Encouraging young writers on dance

THE INTERNATIONAL DANCE WRITING FOUNDATION has commissioned the publication of Clement Crisp Reviews: Sixty Years of Dance because we believe these collected works will serve as the gold standard for writing on dance in its many styles, encouraging new writers to cover this art form. Later, we will set out to encourage initiatives bringing together writers and exponents of dance to strengthen knowledge amongst interested communities and also the general public.

Why this is important

BRITISH DANCE COMPANIES CONTINUE to be adventurous in their programmes and their audiences are as large as ever. But where can we read about this confident and challenging creativity with equal confidence in the judgement of the writer? Gerald Dowler, one of our trustees, explains in Dancing Times that ‘the job of a dance critic is not to tell the reader what to think about a work but rather perhaps ‘how’ to think about it.’ Yet, however brilliant the dancers, however well-resourced the dance companies, their audiences are progressively starved of informed analysis of the performances they watch. This is why dance has become the most threatened of popular art forms, leading us to set up the International Dance Writing Foundation.

US decline in informed criticism

THE SITUATION IS NO BETTER in the United States. Writing in The Atlantic, Madison Mainwaring observes that ‘over the course of the last 20 years, dance coverage - and dance criticism in particular - has been decimated in the mainstream press’. This leaves very few publications with house critics and editors who are dedicated to the art form. Deborah Jowitt, the former Village Voice critic, writes: “If art is valuable as a reflection - of a time, of a place, of a creation - then dance is just as important as literature or film, even though the audience for it is smaller. And because critics ask choreographers and dancers to appraise their work from a different perspective, pointing out the strengths and flaws in their blind spots, their decline is also a blow to the art form itself.” It is increasingly clear that the mainstream journals are unlikely to reverse their collective decision to drop dedicated dance coverage. If nothing is done, all will be the losers.

Let’s support good writers

THE INTERNATIONAL DANCE WRITING FOUNDATION will set out to identify promising young writers, promoting wider exposure of their writing. Dependent upon the degree if support it receives, it will seek to fund bursaries for their admission to performances and other costs to encourage them to widen their experience in writing on dance, its presentation, both artistic and technical. Our trustees, supported by Clement Crisp, are confident that this Foundation will serve to raise both the quality of writing on dance and assist the careers of young writers. Dancing Times, the leading UK dance journal, and The Financial Times have been strong supporters of this initiative since first proposed.

Trustees

Louise Levene has reviewed ballet and contemporary dance for thirty years. For many years, she was ballet critic for The Daily Telegraph and now writes for The Financial Times and The Spectator. She has published four books.

Gerald Dowler has reviewed ballet and contemporary dance for many years and has reviewed for The Financial Times. He now writes principally for Dancing Times and reviews new productions throughout Europe.

David Wardrop is a regular ballet goer. His principal task is to firmly establish the Foundation with sustainable contacts in those countries where ballet and dance is widely followed.

Registered as a charity in England (charity number 1178171).

Clement Crisp Reviews
- Sixty Years of Dance

Clement Crisp OBE

DANCE CRITIC of The Financial Times for six decades.

160 reviews of first night and other classic performances
130 photographs, 316 pages, hardback
£30 (exc P & P), to be published Spring 2021

• The stars, the choreographers, reviewed worldwide
• The performing traditions of Russia, America, China, Japan, Britain and Denmark
The Sleeping Beauty: The Royal Ballet’s long search for the perfect production
Mayerling: Crown Prince Rudolf, those who have made the role their own
The Rite of Spring: the supreme challenge for the choreographer
• Alicia Markova: Clement’s benchmark ballerina
• The Marquis de Cuevas, from Santiago to Monte Carlo
• Lifar: why le beau Serge?
• Those Clement loved – and why
• ‘Someone had to say it!’ Exhuming those evenings which should never have lived!

Please tell me when the book is publishedClick here

What his friends and admirers say


Clement Crisp: a giant of dance criticism

Clement Crisp saw his first tutu in 1942: Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells

“My pocket money could pay for a rail ticket to London on Saturday afternoons, a glass of milk and a bun for lunch, and a seat in the pit for matinees. I didn’t care that there was a notice in the program telling us where the nearest air raid shelter was. I was hooked”

His passion, his keen eye and trenchant style made him the perfect dance critic. For six decades he wrote penetrating critiques principally for The Financial Times. Adored by his readers, both feared and revered by the artists, his reviews combined erudition, honesty and wit, as fresh today as when first published.

“In reviewing performances, I write as to friends”

No other critic has served as long – or seen as much:

“I recall sitting behind Dame Ninette de Valois when Hightower and Eglevsky sailed in glory through the Black Swan duet during the company‘s first Covent Garden visit in July 1947...”

He was impatient with the second-rate:

“It takes skill to make sex boring, but [Glen]Tetley pulls it off, aided by the turgid nonsense of Korngold’s Sinfonietta, a score actually written by Richard Strauss’s hairdresser”

But never slow to praise the artists he admired:

“Balanchine, in his every work, proclaimed the seeming infinite possibilities of classic ballet: to delight the eye, ennoble the performer, illuminate the music and assert the rule of clarity over murk”

“Zizi[Jeanmaire in excelsis, with ten boys, each armed with an enveloping pink ostrich feather fan, to surround her with a foam of plumage from which, like a Venus of the Music Halls she seems to be born”

“Of course Baryshnikov can jump and beat to dazzle an audience; what is so important is the sense of emotional fantasy that colours each perfect step”

“Mark Morris looks like Isadora Duncan with five o’clock shadow and, like Isadora, he moves with an innocence, and absolute clarity of intention and feeling, that are marvellous”

And not only ballet, he admired everything from Kabuki to Krumping:

“I saw hip hop on the streets of Los Angeles and New York long ago and, contrary to any preconceptions about my taste, I liked it at once, as I like any good dance”

Editor Gerald Dowler brings together also Clement’s observations on flamenco, hip-hop, tango and Tanztheater, a unique assembly of dance styles.


What his friends and admirers say

Sir Robert Cohan, choreographer and director, London Contemporary Dance Theatre

“Clement Crisp is one of the few critics that I consistently read to see what is actually happening in the world of Dance. I look forward to reading his 50 year “history” of the Art”

Lilian Hochhauser, impressario

“Clement Crisp is undoubtedly the most eminent ballet expert in the world. Long may he continue to delight us with his great intellect, wit, knowledge and perception”

Deborah, Lady MacMillan, custodian of the choreograhic works of Kenneth MacMillan©

“What a splendid idea to bring together the best of Clement Crisp’s ballet criticism, his knowledge, understanding, wit and insight to be enjoyed all over again”

Natalia Makarova, ballerina and choreographer

“I love Clement as a person, his loyalty, truthfulness and generosity. Full of charm, he is a treasure. Clement has the deepest love and profound knowledge of the art of ballet. There is nobody like him, never has been and probably never will be”

Dame Monica Mason, ballerina and director, The Royal Ballet

“What a treat to have this collection of reviews and articles to remind us of Clement’s unending passion for classical dance, his rapier wit and his discerning and penetrating eye”

Katarina Novikova, press director, The Bolshoi Theatre

“When the Bolshoi premiered its new staging of Coppelia, I recall the astonishment of Russian journalists when Clement Crisp told them he had first seen this ballet in London in the mid forties. Clement Crisp is the true guru of ballet criticism. His deep knowledge, appreciation and indeed love of the art of classic dance stands him out from his colleagues. None should ignore his writing; so vivid, so refined, sincere and passionate”

Élisabeth Platel, danseuse étoile, Paris Opéra Ballet

“Comment rendre hommage à Clement Crisp avec autant de talent que celui de son écriture. Merci de sa fidélité, de sa grande connaissance, de notre art, des danseurs et des ballets depuis tant d’années et merci de son amitié et de son humour lors de nos rencontres

Dame Antoinette Sibley, ballerina, The Royal Ballet

“Clement's experience of watching dance all over the world is unrivalled - it was always his judgement that meant the most to me”

Paul Taylor, choreographer and director, the Paul Taylor Dance Company [1930-2018]

“I am unable to praise Clement Crisp enough. His knowing eyes, wry humour and astute insights make him the ultimate dance critic of the present day”

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