The Buzz, 4-8: Words
APAP mis-Presents Firings; Graham Moves in and Grabs Pini; 'Internationalism'
in Seine-Saint-Denis (no Americans Allowed); Chronicle Critic Appoints
Anderson Cranko Muse; Steven Heathcoate -- This is Your Life!
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider
Are the approximately
1,700 members of Arts Presenters being served? A look at this month's
APAP newsletter tells the story: APAP's staff, 22 at full strength,
is down to a dozen, according to the staff listing in the publication.
At least seven of the missing were fired March 7 or shortly thereafter,
previously reported. At the time, we asked a new hire,
vice president Patrick Madden, if APAP would be informing its presenter-members
of these substantial personnel moves. Here's what he answered:
"Through our regular
communications vehicles over the next few weeks and months we will
be announcing the advances we are making to execute the strategic
plan. To give you a specific example, we have a members' newsletter
that is in final proof stages that will be sent out in the next
week or so that will include this information."
Here's the closest the
members' newsletter comes to addressing this subject (and I use
the term 'addressing' guardedly):
"In January, we also
highlighted the new strategic plan adopted by the board of directors
in the fall, which calls for a major shift in priorities at Arts
Presenters. The new direction focuses on knowledge-based programs
and services integrated throughout the organization and customized
to meet member needs. As a result, Arts Presenters recently restructured
some of its operations and staff in an effort to enhance the expertise,
skills and capacity needed in-house to deliver the programs and
service that our members require. We are pleased to welcome two
senior level staff members to our team at Arts Presenters -- John
Tomczyk, senior vice president of operations and Patrick Madden,
vice president of external affairs. We will keep you apprised of
our changes and advances in the weeks and months ahead."
No mention that the
'restructuring' involved firing seven dedicated APAP staffers, including
the exhibition and meetings manager; information systems manager,
grants manager; bookkeeper, conference/communications associate,
publications manager, and associate for cultural participation programs.
Meanwhile, Arts Presenters
executive director Sandra Gibson has not responded to Dance Insider
queries about her own future at the organization.
Speaking of the future, the Martha Graham Center's is so bright,
we hope executive director Marvin Preston included shades in the
boxes he carted to the center's spanking new administrative offices
in midtown Wednesday.
"The kind generosity
of Mr. William Witter (husband of board member Inger Witter) has
provided us with a pro bono elegant and wonderfully located office
for the past three years," Preston writes us. "That 196 square feet
of space was fine when I was the only person in the organization
and spent most of my time in a cold dank warehouse trying to fathom
what had happened over the past 85 years. However, now that we actively
employ about 75 people, we have stretched the limits of 196 square
feet and gargantuan efforts at self-imposed virtual offices.
"The space that we have
now is 2,500 square feet, the entire second floor of a townhouse
at 344 East 59th Street, NY, NY 10022, same phones, email, fax,
etc. The building is the old Ford Modelling Agency building. We
have great visions of being more effective and coordinated. We will
also have a place for volunteers to actually come and help us, since
we get such offers frequently."
Among those 75 employees
is David Pini. The energetic manager of the Merce Cunningham Dance
Company has jumped ship to join Martha, indicating -- though we
don't have official confirmation of this yet -- a busy touring schedule
in the company's not-to-distant future.
Among his many other talents, Pini's French fluency made him an
unsung hero to the Cunningham company's strong presence here in
France, from which I write you. And speaking of American dance companies
in France, in a recent
Flash Review Journal, I complained about what I perceive
as the inherent prejudice against US dance companies of most major
French presenters, particularly in Paris (the notable exception
being the Theatre de la Bastille). A reader who performs here regularly
with a US company wrote to press me on the issue:
"You stated that there
were only four American choreographers who were 'allowed' to tour
in Paris regularly; they being Merce, Trisha Brown, Simone Forti,
and Bill T. Jones. You then brought up Meg Stuart, Jennifer Lacey,
and Carolyn Carlson to illustrate other American choreographers
who are given representation in Paris -- and as you said, all are
choreographers who have relocated, and are living and working in
"I wish you had further
supported your argument that presenters in Paris are 'innately prejudiced.'
Which presenters? Which venues? And which troupes in the United
States suffer because of said prejudices? I should tell you that
I'm impressed, and in agreement, with your point of view; I too
grow tired of seeing the same line-up of American choreographers
presented throughout theatres in Paris. There is a recycled feeling
to the presenting in the city, though I don't know that I would
characterize it as 'protectionism.' In your article, you never fully
explain the trend that you're observing, and you abort focus on
that trend (which is quite a poignant one), before ever addressing,
or speculating as to the complexities behind the problem. I found
the argument entirely too thin to digest seriously -- like a creme
brulee which had been cooked in a microwave, if you'll forgive the
Touche! The reader's
points are fair. Let me elaborate just a little. The Theatre de
la Ville is considered the largest venue for modern dance in Paris,
with two theater spaces (the almost BAM-sized Sarah Bernhardt and
the more-than-Joyce-sized Abbesses). In the nearly two years I've
been here, with the exception of Merce, Carlson, and Stuart, director
Gerard Violette has not programmed A SINGLE US-based dance company.
Taking a more recent
example, the laudable and respected Rencontres Choregraphiques Internationales
de Seine-Saint-Denis apparently does not consider "International"
as including the United States. Of the 16 companies-artists booked
for the festival, which opens April 23 in Bobigny, NONE are from
the US. Yes, there's former Cunningham dancer Foofwa D'Imobilite,
performing with Thomas Lebrun, but the program identifies this partnership
as Swiss-French. Note to Rencontres director-curator Anita Mathieu:
Words matter. The festival may have much to recommend it, and I
look forward to checking out many of the artists -- but international
Who suffers from this?
Audiences who believe the hype that what they are seeing represents
an international selection, when it doesn't and excludes -- yes
excludes -- some fine and innovative US dancemakers. And US companies,
slighted by the inference that they are not precious enough to be
included in a festival that presents itself as international.
Speaking of words mattering, in his recent review of the Stuttgart
Ballet's Berkeley performance of John Cranko's "Romeo & Juliet,"
San Francisco Chronicle critic Octavio Roca writes:
"Four decades on, the
late Cranko's masterpiece remains a thrilling spectacle. His company,
under the direction of Cranko's muse Reid Anderson, is one of the
treasures of the dance world.
Make room, Stanton;
we have one more to join you in the Ballet History 101 course. While
Anderson certainly danced with the Stuttgart Ballet early in his
career and late in Cranko's, he was not one of Cranko's muses. Those
would include the likes of Marcia Haydee, Richard Cragun, Egon Madsen,
and Birgit Keil -- but not Anderson. Why does Roca's error matter?
Because criticism in mass-circulation media is perceived by the
general public as authoritative, critics should not abuse that podium
by forgetting or mis-reporting our history.
Speaking of Cranko's Romeo, essaying that role in Sydney this month
with the Australian Ballet is longtime principal Steven Heathcote.
A week or so before the opening, Heathcote was feted on the Australian
version of the television show "This is Your Life." For the inside
scoop on that affair, we turn to dance insider Maina Gielgud, former
director of the OZ Ballet, who was guest of honor for the surprise
"What a lark, and what
an honor!," Gielgud writes. "Bertrand d'At, director of Ballet du
Rhin, where I am staging 'Giselle,' was good enough to allow me
time out from rehearsals -- so I left after rehearsal last Saturday
March 22. I had such a fabulous time, even though I had to be in
hiding (behind an enormous straw hat, sunglasses, and a blonde wig)
whenever I set foot out of the Hotel room. I did manage to bribe
them to allow me to watch performances of "Romeo & Juliet" which
they are doing now, although only the first act of Steven's one,
which was just before the taping, and consequently rehearsal! It
had to be an absolute surprise for him -- and it was!"
Our Suzanne Davidson
will have the complete Oz production of Cranko's R&J for you Thursday,
dance insider. Until then -- Parting is such sweet sorrow, 'til
we meet and it be 'morrow.
This one goes out
to Tareq Ayub, correspondent for the Al-Jazeera satellite television
station, who, according to the station, died this morning from injuries
sustained after a US missile attack on Al-Jazeera's headquarters
in Baghdad, leaving behind a wife and two children. A US spokeswoman
denied the station was targeted.)