Deborah Jowitt photo by David Dashiell
In a dispute with her editor over the tenor of her criticism — it was consistently too positive — Deborah Jowitt has quit writing dance reviews for The Village Voice after more than 40 years on the beat. And while she may wind up contributing occasional features to the weekly, her departure is a huge loss for the New York dance scene and the dance world in general. Forget John Martin, Edwin Denby, Clive Barnes, Arlene Croce or Sally Banes, all greats in their own right. Jowitt is the best critic the form has ever seen.
Her powers of description are unmatched, which is part of what brought her to an impasse with Voice arts and culture editor Brian Parks. In the Internet age, he needs sharp opinion to compete. But Jowitt is so sharp at describing and contextualizing movement that she never found it necessary to develop a smarmy critical voice. Instead, she gets so far inside the dance that readers who weren’t there can see it.
Jowitt is a top dance historian as well. Her out-of-print but available online and in used bookstores (I’ve found it at Half-Price Books twice) masterpiece, Time and the Dancing Image, is unequaled in its scope and depth. Let’s hope she finds another outlet, which she is seeking, and that the new book she’s working on comes out soon.