Should Galas Be Reviewed—Or Not?

May 12, 2013

May is gala month. Last week was New York City Ballet’s gala and tonight is American Ballet Theatre’s. We also saw the Danspace Project gala and the Dance Against Cancer gala. Last month we had the Limón gala and next month is Jacob’s Pillow’s, and there are many more to come..

Galas have one purpose: to raise money. They are essential to the survival of a company or presenter. Each has its own programming goals too. Arts groups want to give their longtime supporters a good time, or they want to show off their stars. I’ve noticed that critics often rail against the programming: They say the speeches are too long, the excerpts are too short, the show is tedious because all principals have to be given a chance, or the principals don’t dance enough.

I enjoy fundraising benefits because they allow me to get to know the artists better. I think critics should be invited, but maybe just as research, as background information, like going to a website. Critics represent the audience and the readership of the publication they write for, but they don’t represent the donors. We cannot expect critics to know or care about donors. So maybe they shouldn’t be expected to review a gala. What purpose does it serve, anyway, to review a show that is designed with donors in mind?

So I am asking: If dance companies invited critics to come and see the gala but request that they refrain from writing a review, who would be the worse off for it? If you have an opinion, please email me at [email protected]. —Wendy Perron