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The Buzz, 4-11: Curator Corner
'Sitelines' in Manhattan; Blind-sighted in France;
Tulsa's Latest Creation

By Paul Ben-Itzak
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 here, 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 Laub's "H.C. 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 U.S.

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 country.

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.

La Chesserette

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.)


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