Why it’s Important to Have an Opinion on Dance


I hadn’t been in a movie theater for several years until recently. Some friends of mine asked if I wanted to go see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 at a hip new theater in town. I went because, well, it was Friday night, I like hanging out with my friends, etc. But the movie was awful… clichéd and homogeneous while pretending to have a big heterogeneous filter (i.e. being loud and Greek in a “normal” Chicago suburb).

What I want to dissect here isn’t so much the fact that I hated the film but the fact that I felt completely comfortable hating it. And I don’t know anything about cinematography or film beyond a cursory knowledge from growing up in a culture that glorifies Hollywood.

But that’s my point.

Our culture doesn’t glorify dance beyond romanticizing someone who says they are a dancer. It’s “normal” to casually go see a movie on a Friday night, but not necessarily “normal” to go to a dance show. That is, unless we’re dance artists ourselves or know someone who is involved with the show.

And then, to make matters worse, out of that small percentage who find themselves regularly engaged in dance on a Friday night in pitiful ratio to the hordes at the cinema, it’s a smaller percentage who feel comfortable having a real opinion about it, as if dance was a rare fragile insect that could easily be crushed. Wouldn’t it be cruel to critically question it, or even worse, dislike it?


I believe the movie industry is strong and robust because even I, who could care less about movies, feel comfortable dissecting and having an opinion about it. It’s part of my cultural milieu.

Why can’t dance – real dance, not Hollywood-sanctioned dance reality TV shows – be part of the cultural milieu? Why can’t dance be casually consumable and opined?


It starts with you and me and a Friday night. It starts with seeing the dance in our own communities, no matter how small or “bad” it might be. It starts with giving your dollars to local venues versus big film conglomerates. But more importantly, it starts with daring to question the work. It’s not about being mean. It’s about creating dialogue and cultural capital. It’s nice to like something, but it’s better to question why it’s likeable (or dislikeable). I’m sure the director of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 would like for everyone to praise his movie, but I’m also sure he understands that everyone and their mother has an opinion on movies. And yes, there’s generally more money involved in film, but what came first: the dialogue or the money? Things must have cultural capital to accrue financial capital.

Start with raising questions about context. Why those costumes? Why this venue? Why these performers? So often dance exists in scarcity… we had these costumes in our closets… this venue offered us a spot… these performers were available… Okay. Let’s start there. Dance often exists in scarcity. That’s dialogue. That’s understanding. Bam. What’s next? Were there other choices not based on scarcity? Why certain music or movements? Did those choices resonate or bore?

Dance artists can’t save dance. God bless us we’re trying so damn hard. But it has to start with people who casually have an interest or don’t have anything else to do on a Friday night. It starts with understanding dance IS for consumption, it IS open to discussion, it IS yours to decipher, even if you’re not a dance artist or rarely see dance. Dance is public. And even if it’s a perceived flop, by going and having an opinion, both you, your community, and the art form will be well-served.


Emmaly Wiederholt is a dancer and writer, as well as the editor of Stance on Dance.

2 Responses to “Why it’s Important to Have an Opinion on Dance”

  1. Sulis

    Emmaly: you, me, any other friends you can find, let’s go see Dance and give it our all some Friday night. (Or really any live performance. Or really any day of the week.). The lack of opportunity and the perceived cost etc also are factors I think in folks ignoring it. That said, even if my friends are going, I’m opting out of Hollywood mass media, but I might be lured out for live dance with people ready to meet it with their heart, mind, body, and passion.

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