities in different cities:
"Chicago had a lot of dance theater and jazz, Philadelphia was all over the place, and from Seattle, we had a lot of people standing around wearing chunky shoes and '50s outfits."
It was the legacy, he suggested, from Pat Graney and 33 Fainting Spells. And sure enough, here's A.W.A.R.D. Show judge Dayna Hanson in her 33 Fainting Spells days: