Why Enthusiasm? Why The Dance Enthusiast?
Christine Jowers, Founding Editor of The Dance Enthusiast
First, two brilliant quotes that continually inspire me:
"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Poet Laureate
"To be positive is the most subversive..." Faustin Linyekula, Performance Artist/Choreographer/Founder of Studios Kabako
Re-edited in 2020.
When I was a young girl, I was fortunate that my father was the the Director of The Virgin Islands Council on the Arts. His job not only involved supporting the artists in our community, but also involved hosting and greeting visiting artists to our islands. Growing up, my brother and I were lucky to meet many dynamic artists -- people who radiated energy, beauty, and purpose. My mother, also involved in arts and community, was the curator of the Virgin Islands Museum at Fort Christian in St. Thomas. We took part in the free programs she set up for school children to learn about our unique West Indian heritage and the arts.
Before I had an idea that there was a field of professional dance, a thing called modern dance, or post-modern dance, my family and community of friends, who we from the islands often refer to as "cousin family", were (and continue to be) an inspiration and of deep influence in my life. Surrounded by natural beauty of the land and the traditions the Caribbean, the ideas of connection, service, and responsiblity were instilled in me. "All Ah We Is One," "Stay Up," and "Positive is how I live," are expressions that defined my youth and lead me into elderhood.
I am grateful for my island family and my Caribbean heritage. They are always with me, informing me on whatever new project I take on -- grounding me when I feel unsure of what to do.
In the late 1960's throughout the 1970's, (when Merce Cunningham and his company started touring in a VW bus and the Dance Theatre of Harlem was formed by Arthur Mitchell), I was introducing my Barbie dolls to artists from: the American Ballet Theater, The Royal Danish Ballet, George Faison's Universal Experience Dance Company, Eleo Pomare's company, and The Dance Theatre of Harlem.
These fascinating people are the reason I connected to the art of dance, went on to study dance history and criticism in college, and eventually became a professional dancer, teacher, and producer of dance projects, now a writer on the field.
I started the The Dance Enthusiast project because I respect the committment of artists, dancers in particular, to communication, truth, and questions about existence. I respect the work ethic and the oral traditions of the dance community. Funnily enough, the dance world of New York reminds me a great deal my island. Maybe that’s why I feel at home here.
Dancers, like Virgin Islanders, are a small (but mighty) group of extraordinarily diverse people who, in one way or another, are all related. While rarely materially rich, both dancers and Virgin Islanders are blessed with talent and deep spirit. We share. We look out for one another. Our common culture binds us deeply.
I dream of connecting others to the stories of this important, ephemeral art and its practioners.
Intially this project was a response to what I noticed as "bored", "dismissive," often "bitchy" criticism or "no -writing at-all" about people who I knew were out in the field doing great work. I asked my friend Will Arnold, then a recent graduate of NYU, and now head of Design Brooklyn, if he thought we could create something with a different tone and we began. It caught on. Fascinating.
Over the years, I have welcomed new voices on the site and continue to welcome participation of interested contributors. I've never wanted The Dance Enthusiast to be all about me, a solo performance. I may not always agree with how my contributors see dance, nor will they always understand my point of view. But, agreement doesn't interest me as much as respect for one another, clear communication, and passion for the the dance field.
Our field needs to be written about. There is no way The Dance Enthusiast can do it all . Even with the rotation of wonderful contributors we have here, to write about the rich, full, varied New York City scene is a daunting task. Writers of dance need to be nurtured, supported, and edited. The history of our field depends on this. I am happy to be part of a movement to record dance history.
I would like The Dance Enthusiast to inspire and welcome conversation, a conversation between writers, dancers, and audiences. I would like to offer here, to the best of my ability, sincere communication about a beautiful and necessary art form.
Please join me and the wonderful Dance Enthusiast co-editors and contributors in this positive movement of dance communication. Stay up!