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The Buzz, 3-20: Cry, the Beloved Country
Rogues in the White House; Bad Behavior at APAP; How Artists Can Save the Soul of the U.S.

"I believe in this beautiful country.... But, today I weep for my country.... No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper.... Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.... Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves.... We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.... Why can this president not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?"

--Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia and Dean of the United States Senate, Address to the US Senate, March 19, 2003.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider

PARIS -- This morning, in violation of international law and in contemptuous defiance of the United Nations and most of the world, President George Bush launched an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation, with the intent of overthrowing its government. Unable to rig the vote in the UN Security Council as he rigged the Florida elections, Mr. Bush has marshalled the bodies of hundreds of thousands of young Americans and Britons for a personal vendetta and holy crusade which, far from making the U.S. more secure, will only only fertilize the volatile terrain of the Middle East and risk producing more Mohammed Attas. The consequences of Mr. Bush's action are more appropriately addressed elsewhere. I'd like to address here the impact on the dance and arts world.

The existential concerns of Mr. Bush's war are the thousands of Iraqi and American lives it puts at risk. But there's another concern in the example set by Mr. Bush's credo: Might makes right; I'll do what I want to do and I won't listen to anyone who contradicts me; money (or oil) is the most important thing.

Last Friday, we reported the previous Friday's firing of six employees by Arts Presenters and its director, Sandra Gibson. (Who, by the way, has not responded to Dance Insider inquiries about her own future at APAP.)

Earlier this week, as I discussed the APAP situation with another dance insider, the management re-envisioning of APAP began to look like the Republicanization of APAP. We have a president who does not listen to protests; the same goes for APAP. The back room business deal is glorified in this country now; the same is true for APAP. The corporate nature of the arts as a business has come to the front now. The arts should not be about 'best-practices' or 'realignment of staff,' but they are now at APAP. Arts Presenters could become an organization of lag-bolt salesmen now -- it really doesn't make a difference: Performing Arts... hardware... pencils... those little pieces of tape on the end of shoelaces -- the present APAP management, this dance insider pointed out, has now brought the level of the arts to that of any business out there. But what the APAP members -- including the theaters that present dance -- are 'selling' is not the same as lag bolts. Sure, lag bolts keep your car from flying apart when you drive, but without the difference that the arts make in people's lives, maybe cars flying apart isn't such a bad thing. We choose to work in the arts, not because of the fabulous money, and chance for advancement up the corporate ladder, but because they are different. Ms. Gibson, APAP vice president Kim Chan and the rest of the new management -- how many vice presidents was that at last count? -- are re-envisioning the soul out of the last soulful thing out there.

To send an e-mail to APAP president Sandra Gibson, please click here. To send an e-mail to APAP vice president Kim Chan, please click here.

Speaking of soul: In New York, attendance at theaters is down, with audiences -- and perhaps artists -- finding it hard to get motivated for a dance concert when the world is on fire, helicopters hover over Brooklyn, and AK47-wielding soldiers (with the best of motives) guard Times Square. To those artists, I have this advice: It's easy to succumb to a feeling of impotence in the face of what is now being perpetrated in our name, and fear over what may be perpetrated on us as afterwards. But you do have Power -- and authority -- in at least one respect. With your art, you create an alternate vision of the soul of the U.S. to the one found at the business end of a rifle. You use your body not to intimidate others, but to inspire them. Remember: The opposite of war is creation.


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