Why Women Choreographers Suck (According to Glenn Sumi)

This past weekend, while I was waiting for my take-out pizza to be heated up, I picked up a copy of the latest issue of NOW Magazine to read the cover story on dance legend Peggy Baker. It seems like every time I read NOW, I’m reminded again and again why I never read NOW. This week’s issue is no exception.

After his article on Baker, Glenn Sumi produces a list of some of the city’s top choreographers (all of whom happen to be women) and talks about why they are not the next Peggy Baker. While I’m all for critics asking hard questions and pushing artists to make the best work possible, lining up a group of female choreographers and then taking stabs at each of them for not being “the next Peggy Baker” shows questionable journalistic judgement.

Even worse perhaps, is the fact that Sumi’s criticisms of these women are woefully inaccurate. He states that Sasha Ivanochko “has yet to find her choreographic voice”. I’m sorry, what? Are you fucking kidding me? Sasha Ivanochko has yet to find her choreographic voice? Is this supposed to be a joke? That’s like saying the dancers of the National Ballet need to pay more attention to their technique.

Making a statement like this would incline me to believe that Sumi has never actually seen any of Ivanochko’s work, except for the fact that I’ve been in the audience with him at some of her performances.

Sumi then goes on to slag Susie Burpee because apparently “her dance is overshadowed by her theatricality”. Again, are you fucking kidding me? The theatricality of Burpee’s work is precisely what makes it distinctive and interesting and I fail to see how this could be considered a bad thing.

He goes a bit easier on Kate Alton. Instead of simply making a blanket statement about why she doesn’t measure up in his eyes, he poses the question of whether “her links to other disciplines [are] detracting from her dance or expanding her audience”. Though I appreciate his ability to at least posit this as a question, I still think it’s a pretty stupid question. Part of the reason why Alton has the success she has is precisely because she works across disciplines and has established connections with audiences outside the traditional dance core.

And while I’ll agree with Sumi that Sarah Chase is high demand around the world, and therefore not able to perform in Toronto as often as I’d like to see her, can a Toronto-based artist achieving international success really be considered a criticism?

It’s hard enough for dance artists to get coverage in mainstream publications, who’d rather dedicate ink to the latest Mirvish musical, than some obscure series of duets at the Winch. Why NOW would take an opportunity to spotlight six female choreographers, only to slag them for not measuring up to some undefined theoretical standard is beyond me. Our community deserves better than this steaming heap of shit passed off as arts journalism.


CloudPusher said...

At last, someone with the insight and heart to call Sumi on his slanted, narrow criticism! Bravo! Well said!

Jacob Zimmer said...

Nice one Chris - I wrote a longer thing here: http://smallwoodenshoe.org/blog/?p=150&preview=true

but mostly I appreciate the calling it as seen - seen as is.

Anonymous said...

This is the first of your articles I have ever read, and I couldn't agree more. I don't know if it's from a recent event, or what really - but Sumi is coming across more and more as a D-Bag these days.