When they close the book on dance blogging, history will note that it was here, and here alone, that Panda bears and cocaine were mentioned in the same piece of writing. It is those two most disparate elements that highlight at least one of the shortcomings when professional dancers take to the blogosphere.
Pandas come into the mix thanks to Atlanta Ballet and 17 year old dancer Leah Boresow. Whilst performing for the company in their annual production of 'The Nutcracker' Ms Boresow, dressed in a full panda costume, tumbled from the stage into the orchestra pit sustaining serious injuries in the process. We shall overlook the very idea that some idiot dance maker (John McFall) put panda bears in the 'Nutcracker' in the first place and move on!
The incident was so serious that not only did the dancer require spinal surgery the accident is being investigated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the US version of the Health and Safety Executive here in the UK.
Fortunately Ms Boresow is recovering and has been released from hospital.
What has this to do with dance blogging? It turns out that one of the dancers from Atlanta Ballet is also a blogger on The Winger dance website. In a recent post, about the company's 'Nutcracker', the small detail of a dancer being seriously hurt was left out. You would imagine that such an occurrence would be at the forefront of a dancers mind when recounting the goings on of the current performance run.
This past July, Nilas Martins, a dancer with the New York City Ballet, was arrested and subsequently convicted for the possession of cocaine. As if to add insult to injury he was on tour with NYCB at the time and happens to be the son of the company's Ballet Master.
Once again we turn to The Winger where we find three of the contributors, including the founder, Kristin Sloan, are members of the New York City Ballet. Neither at the time nor since has any mention been made of either the arrest or the subsequent conviction of Mr Martins.
Only the most naive person would imagine that drug use is not an issue in all forms of dance for recreational, performance and pain management purposes. So why not talk about it? Why not tell the truth? You would imagine that such an incident would cause some discussion about drugs in the dance world, a discussion that really needs to be had. The silence was, sorry to say, deafening!
It is perhaps unfortunate for The Winger that both of these incidents concern companies whose dancers blog for that site. I doubt the situation would be any different no matter where the dancer's blogs were published. I would also bet all the money in my pocket that the contracts these dancers have with their respective companies negate any possibility of them presenting their employers in a negative light, especially in the media. Also, non of the dancers blogging on The Winger were involved in either incident.
However, it's hard to imagine press coverage more negative than a drugs arrest and a teenage girl getting seriously injured during a performance. Back in July we noted in a feature piece, [Danger Danger Danger], that dance bloggers were unlikely to air the dirty laundry of their companies in public for fear of reprisals in the form being immediately sacked and rendered completely unemployable.
Bearing all of this in mind, what exactly are we getting when we read a dance blog written by a working dancer?
Without doubt we are only getting half the story, if that, as the two incidents above highlight. A very pretty picture is being painted of the dance world and the issues and problems are swept under the carpet away from prying eyes. The implications for freedom of speech and expression are also potentially quite serious, especially in the USA, with the all powerful 1st Amendment at play. Being told to keep quiet is not something that goes down well in most quarters!
Also, don't we all work in the arts? Isn't art all about the expression of ideas and opinions?
All professions, artistic or not, have their issues but the creatives are supposed to be the progressive thinkers, unafraid to speak up and to speak out when things go wrong and tackle difficult issues head on. Sadly, there seems to be little evidence thus far in the blogoshpere (I hate that word, Ed!) that dancers are using the internet to discuss real issues.
At the time of writing Mr Martins has not added "busted for cocaine possession" to his biography on the NYCB website. Is anyone surprised?