When I first moved here from New York more than twenty years ago, my friends in New York were shocked. How could I give up all that New York had to offer for. . .well, for whatever it was there was in Richmond? Well, it didn’t take long to realize that I wasn’t losing anything in terms of theater, as I soon found that Richmond has a thriving and high quality theater community. However, I can’t say the same about the dance community.
Before I address that potentially explosive statement, allow me to take a moment to digress on the “community” aspect of the RVA theater community. People know me as a reviewer or critic (a word I don’t care for, as it sounds as if my job is to find fault, rather than share, explain, discuss, educate, or question – but that’s a whole ‘nother topic).
In my NY experience, reviewers were not usually embraced by the theater community. Not so in RVA. In May 2018 I had two surgeries, six days apart. The second procedure, a spinal fusion, left me immobile for six weeks – no bending, twisting, or lifting, no housework, no driving. The RVA theater community immediately organized a meal train, and for five solid weeks, someone brought or sent meals to my house every other day! The food and the fellowship of the calls and visits were healing, and it is something I will never forget! I cannot imagine that happening “back home.” Now, back to our scheduled topic.
When I go to Richmond Triangle Players, I see people that I saw at The Basement. When I’m at The Firehouse, I see people that I saw at CAT the night before. Audience members, actors, directors, designers are all part of a community that loves and supports theater. Although there are occasional conflicts where two or even three theater companies will have an opening on the same night, I am generally able to get to see the majority of shows; if I’m out of town the weekend a show opens at Swift Creek Mill or Virginia Rep, I can go the next week. Most shows have a run of about three weeks or weekends, and some of the “larger” companies have longer runs. But with dance – not so much. Actually, with dance – not at all.
Most times there are just three performances of a dance program over one weekend. A larger company, such as the Richmond Ballet, may have several shows over six days, but that is the exception. Some of the larger national or international companies that come to VCU or University of Richmond have only a single performance, often on a weeknight.
By the time a review is published – if a review is scheduled to be published at all – the program has closed. Potential audience members have missed out on a beautiful, transitory experience. Granted, there are not as many dance companies or venues as there are theater companies and venues, but there is excellent dance in Richmond, and the dance programs at VCU and University of Richmond attract national and international artists for performances and teaching opportunities. Both Starr Foster and Kaye Weinstein Gary bring nationally known and cutting edge dance to RVA. Dogtown Dance Theatre provides opportunities for new and emerging artists. And there are others.
I have a proposal, which may or may not be viable, but here it is. What if two or three choreographers or companies worked in collaboration and rented a space for three weekends? Each could have a performance on a Friday, and possibly two on Saturday, and Sunday, for example. This could conceivably make it more financially viable for each artist to have a longer run, and potentially reach a larger audience. I understand that there are issues involving lighting and sets and props, but we have seen theater companies run two shows simultaneously on the same set, with a few modifications and creative lighting, so it can be done. Just a thought. I’d love to hear your input. I just want to see dance – my passion – shine in RVA as much as theater does.