“Theoretically, I am ready to go to anything– once. If it moves, I’m interested; if it moves to music, I’m in love.” -Arlene Croce
Arlene Croce, formerly a dance critic for twenty-five years at the “New Yorker,” makes her love of the arts and, especially, dance clear in the anthology “Writing in the Dark, Dancing in the “New Yorker.'”
“Writing in the Dark” covers Croce’s long reviews of performances from the time she started at the “New Yorker” in 1973 until she left in 1998.
Croce’s work covers a topic about which very few have real, substantial knowledge; however, her reviews are just as informational as they are critical. Going into “Writing in the Dark,” I assumed that Croce would frequently use dance jargon and refer to performaces about which I did not know. I found myself, to my suprise, thoroughly enjoying Croce’s reviews of dance performaces and even learning a thing or two about this lovely art form.
Croce’s word choice is exemplary; it conveys the kinesthetic movements of the dancers, the underlying themes of the performances, and the powerful vitality of the music. “Writing in the Dark” is 745 pages of vivid description and sharp criticism, making it a wonderful read.
The only criticism of Croce–for whom I have tremendous respect since reading her work– is in her 1994 review entitled “Discussing the Undiscussable.” The performance in question was Bill T. Jones‘ “Still/Here,” where Jones presented people who were terminally ill and proceeded to talk about it (Jones himself has AIDS). Croce stated that she had no intent on reviewing it, the reason being that Croce felt the performance was “pity art.” Croce wrote that by working dying people into his act, Jones put himself beyond the reach of criticism. She continued to defend her decision not to review the perforance which she dubbed unreviewable. I absolutely respect her decision and support her right to make such a choice. I only criticize Croce for this for the reason that a “New Yorker” writer has a certain authority and voice. When she wrote this controversial piece, it could have seriously cost her her reputation. Nonetheless, Croce wrote what she did and that is simply that. Read an excerpt of the review here.
Arlene Croce’s reviews, especially those published in “Writing in the Dark, Dancing in the “New Yorker,'” are as close to an acclaimed dance performance as you can get. Her writing style, as well as her knowledge and love of dance, makes for tremendous reviews.