Saturday, September 8, 2007

Where Did the Performing Art go?

By THEA RUTHERFORD, Guardian National Correspondent

'Memba when each school had its own talent show? When students were taught to get up on stage and allocute, to perform, to express themselves en masse. When there were so many live shows with local headliners to go and see that it was hard to decide which show you would see each night.

When did the death knell ring on the live performance scene that the country once thrived on?

"I don't think it's too much to say that on one level we are in a crisis with regards to the state of the performing arts in the country," says director of culture Dr. Nicolette Bethel. "For the first time since the casinos opened dancers have not been able to find work." The national stage is becoming the stage that once was, as the performing arts tread water in a society that has slowly closed its eyes and ears for what Bethel estimates to be the last 20 years. The reasons for the decline of the performing arts read like a grocery list of what should have been done and unfortunately, what has been done.

Now a lack of appreciation for the value of the arts is one of the loudest cries from artists in all genres. But performing artists have taken a combination beating that includes a lack of funding from the government and the private sector, a lack of appreciation for the immense training and skills that performance requires and a national amnesia about legendary artists who have represented the country abroad, not to mention the stars that are coming into their own now. Then there were the tumultuous '80s – the decade that brought the trifecta of trauma to the performing arts.

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