Talking Moves Series 4 Episode 2: Feedback & Criticism

Talking Moves | 15 October 2021

In this episode, we talk to Isaac Ouro-Gnao and Donald Hutera about the role of Feedback & Criticism.

Every artist making work and putting it out there into the world is inviting an opinion of some kind: be that from their immediate collaborators, their performers, the raised eyebrow of a parent or mentor, their audience, or critics. Feedback is so useful to the artistic process, but it’s hard to take at times. And perhaps also, hard to give. In this episode we talk to two artists to find out a bit more about the art of critique, its relevance today and how we can, perhaps as an industry, do it better.

Our guests have a foot in both camps – working as artists but also as published journalists. So as people of words we start off by defining some… analysing the words ‘review’, ‘feedback’ and ‘criticism’ and establishing whether they were interchangeable or if there were notable differences. We decide that perhaps feedback is for artists and reviews serve as documentation or for audience information. It was the word criticism everyone feels a little more uncomfortable with…

Donald and Isaac both share instances where they had felt criticised in print, and how they dealt with conflicting opinions. We talk about ethics: permission, recognising objectivity is impossible, that there is no right or wrong (only opinion) and that sometimes feedback (and reviews) are not actually wanted. We conclude that the hunger to know more about artists and their work and dialogue are both key to useful criticism.

The subject of diversity of voices threads its way through our conversation and we discuss ways we might better achieve a multiplicity of voices within the industry of dance journalism that is in itself diminishing.

But perhaps most importantly we talk about responsibility – and what those who have a voice can do to shine the spotlight and give over some space to voices that are lesser heard.

You may like to dip into the following articles before or after you listen…

The Stage feature: Race and Theatre Criticism We Need Critical Change

The Stage feature: Race and Theatre Criticism On Writing about Race Equity’s Recommendations for Theatre Critics

Who's Who

Donald Hutera headshot

Donald Hutera

Donald Hutera has written reviews, previews, interviews and cultural commentary for a wide variety of international publications (including The Times of London), websites and books since 1977. He has been a ‘judge’ on numerous performing arts festival and commissioning panels; mentored aspiring critics for, among others, Aerowaves dance platform, the British Council and English National Ballet; and been guest speaker or writer-in residence at dance, theatre and circus gatherings world-wide including ArtsCross (UK/China/Taiwan, 2009-2103) and Aerowaves Springback (Europe, since 2014). As a dramaturg he has worked with, among others, Avatara Ayuso and Ignition Festival. He also curated the performance platforms GOlive (London, Oxford and Winchester) and Chelsea Arts Collective (CAC). His involvement as PR representative for Taiwan Season, the annual (and currently online) Edinburgh Fringe showcase and symposium, began in 2016. As an actor, dancer and performance-maker his past work includes productions with Illusion and Penumbra theatre companies in his native Minnesota, and two commissions each from Guardians of Doubt (GoD) and InTRANSIT Festival. More recently he helped devise and appeared in Rhiannon Faith’s dance-theatre production DROWNTOWN (UK digitial tour) and its short film prequel DROWNTOWN LOCKDOWN. He is currently a proud member of Posh Club*Dance Club, Inky Cloak’s Inside Out drama club and Hackney Social Radio’s production club.
Isaac Ouro-Gnao head shot

Isaac Ouro-Gnao

Isaac Ouro-Gnao is a Togolese-British multidisciplinary artist and freelance journalist.

He creates empathetic and thought-provoking work rooted in traditional African realism, magical realism, and Africanfuturism.

His impact in the dance world has been multifaceted; working as a performer, voice artist, scriptwriter, and marketer for esteemed dance theatre artists and companies.

Credits include award-winning Family Honour (2018) by Spoken Movement; Olivier award-winning BLKDOG (2018) by Far From The Norm; sold-out solo The Oreo Complex (2018); nationally acclaimed Father Figurine (2019) by Body Politic; and Foreign Bodies (2019) by Ella Mesma Company.

His writing has appeared in the form of features, reviews, and poetry in publications such as Lolwe, The Stage, A Younger Theatre, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, and more.

Isaac is a member of Body Politic’s board of directors and is a mental health advocate through Mind charity’s Young Black Men steering group.

Photo: Luke Lentes

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