Why, it's wounded members of the dance community! They're strange birds, those certain—not all, just some—members of the dance community. When we don't write about dance, they complain. When we write glowing criticism, theyaresilent. When we write questioning or negative criticism, they come out of the woodwork to insist that we're idiots and criminals and incompetent monsters.
You can't win. (I just mentioned this phenomenon to books editor Paul Constant, and he said: "Sounds like poetry! If I write something positive about poetry, nobody gives a shit. When I write something negative, suddenly I'm the Hitler of poetry.")
But we're used to that. It's been that way for years.
And it's that way again this week with Melody Datz's lovely, funny, and intelligent piece on Swan Lake at Pacific Northwest Ballet, which she's seen many times over the years, and adores for its athleticism (she's a former bunhead and still impressed by fouettés and such), but recognizes that, to many people, it's dull as dirt and a potential turn-off from all dance forever.
Though she talks about what she likes about this Swan Lake, and interviews a young man about how it was a gateway for him to other kinds of dance, commenters are (predictably) throwing fits.
I'd like to single one out for special mention, however, only because I've seen this sneaky trick a thousand times:
Melody—Headline aside, your attempt at offering us an inflammatory piece does little to establish your credibility as a dance writer new on the scene. I expected better from you. You've relied on crass prose and slang to make tired, cliched points. Leave the sensationalist vocabulary behind, step out of your comfort zone, and start writing something worth reading.
This is a classic—an employee of an arts institution suggesting that the critic isn't "credible" because she dared to write something negative about some hallowed work of art (and dared to use conversational, grown-up language while doing it).
But this is totally disingenuous.
When any journalist evaluates the credibility of a source, the first question to ask is: "What does this person have to gain? Does he or she have any incentive—especially a financial incentive—to spin this information?" Any employee of any arts palace has a financial incentive to be mad at a critic. As "education programs manager," Doug Fullington, by definition, has a professional stake in the public perception of Swan Lake. But he's the one questioning her credibility.
So Doug: If there's anyone who is less credible in the conversation than the critic, it's the person who has a financial stake in what the critic says.
And that's you.
By all means, employees of arts institutions are encouraged to join any critical conversation we have at The Stranger. But we are all aware of where your packchecks come from and how that might influence what you say. So be careful about dubbing yourselves the arbiters of credibility.