Despite 12-minute walk, Criterion is better than York Square ever was

To the Editor:

As suggested by Ben Tannen’s column (“New cinema would be welcome sight,” 3/26), the film scene at Yale has been in a state of flux for some years now. I hope that a brief history might yield some perspective on the situation.

The Yale Film Society was founded in the late 1990s as a regular screening venue for current movies as well as guest speakers and sneak previews. This model lasted for some years before attendance dwindled — largely because of growing DVD collections, illegal downloading and the like — and could no longer support regular screenings. Soon thereafter, the Yale administration was stung when a film group, organized through Ezra Stiles College, developed a program based on the Med School model but was threatened with a major lawsuit after it did not properly secure rights to publicly screen the movies.

The film industry has been increasingly aggressive in protecting its assets, and Yale, rightfully, has itself become very mindful of its legal liabilities. Any film screening, if publicized in any way, shape or form, requires securing the legal rights to the film, which typically costs at least $300. As such, we are lucky to have the well-funded Cinema at the Whitney providing a regular schedule of screenings.

York Square, meanwhile, was better in theory than in practice. The theaters had roughly the same dimensions as bowling lanes and, on my last visit, numerous rows of seats were roped off, blanketed in insulation and plaster that had plummeted from the ceiling.

Criterion Cinemas, by contrast, is a tremendous asset for both Yale and New Haven. The theaters are immaculate, the seats plush and the movie selection both current and trendy. The fact that Tannen cited the 12-minute walk to Criterion as its major drawback is emblematic of the difficulty of maintaining a local film culture when other forms of entertainment, from DVDs to YouTube, are ubiquitous.

Michael Schmale ’08

March 26

The writer is co-chair of the Yale Film Society.

Long’s comments cast unfairly negative light on dance as an intellectual pursuit

To the Editor:

Deputy Provost Charles Long’s flippant remark that dance “isn’t really part of an intellectual education” is both misguided and incredibly insulting (“Dancers petition for more space,” 3/7).

First, dance education is not limited to dance performance, as Long seems to assume (“You could imagine having a couple of credits in things that are sheer performance, but how much is too much?”). Dance as a program of study focuses on the history and theory of dance. Dance is one of the oldest forms of human communication, with archeological records dating to 3300 BC. Throughout history, dance has evolved as a medium of cultural, social and aesthetic expression. The academic discipline of dance theory and critical analysis has been developing since the 1920s. Long’s snub against performance obscures the main point: Why does Yale refuse to establish a dance studies program? Whereas we have a century-old music program, an acclaimed theater studies program and a broad-ranging arts program, we have but a single class on dance.

Second, while performance is not the focus of a dance studies program, it is an integral component of study. As Yale “emphasizes” in the Blue Book entry for Theater Studies, within the theater studies program there is a “reciprocal relationship between practice and scholarly study.” In addition to history and theory, a comprehensive dance program also teaches students how to express their own ideas through movement. Dance performance classes, far from being a “departure from the traditional curriculum,” would be in line with Yale’s curriculum in every other art form, as exemplified by classes currently offered in: drawing, filmmaking, graphic design, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, acting, directing, voice, instrumental performance and creative writing.

Given the breadth of Yale’s art curriculum, the lack of a dance program and dance spaces at Yale is baffling. Does Yale really not consider dance a legitimate art form? Yale owes the dance community an explanation as to why dance is so disproportionately underfunded and undervalued.

Lucy Wang ’05

March 11

The writer is the former business manager for Groove.