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The Buzz, 4-2: Fault-lines
Quelle Diable!: Diablo Ballet Wants Your Money but doesn't want Critics at "Earthquake''s 'World Premiere'

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider

Take a look at the website of San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and you'll see "Earthquake," the ballet Diablo Ballet is presenting there Wednesday, described as a "world premiere," the privilege for seeing which the public is being asked to cough up as much as $25 per ticket. The website for Computers & Structures, Inc., the structural and earthquake engineering software company which commissioned the ballet from Diablo co-artistic director Nikolai Kabaniaev, also calls Wednesday's performance the ballet's 'world premiere.' And the press release we received last week from co-artistic director Lauren Jonas says, "For tickets to the world premiere... Wednesday, April 5, 2006, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, call (415) 978-ARTS." And yet, when we requested press tickets to review, Jonas wrote back to tell us, "We are not having press reviews for this performance since it's a preview." When I wrote back to ask how a 'world premiere' had become a 'preview' in the less than 24 hours between when she'd sent me the press release and when she'd responded to our press ticket request, I received the following response from Ashraf Habibullah, coincidentally president of both Diablo Ballet and of Computers & Structures:

"As you know all dance productions are faced with the challenges of technical difficulties, scheduling and coordination issues, not to talk about injuries. Small mishaps or miscommunications can trigger major changes in the direction of events.... I also am sure that this is not first time you have been faced with cancelled shows or modified schedules....The complexity of this production has created some unforeseen technical issues that are beyond our control. Cancelling the show is not a viable option at this stage. Also, I think it will be unfair to your large international reader base to have them read about a product that may not be at its best."

My response to Mr. Habibullah:

"Thanks for your note, but you don't address the fundamental questions. I am well aware that dance productions are faced with the various 'challenges' you mentioned. However, this is the first time I've heard of in 25 years of covering dance that a company is telling the paying public it's presenting a 'world premiere,' but telling critics -- not in the press release, but if they happen to ask for press tickets to review -- that this is a 'preview' essentially unfit for review. If you're asking the public to pay for it, it should be open for review. If it's not ready for prime time, you should be telling the public. Also, if it would be 'unfair to (our) large international reader base to have them read about a product that may not be at its best,' why is it fair to charge your local public to see it? Are you informing them that the product which they're paying to see 'may not be at its best'?"

If it has not done so already, I urge Diablo Ballet to tell not just critics, but its paying audience for what it's calling "Earthquake"'s 'world premiere' Wednesday that this is really a 'preview,' and that they will be seeing a "product that may not be at its best."

 

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