When I became serious about dance at the age of eleven, I was living in the small Texas city of Corpus Christi. Back in the eighties, there were only two decent dance schools in town and no professional companies. Learning about dance beyond Corpus’ city limits was possible only through whatever dance books and magazines the libraries had. Every month, I eagerly awaited the newest copy of Dance Magazine and the now defunct Ballet News.
Today, thanks to the Internet, students and fans of this insufficiently covered art form have it a lot easier. We no longer have to wait a month or more to find out how the American Ballet Theatre season is going or just who has been appointed director of a lesser-known company.
At the time of writing, Canadians are protesting President Bush’s visit north, but I am in the Lone Star State itself to see Houston Ballet’s thirty-fifth anniversary gala. Upon my return to Maisonneuve’s world headquarters in Montreal, I’ll have a review for you. In the interim, here is a list of dance websites I visit regularly. This list by no means exhausts what is available online, so I invite readers to leave any Web addresses that they are particularly fond of in the comment section at the end.
The Dance Current is the site for the latest goings-on in Canadian dance, with news and reviews by dance writers coast to coast. If you are in Canada, be sure to subscribe (as I keep meaning to do) to the print edition for exclusive content. Potential subscribers may find they have the same problem I do: the site doesn’t let you subscribe using a credit card. In the meantime, I’ll keep purchasing it on the newsstand.
Dfdanse is en français and covers the Montreal scene with reviews and a comprehensive calendar of shows around town. Another nice feature is video clips of local and visiting performers.
Arlene Croce, former dance critic for the New Yorker, coined the term “Ballet Alert” ages ago during the dance boom, before the Internet took off. Imagine getting up-to-date news on who’s out with an injury or who just gave a sterling performance at State Theater while you were across the plaza at the Met. Well, dream has become reality with the Ballet Talk section of the site. Ballet Talk focuses on New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, but what fun it is to read fans weighing in on the latest performances you just wish you could have seen! Check out news and opinions on the latest dance books, links to the latest reviews and hotly contested debates about the top critics. Compared with the ballet portions of the site, the modern-dance section gets short shrift. Moreover, there is not much about Canadian dance, save comments and news about the National Ballet of Canada, thanks to a particularly informative visitor named “Paquita.” Still, it remains one of my favorite dance websites. Yours truly trolls the site too, especially the links section, under an assumed name. (You’ll have to figure out my nom de plume on your own.)
Dance Magazine is the old standby. Even if you get the print issue, there are website-only reviews. The roster of dance companies reviewed here is long indeed.
The DanceView Times boasts some of the best dance critics around. I personally couldn’t live without Mindy Aloff’s Letter from New York.
I visit the New York Observer for one reason only: Robert Gottlieb. Sure, some feel Gottlieb harbours an inordinate rage against New York City Ballet’s artistic director, Peter Martins. Still, I read Gottlieb because he’s been watching dance since before my parents were born. (P.S. His book on Balanchine just came out. Arlene Croce, where’s yours? We can’t wait!)
General Arts Websites
I receive a digest from Arts Journal daily in my inbox, and thank goodness. Arts Journal culls through journals, magazines and newspapers from all over (even Canada). I especially like that in addition to the latest in dance news, Arts Journal keeps me abreast with other fields, such as music, ideas, publishing and fine arts. The main attraction for me, though, is dance blogger Tobi Tobias, whom I have read in various publications since I was, well, eleven. You can sign up as I have and be notified whenever her reviews appear.
Keeping up with all the performances in this town is almost impossible. Here are some websites for local publications that cover dance at least weekly:
Hour, an alternative weekly, boasts dance articles by Philip Szporer, who also reviews for the Dance Current.
Although many articles on the Gazette site are for subscribers only, Victor Swoboda’s insightful weekly dance articles are often available to non-subscribers.
Of the French dance writers in Montreal, I read Frédérique Doyon the most frequently. Although I had to pay for a subscription, Le Devoir notifies me by email any time a dance piece appears.
Venues and Organizations
These sites for Montreal dance venues will keep you up to date on what’s going on when:
L’Agora de la Danse (Mid-sized contemporary dance troupes)
Studio 303 (Emerging artists)
Usine C (Local and visiting dance companies)
Danse Danse (Touring companies)
Odds and Ends
The Bibliothèque de la Danse houses one of the largest dance collections in the world. You can access its catalogue of books, periodicals, videos, DVDs, etc. online. Better yet, go to the library and meet dance historian Vincent Warren and librarian Marie-Josée Lecours, who will kindly help you with all your scholarly dance needs. It’s one of my favourite oases of calm in Montreal.
Rachel Howard is a San Francisco dance critic with a literary bent. (Check our her literary links and current reading list.)
Kena Herod is the dance critic for Maisonneuve Magazine. The Dance Scene appears every other Tuesday.