“I have not seen anything in the US as extreme as what I have seen [in Australia] in the past week.”
– Deborah Jowitt

In the second episode of season three, Angela, Jana, and Beth speak to Deborah Jowitt, legendary dance critic and the idol of everyone in the room. A long-term critical columnist for The Village Voice (1967-2011), Jowitt has created an immensely influential body of work that includes four books – the latest of which, on Jerome Robbins, was published by Simon and Schuster in 2004. Having lectured at Princeton, Barnard, and Tisch School of the Arts, and recipient of two Bessies, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Deborah Jowitt is one of the seminal voices of and for the 20th century dance.

“People were concerned, there seemed to be disaster all round: enmity between countries, the possibility of bombs falling. I really thought: we’re going aerobic. We’re going to tone our bodies so we can run all the way from New York to Westchester county without getting hit.”
– Deborah Jowitt

The conversation took place during the Keir Choreographic Awards, as we were recovering from an intense week of seeing Australian emerging contemporary dance, discussing contemporary dance, and making contemporary dance happen, and there was a sense of intense camaraderie in the room. It was really beautiful, being able to speak about the value of criticism, the worth it creates, by drawing on the experiences of someone who has seen half a century of dance go by, who wrote its history, who taught us how to see dance when we had no storyline, no character, and no balletic vocabulary to hook onto. This was very, very special.

Discussed in this episode:
it’s not ‘the body’, but ‘the dancers’; the 1960s revolution against elitism; incorporating the building janitor into a choreography; pilates; Keir Choreographic Awards, and where is the dancing in contemporary dancing?; ideas that cannot be physically fleshed out – what fuels it in Australia?; the overuse of the word ‘ephemeral’; how to legitimise a new form; Judson Dance Theater; how criticism creates desire; and that not being a good artist doesn’t mean you’re not a good person.

“The work reveals itself to you, if you’re open and receptive.”
– Deborah Jowitt

Enjoy and stay tuned: we have more exciting and stimulating conversations to come.

Podcast bibliography:
Deborah Jowitt: Time and the Dancing Image
Deborah Jowitt writes about her Australian visit
Deborah Jowitt: Carolyn Carlson—From France to Jersey; Russell Dumas—Up From Oz
Deborah Jowitt Archive on

For more information about Deborah Jowitt’s work, and to read her contemporary writing, visit her blog DanceBeat on ArtsJournal.

This series of AUDIOSTAGE has been commissioned by DANCEHOUSE as part of the 2016 Keir Choreographic Award Public Program and was generously supported by the Keir Foundation.