I’ve heard people say that you should have watched 800 dance performances before you begin as a critic. I’d only seen about 250 when I began. I’ve heard other people say you should have been watching dance for twenty years. I’d been going frequently for less than two. A friend of mine said the other night that “There’s no such thing as a good young critic.” Her point was that a critic who’s only seen three Ophelias doesn’t know enough, whereas someone who’s seen 20 does. Well, even now that I’ve seen more than twenty Ophelias, I still don’t agree. I would rather read a fresh critic coming new to the art form with all his/her wits than an old-fart critic who’s tedious to read. Those ideas about experience propose that a critic must be an expert. I, however, believe that criticism begins not in knowledge but in ignorance. You can’t prepare for a new ballet, a new dancer, a new play, a new work of music, a new trend. Expertise won’t help you with the new; but an open mind will. And actually you can’t prepare for the qualities that will make your 300th “Swan Lake” different from the previous 299. My second answer, however, may seem to contradict my first. A critic should use all the experience he/she has. I’ve always thought historically, and I happen to have a very detailed and extensive memory, so I’ve always made a lot of use both of research and experience. For me, criticism is certainly the first stage of history, and I go on re-thinking a great many of the past performances I’ve seen, even after more than thirty years.
The article excerpt above was taken from the free arts digest “You’ve Cott Mail.”