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The Buzz, 2-4: Last Look
Taylor Cuts Jacobs after 23 Years; Jones Schools Times

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider

A month before the opening of his New York season and less than a month after the resignation of executive director Ross Kramberg, Paul Taylor has fired his second most devoted administrative worker after Kramberg, publicist Ellen Jacobs, Jacobs said yesterday.

"I had worked for the Taylor Company for 23 years," Jacobs said, "and was fired last week, a month before the City Center season, for a string of rational reasons including, but not limited to: lack of loyalty, insufficient knowledge of the repertory, failure to get coverage, particularly in The New York Times, as well as general incompetence and illiteracy. I guess I pulled the wool over the company's eyes for a quite a while, huh? -- even the genius himself."

Asked why she was fired, Taylor's general manager, John Tomlinson, insisted, "No one said she was fired. After a long and very successful relationship, the Paul Taylor Dance Company decided not to continue working with Ellen Jacobs Associates. A press release announcing our choice for future representation will be in your hands shortly."

A legend in dance, Jacobs has counted among her clients Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, the France Moves festival and, currently, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Joyce Theater, and the Lyon Opera Ballet.

"She's the best," Yorgos Loukos, Lyon's artistic director, told the Dance Insider in Paris last night after his company premiered Mats Ek's "Fluke" at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt. "If she really has been fired, it's a terrible thing -- for the (Taylor) company, not for her."

If the reasons for Jacobs's dismissal by Taylor remain obscure, her devotion to her clients has always been apparent. In a dance publicity environment where many press releases lack authority, Jacobs's knowledge of and sincere passion for Taylor's and other clients' work is always evident in her press releases and pitches to journalists. Her record in placing stories in the Sunday New York Times and elsewhere is unmatched, and her ability to cultivate the Times's Sunday dance editors has made her the envy of her colleagues. Current editor Fletcher Roberts's interview of Jones appeared in last Sunday's editions, ahead of this week's BAM season.

Jacobs's courting of journalists, whether freelancers or editors, is never capricious and always received as sincere, genuine, and, often, beyond the call of duty. When Times dance editor Gene Lambinus retired, it was Jacobs who threw him the retirement party. When longtime freelancer and Dance Magazine news editor Joe Mazo passed away in 1995, none of the choreographers to whom he had devoted his career were at the sparsely attended funeral. Jacobs, their finest press representative, rented a limousine with which to escort several DM employees and friends of Mazo to the cemetery. Later, she convinced the Joyce board to dedicate a seat in the theater -- O2, Mazo's customary vantage point -- to the dance writer with a plaque, an honor usually reserved for donors. But Jacobs knew that what Mazo had given to dance was priceless -- a word which might be applied to her tireless and devoted service to Taylor, which the company will find hard to replace.

If her dedication has ultimately not moved the capricious Taylor, the dancers are not blind to it. "Ellen has been a dear friend for over 18 years, ever since I was a 21-year-old, jumping off of ramps in Eliot (Feld)'s company," said former Taylor dancer, Verb Ballets director, and Dancers Responding to Aids co-founder Hernando Cortez. "She also introduced me when DRA received our Dance Magazine award. She was always at our benefits and pitched terrific features to periodicals. She worked pro bono on several DRA events and was instrumental in publicizing our 'Dancing for Life' show. I love her dearly!"

.... Ellen Jacobs has not hesitated to tangle with journalists when, in her view, defending her clients necessitated it. Her ferocious defenses of Jones during past press contretemps is legendary. And speaking of Bill T. Jones, tomorrow night at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, legendary Jones/Zane alumni Heidi Latsky, Arthur Aviles, and Sean Curran return to dance the roles they originated in Zane's 1987 "The Gift/No God Logic."Also performing on the same evening will be Cassandra Wilson and Vernon Reid, lending their musical gifts to a reworking of Jones's 1994 "Still/Here."

Last night at BAM, the company was scheduled to give the New York premiere of "Reading, Mercy and the Artificial Nigger." Notwithstanding that, as he notes, the title is taken from the Flannery O'Connor story on which the dance is based, "The Artificial Nigger," Roberts couldn't resist asking Jones whether he wasn't "exploiting" the N-word "for commercial reasons."

"You mean am I being cynical?" Jones asked.

"I guess you could say that," Roberts admitted.

"Well, I'm a little offended. That's an unfair question to ask me. You can ask that of any artist who's trying to do something that's strong. We live in a very mediocre world. It doesn't take much to shock people. And quite frankly billions are made with the tripe that Hollywood puts out. You put a pair of well-shaped breasts on a billboard and a catchy title and you're guaranteed to make millions. I'm not doing that, now am I? This is not an easy piece to watch."

In a world where government-appointed FCC chairmen tolerate a network's banning of an ad critical of the government (which has exempted the same network from media ownership rules) on the one hand, then turn around and express outrage that the network has revealed the female breast, on the other hand, I say: Amen to you, Mr. Jones.

For more information on Jones/Zane's BAM season, please visit the BAM web site.


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