The Buzz, 1-14: Credibility,
"Nijinsky" Fiasco in Monaco; Funding Crisis in Europe; Michelson
All over the Place; Voice Frames Crutchmaster
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider
Good morning, dance
insider, from Paris, where for the last week, choreographer and
longtime Hamburg Ballet director John Neumeier has owned this town.
"Your fourth time?" Milwaukee's own replied to an adoring fan at
last night's Paris Opera Ballet performance of his 1997 version
of "Sylvia" at the Bastille. It was Neumeier's first night off from
his 2000 "Nijinsky," which Hamburg has been performing at the Garnier.
More on these ballets, review-wise, later in the week; for now I'm
just using this item so I can make a cheeky segue into the next.
.... Speaking of Nijinsky
(see?), not everyone apparently respects what that name means as
much as Neumeier, whose lifelong collecting of Nijinsky memorobilia
has been motivated purely by a desire to get to know his story.
Enter the "Nijinsky Awards," which, just two weeks into 2003, has
already captured The Buzz award for Vastest Credibility Gap of the
year. What should arrive in my mailbox here on the rue de Paradis
today but an announcement from the Ballets de Monte Carlo that Jean-Christophe
Maillot, its director-choreographer, has received "The Nijinsky
Award for the Best Choreographic Production 2001." (They had it
in all-caps. I'm sparing you.) Who organizes, presents, and produces
the "Nijinsky Awards," you ask? Why, the Monaco Danses Forum. And
who's the president of the Monaco Danses Forum? Why, Jean-Christophe
If you'd like to deliver
your raspberry personally and live in New York, New York dance insiders,
Maillot will be at the Brooklyn Academy of Music April 29 to May
Why does this even matter?
Well, because, dance insiders, at least here in Paris, this "awards"
show got a lot of publicity, including the award to Maillot. Ergo,
the image of dance fiascoes like this put forth to the world at
large is of a self-approving insular art which pats itself on the
back with little regard to how this might appear to the public.
Now, it needs to be said -- strongly -- that the dance world leaders
of integrity far outnumber the bad actors. But the bad actors sure
muck things up for the rest of us.
How do they muck things
up? Well, believe it or not, even here in Europe, often seen in
the U.S. as the pot of gold for choreographers where funding is
there for the asking, the environment is changing. Drastically.
In Ireland, for example,
it looks like just when dance -- particularly modern dance -- was
making major strides in terms of seeding an audience, it has taken
a stunning body blow. Faced with an eight percent reduction in funds
this year, the Arts Council of Ireland has just reduced funding
for dance, already getting just a small portion of the $40-some
million pot, by more than a million dollars, from 2,934,000 euros
(the euro is currently valued slightly above the dollar) to 1,920,500.
Among the casualties
are Daghdha Dance Company, which saw its funding for 2003 cut from
400,000 euros to 250,000, and John Scott's Irish Modern Dance Theater,
which will receive 100,000 this year after getting 225,000 the last.
"This is becoming a dark time for dance and for the arts in general,"
says Scott. Now, U.S. dance insider, before you say "I'd take it"
and start shedding crocodile tears for Mr. Scott, remember that
the overall funding paradigm here in Europe is slightly different.
Except for major (ballet) organizations, the private philanthropic
enterprises which support the arts in the U.S. really have no equivalent
here. And the situation may get worse, at least in the Euro Zone,
where under mutual agreement no country can run a deficit. And guess
who recently joined that zone? Ireland.
.... Speaking of Germany
-- whose current deficit will test the above rule and no doubt rebound
negatively to the arts there -- Bauhaus, of the "Medieval" sort,
will be in the house in New York this spring. Make that two houses.
So claims the description of Sara Michelson's new show on The Kitchen
web site, promising, "Medieval Bauhaus meets power ballad in Sarah
Michelson's most ambitious work to date, 'Shadowman.'" Now, believe
it or not, there are occasions when The Buzz is not sure whether
to rant or not. But am I wrong -- the question is not rhetorical,
dance insider, let me know
what you think -- to conclude that the presenting premise of Michelson's
new piece is at least a little pretentious and presumptuous? According
to the web site description, the show will be presented in two parts,
the first at The Kitchen and the second at PS 122. Here's the potentially
pretentious and presumptuous part: "No ticket will be sold for a
single part." So, if you want to catch La Michelson, you need to
fork over $30 (usual admission to The Kitchen is $20, to PS 122
$15) and commit to a couple of evenings. The concept of a split
show is not totally new, but usually it's confined to one theater.
Tony Kushner's epic "Angels in America" took two seances, but, with
all due respect to a choreographer who has worked rigorously for
many years and deserves the laurels she is now getting, is Sara
Michelson really in the same league?
.... Speaking of pretentious:
Does dance only belong to those who are fully mobile? According
to the Village Voice, apparently yes. In a profile of Bill "Crutchmaster"
Shannon, who opens at Dance Theater Workshop next Tuesday, Kate
Mattingly writes in this week's issue:
using a skateboard and two rocker-bottom crutches. At clubs he 'dances'
using the crutches."
What?? Dance insider,
I can think of many instances where quotes should be put around
the word 'dances' in describing a performance, but the challenged
mobility of the performer is not one of them. Does this mean, according
to Ms. Mattingly's system, that Homer Avila, who tragically lost
an entire leg to cancer two years ago, is now not dancing but 'dancing'?
I think not. At the Kennel Club in San Francisco, where I first
learned to enjoy dancing, sans quotes, one of the most inspiring
members of our posse was a young man with long blonde curly hair
who had NO legs, and who propelled himself with the aid of two crutches.
His lack of legs did not restrict his dancing, no quotes. Why would
the Voice, one of our leading voices of credibility, choose to do
Copy desk, get me rewrite!