The modern storytelling revival was presaged by the folk music of the early 1960's and there was a resurgence of the ballad, the folk story, and similar traditional folk arts. It was a 'fringe' experience, often limited to college campuses, coffee houses and the like.
Nearing the Bicentennial, in 1976, however, there was a renewed interest in discovering, reclaiming and reshaping traditional arts of all forms. Candle-making, textile arts, and storytelling sprang to life. Suddenly the traditions, amusements, and ways of pioneer folk became intensely interesting to academics, anthropologists, and many others. As is often the case, the fact that many pockets of society and culture had never lost this particular art form - well, that was of small consequence.
In the late 1970's and through the 1980's storytelling was "in." It had been discovered by the artistic segments of society and was ratified by academics, social theorists, and arts communities as being 'valid' and 'authentic'. Across the country storytellers emerged to speak for and from their unique vantage points : urban ghettos, inner city neighborhoods, small towns, rural hollows, mountain peaks, desert plains, and shady bayous. Stories were everywhere! Wasn't it lucky they were re-discovered and saved...
Storytelling has always been around. It never went anywhere. It simply did not fill the stage or the concert hall until it was socially recognized and an "approved" was stamped across it by the arts community or the winds of a particular trend in society.
As the result of these trends, artificial elements, and strange combinations of artistic DNA, have resulted in limiting understanding of what storytelling is and what it can be. The great white dancing stallions of Europe were put through precise, rigid forms, dressed in sparkling braid and with tall plumes in their hats. Audiences exclaimed at the grandeur of these dancing horses, weren't they clever to teach them to dance? The truth was, the movements were nothing a horse did not or could not do on its own. The rigid steps and artificial dress were the result of attempting to make the natural movements and abilities of the horse fit into an artificial and unnatural form (i.e., 'to dance').
Is this what some have attempted to do with storytelling as an art form? Storytelling's legitimacy seems to often be measured, not against its own internal essence, but in comparison or contrast to another art form or communication media.
"Well, if storytelling were just more like....theater...stand-up comedy....or less rustic....home based....historic...spoken-word...or....."
"If storytelling was more stylized, spontaneous, hip, gritty, provocative....."
The evolution of an art form, to be authentic, must emerge from the art form and its working artists, to be of true value. The purpose of the shift must be in response to the hunger of the artist to do something more, different, or achieve in a new manner. Sometimes, that might even mean a return to an older traditional form but whatever the case it happens organically within the artistic realm.
"Jazz" developed outside the confines of traditional standards of what comprised true music.
"Impression" developed outside the artistic world that defined true artistic painting by its intensive detail and realism.
Today, can we say that either of those two do not reflect true art? If the voices that shrilled out derision or conformity had been listened to by many artists the world would be missing many enriching and lovely examples of artist expression.
The question for reflection might be: who is defining storytelling today, why, and how should the storytelling community respond?