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The Buzz, 4-13: Mixed Media
Gia Chic; Good Rockwell, Bad Rockwell; Protas Enablers; Zimmer on "Cutting Edge" Brown

By Paul Ben-Itzak & Dancer X
Copyright 2005 The Dance Insider

The Rockwell/Kourlas Files, 6

Regarding our most recent colloquy on the critical hemorrhaging of the New York Times's dance criticism department, a reader we'll call Dancer X writes:

Thank you for so articulately stating the obvious problems with the current Times "journalists." I'm not even sure I can use the word since it clearly has lost all meaning for John (Rockwell) and Gia (Kourlas). It's offensive in every possible way! If we as members of the dance community weren't so lacking in self-esteem we wouldn't stand for such an assault on our intelligence and our art. We deserve better. The Times should have the best critic possible -- someone with at least a degree, preferable a Master's degree in aesthetics or journalism, something! A critic who makes the effort to understand the point of view of the artist and enters the world of the piece on its own terms, not the critic's personal agenda should be a given.

By the way, some of us don't want to hang out with Gia and try to convince her and the rest of the dance community how cool we think we are. Unfortunately, it is now clear that if we want a good review and preview we need to adhere ourselves to her affected clique. It's obnoxious and lacks any small amount of journalistic integrity. You would think with the ethical problems the Times has had recently they would know better.

Thank you again for doing what you are doing so that there is one place for intelligent, thoughtful criticism. There is a hopeful group of artists that look forward to the day when we aren't judged by how hip a group of very unhip individuals think we are.

PS. It's ironic that you bring up Rockwell's mistakes with his Matthew Bourne-related commentary when it was in TimeOut a few years ago that Kourlas referred to him as "Michael" Bourne for her full article. Stupid and completely unforgivable. And she still has a job. Unbelievable.

Extra! Times Disses Protas!

In our reverie of Rockwell-Kourlas inspired Anna Kisselgoff nostalgia, we shouldn't forget that (like many of us, myself included) Anna had her blind spots, none so glaring as her deference to former Martha Graham company artistic director Ron Protas, which distorted the Times's coverage of Protas's efforts to take the Graham oeuvre from the Graham company. The Times in effect enabled Protas, obscuring the reality of Protas's non-artistic rule of the Graham company and school and thus -- in my opinion -- delaying his ouster and the company's regeneration. If Rockwell has one thing going for him -- and for which the Times deserves credit in appointing him to succeed Kisselgoff as its chief dance critic -- it's that he arrives at the position with an already established prestige for his real accomplishments in critiquing other arts. Notwithstanding his deficiencies in dance history and qualified dance observation and commentary, when he speaks, readers in the general audience listen.

In his review of the Graham company's current City Center season last Friday, Rockwell wrote: "No matter the outcome of Mr. Protas's endless appeals as he struggles to regain control of the Graham repertory, the company's current direction seems healthy. Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin, longtime Graham dancers, give every sign of knowing what they're doing."

Not exactly damning, that, but coming from Rockwell, it goes along way to right the Times's shameful record under Kisselgoff of misreporting Protas's legal issues with the Martha Graham Center, and earns a tip of the Buzz beret.

Cutting 'edge'

At the head of the Protas non-enablers during the years of darkness were journalists like Elizabeth Zimmer, dance editor of the Village Voice, whose preview of Trisha Brown's "How long does the subject linger at the edge of the volume?," opening tomorrow at Lincoln Center, you won't see in the Voice's print edition but can find on the Voice's Web site by clicking here. A choice sample:

"Brown has defined the cutting edge of American dance since her first experiments at the Judson Dance Theater in the '60s, and has trained generations of the most limpid and intelligent dancers we have. For years she worked without music; now she directs operas and blends her very contemporary, gesture-driven choreography with live jazz and the baroque. The artists she's collaborating with in Tempe, mostly about half her age, announce that she has 'a digital sensibility.'"

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