If I had to isolate the precise locus of old-fashionedness in dance, however, I'd say it belongs to the upper arms. The epiphany occurred while watching the Cubans at the Wiltern, during Alihaydée Carreño's mad scene. Later that night, I was in bed reading Martha Graham's memoir, Blood Memory, in which she says something to the effect that the upper arm is the most important part of the body in movement. She's right, and it's all there in the photos.
Graham, we know, was everything that's captured in her photos and more. She was mythic. (There are several more photos by Barbara Morgan at the Getty, and some of them are the inspiration for a performance on the premises on March 12 and 13 by the American Repertory Dance Company.) But if you can't trust today's dance photos, then what exactly will be the legacy of the next generation?
One might guess that the Top 10 list for the 21st century will likely reflect the dancers who have made the most Bulova watch ads. But I think audiences and readers are smarter than that. Photography of dance and photography of dancers are now two separate things, and in most cases both have little connection to the dance that really happens. The old-fashioned days of trusting one's reaction to an 8-by-10 dance glossy are over.
DANCE IN PHOTOGRAPHY and EDGAR DEGAS, PHOTOGRAPHER | At the Getty Center | 1200 Getty Center Drive | Both through March 28
AMERICAN REPERTORY DANCE COMPANY | At the Harold M. Williams Auditorium at the Getty Center | Friday, March 12, 8 p.m., and Saturday, March 13, 2 p.m.