What a thrill to wake up to ballerinas on the front page of The New York Times this morning! The primary photo on A1 generally favors tragedy, scandal or social interest stories. (Which is as it should be.) How radical, then, for the whispy dancers of the New York City Ballet, in a shot from George Balanchine’s “Serenade” at the company’s winter season opener, to inhabit such a conspicuous place.
Yet the momentary pride soon deflated. The photo is refreshing, but is it important? The accompanying article (tucked away on C6 in the middle of the Arts section) is a review of three works all over half a century old, performed by perhaps the most elite and established troupe in town. While I celebrate the visibility, I also mourn the missed opportunity to promote a more relevant image of dance: a profile of a dancer breaking racial boundaries, a choreographer seriously engaged in technological discovery, a company grappling with war through dance. It’s all happening and it makes dance matter. It’s a shame that when dance finally hits the headlines, it is represented by an image that confirms a particular social stereotype that yes, although dance is beautiful, it has nothing to do with the issues of the day.