Recently, the issue of presenting “Risk” and “Challenging” work has been the center of much discussion. During the international booking conference in NYC, I was having a discussion with other national presenters about the importance of “RISK.” We were all amazed at how many arts presenters had reverted to presenting more “entertainment” types of performing arts as opposed to works that challenge audiences. It’s of great concern in terms of growing audiences and developing audiences with appreciation for all types of work.
This past weekend, TITAS presented a terrific new dance company for New York, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet presenting an amazing work by Israel’s famed choreographer Ohad Naharin. It was a great performance but it certainly incited some audience reactions. Though they received standing ovations after both performances, I did receive a couple of emails for audience members that were offended by some of the content and language in the work. The resounding response to Decadance was terrific, but there were interesting dialogues about Risk and the importance of pushing boundaries.
In our current national environment it seems may arts presenters have abandoned “RISK” in favor of safer forms of performing arts presentations. This move is mostly economically driven. This is much discussion on the national and international art world about how important it is to keep Risk in our philosophies as we build our seasons. Are we moving forward as a cultural community?
It is always easy to entertain. We can all certainly do well presenting the most popular, least challenging works. We would all probably have larger audiences with the safe work. But the question is, are we building anything? Are we developing sophisticated audiences? Are we developing a global perspective from a cultural point of view? Are we cultural leaders or followers? Are we entertaining or presenting great art? Is there a difference?
These are difficult questions for those of us how are responsible for developing seasons to present in Dallas, or for that matter anywhere. Personally, I’m a big advocate for pushing the envelope. But it’s a balancing act. They only way to build a sophisticated audience is to be exposed to sophisticated work. And no, sophisticated work is not always offensive or abstract. TITAS has always been committed to excellence and pushing the envelope. We’ve also paid a price for it. It would certainly be easier for us to present a more “mainstream” season of dance and music, but there are other places to see that work. Last night at the theater we had a spirited Q&A about Decadance and the controversy of the work.
I’m interested to hear what KERA patrons feel about RISK and pushing the envelope.
Charles Santos, TITAS Executive Director