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Buzz, 4-11: Curator Corner
'Sitelines' in Manhattan; Blind-sighted in France; Tulsa's
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider
As the director of an
enterprise which was founded, by dancers and journalists, more because
of a need than an ambition, I can relate to how my friend Nolini
Barretto, a vital veteran of some two decades working in the dance
infrastructure, came to start Sitelines, the Lower Manhattan Cultural
Council festival which this year enjoys an extended summer run,
May 8 - August 30. "This festival and this job did not exist until
I saw a need for it and made it happen," said Barretto, who previously
held key positions at Dance Theater Workshop and the Martha Graham
school, and was marketing and communications director of the LMCC
when she thought up Sitelines in 2004. This year's festival builds
on the 'see a need and fill it' principle, with twin themes of events
situated in locations with historical resonance, and pairing veteran
artists with (time to find a new word for this!) 'emerging' talents.
The apparent needs here would be to capitalize on an inspiration
resource amazingly under-utilized by dance artists in New York City
-- one of the historically richest environments in the world, after
all; and to compensate for a paucity of mentorship opportunities
not just in New York dance but dance in general, especially as relates
to composition, grossly undertaught in American universities.
Before I get to the
line-up of performing personnel, let's start with the putative stars
of these free performances -- the sites! These would include the
Elevated Acre at 55 Water Street; the Columbus Park Pavilion; the
cobblestones of South Street Seaport; the balconies of 55 Wall Street;
32 Avenue of the Americas; the lobby of 195 Broadway; and 36 Orchard
Street. As for the pairings, they include Douglas Dunn with Elke
Rindfleisch; H.T. Chen with Sharon Estacio; and Keely Garfield with
Zach Morris. Additional performers include Collage Dance Theater,
Die Audio Gruppe, Bluemouth inc., and Ellis Wood.
Rather than go into
details here, I'd prefer to point you to the LMCC web
page for this event, and spend our time together giving
you the inside view. So I asked Barretto how she curates.
"I watch a lot of work
and am very open to people's ideas when it comes to site work,"
she told me. "I meet with all choreographers who have an idea regarding
a space or project in lower Manhattan. I do not exclude anyone who
has a good site-specific project idea. Whether their work gets eventually
presented depends on its site-related concept, its viability in
a site context, if I think I can get the space for them, if they
are ready, willing and able to practically self-produce the shows,
if it fits the themes of the festival that year and if the artists
can raise the additional amount the project might need beyond the
LMCC commissioning fee. All the projects presented fit these criteria.
"LMCC basically plays
a small role in producing this festival. Yes, we get the spaces,
provide liability insurance, get the sound and use permits. We pay
a small commissioning fee and we do the marketing and press for
the performances under the umbrella of the Sitelines and River to
River festival. We do not really do much of the production -- that
is the artist's responsibility. Occasionally a group will come to
me whom I cannot commission because I have a small budget. They
nonetheless want to be part of the festival without any commissioning
fees. In those cases, if their work fits the above criteria, I do
accept it in the festival. Examples this year would be Bluemouth
inc from Toronto and Aaron Rosenblum's Here Is New York! Project."
If it dances like an American choreographer....
As previously documented
the Rencontres Choregraphiques so-called Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis,
which derolls in some of 'burbs around Paris every year, has a decided
blind spot when it comes to recognizing American choreographers.
My problem with this is not because I'm American, but that it's
essentially a misrepresentation to promise a modern dance festival
with an 'international' scope and then exclude choreographers from
the country that gave birth to modern dance. I didn't think it could
get worse, but it has.
Last year's festival
included a sort of stealth American choreographer -- Greg Zuccolo,
of Tere O'Connor (there's that name again!) and Sarah Michelson
lineage, who more or less organized the dance segments of Michael
Andersen Project." If the fact that there was a lot more
than dance in this production justified giving top billing to the
director (Laub) it still seemed strange that a festival that was
putatively a festival of choreography should fail to mention (in
its list of the participating countries from which hailed the choreographers)
that in this case, the choreography at least came from, er, the
Well, festival director
Anita Mathieu's contortions to avoid crediting American choreography
are even more blatant for this year's festival, which opens May
2 and runs through May 28. Laub is there again, as is Zuccolo, this
time in "Portrait series: Alone/Gregoire," two solos which are 'concieved
and directed' by Laub but, in the case of "Gregoire," danced and
choreographed by Zuccolo. In other words, this is an act in which
the featured choreography is by Zuccolo, and yet the festival --
a festival of choreography, theoretically -- does not identify the
work as coming from the States but from the Netherlands, Laub's
To be crystal clear:
My problem here is not with Laub. No doubt, if he's got the top
billing here, Zuccolo, Laub, and the other featured artist, Astrid
Endruweit, are happy with it. My criticism is that in the cadre
of the festival -- which one would think is listing the country
each CHOREOGRAPHY is from -- Mathieu has listed "Netherlands" for
this work. Assuming choreography is paramount to this choreography
festival, one would think that the listing for this performance
-- for which the choreography is created by an American -- would
describe it as coming from "Netherlands/United States." But no,
that would involve a French curator actually and official acknowledging
that significant things are happening on the current American scene,
and Mathieu just doesn't want to go there.
Speaking of creations,
we're elated to report that Dance Insider Tulsa correspondent Alicia
Chesser a.k.a. 'La Chesser' and husband Steven are the proud new
parents of brunette baby Audrey Catherine, their second, who checked
in Friday at 9:37 a.m. at 6 pounds, 5 ounces and 18 inches tall.
(They make 'em grande in Oklahoma.)