The Buzz, 5-1: While
George's Guitar Gently Weeps
ABT Honors Bush; Who is David Koch?; San Jose Salutes McKayle; Izzies
Honors Bay's Best; Hodes Remembers Ross
"I don't know how someone
They bought and sold you....
I look at the world
and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps."
-- George Harrison
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider
His name is David Koch.
Since 1994, he has served as vice chairman of the board of governing
trustees of American Ballet Theatre.
With his brother, David
Koch is the executive vice president and co-owner of Koch Industries,
the largest privately owned oil company in the United States. In
1996, a faulty pipeline operated by Koch Industries caused an explosion
in which two Texas teenagers, Danielle Smalley and Jason Stone,
were killed. As noted by the Austin American-Statesman, both
were burned beyond recognition. A Kaufman County, Texas jury later
awarded the Smalley family $296 million -- the largest award for
damages for a wrongful death suit in US history. The company appealed,
and later reached a settlement with the Smalley family for an undisclosed
amount. In another case, in January 2000, Koch Industries agreed
to pay a $30 million civil penalty, according to the Justice Department
"the largest civil fine ever imposed on a company under any federal
environmental law to resolve claims related to more than 300 oil
spills from its pipelines and oil facilities in six states." In
May 2001, as reported by CBS News, Bill
Koch (David's brother) and Koch Industries announced a legal settlement
of all their disputes in which Koch Industries agreed to pay $25
million in penalties to the US government for improperly taking
more oil than it paid for from federal and Indian lands. About a
third of it goes to Bill Koch or bringing the lawsuit, according
to CBS. In September 2000, according to a Justice Department release,
a federal grand jury in Corpus Christi, Texas, returned a 97-count
indictment against Koch Industries, charging the company and four
employees with environmental crimes, alleging that it had intentionally
released large amounts of cancer-causing benzene from a Texas refinery
and then tried to cover it up. According to the Justice Dept. press
release, Koch Industries faced potential penalties of up to $352
million if convicted. During the 2000 presidential campaign, David
Koch and his wife, Julia, donated $487,500 to the Republican Party,
its candidates, and conservative political action committees, as
documented by Mother Jones magazine. Additionally,
reported BBC commentator Greg Palast, Koch
Industries donated $970,000 to the party during the Bush campaign,
among energy companies third only to Enron and Exxon. In April 2001,
the Justice Department, under President Bush, accepted a guilty plea in which Koch Petroleum
Group agreed to pay fines of $20 million.
On Monday, President
Bush and his wife have been tapped as honorary chairs of ABT's Spring
gala -- despite Mr. Bush's having lead an illegal invasion of another
country causing, as of this date, the deaths of between 2,180 and
2,653 civilians, as reported by many
sources. An invasion in which soldiers under Mr. Bush's
command have stood by during the systematic, organized pillaging
and destruction of Iraqi cultural institutions, including the burning
of a Koranic library. Asked why ABT has chosen to honor Mr. Bush,
ABT spokesperson Kelly Ryan responded, "As America's national ballet
company, ABT has a long tradition of having members of the First
Family serve as Honorary Chairman of the spring gala. Each year,
for the past several years, ABT has consistently had the President
and First Lady as Chairmen. Hilary Clinton and Tipper Gore personally
attended many of these galas. George and Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan
and Jacqueline Kennedy have also served in past years."
Through Ms. Ryan, and
after detailing the stories I have referred to above, I also requested
a response from ABT board chair Lewis Ranieri or president Robin
Neustein to the following question: What is a person whose company
has the track record of Mr. Koch's, as detailed above, doing on
the ABT board of trustees?
Beyond Ms. Ryan's statement
that Mr. Koch had served on the ABT board since 1984 and as its
vice chairman since 1994, no response was forthcoming. While all
of the cases above are well-documented, in fairness I also attempted
to contact Mr. Koch, through both ABT and his company, to request
comment; none has been received.
One more interesting
fact: As noted by the Sierra Club , Mr. Koch helped
found a group called "Citizens for a Sound Economy." What exactly
do CSE's policy papers and experts argue? Writes the Sierra Club's
Curtis Moore: "CSE's representatives have appeared on hundreds of
radio and television shows and published 235 op-ed articles. What
do they tell us? Among other things, that 'environmental conservation
requires a commonsense approach that limits the scope of government,'
acid rain is a 'so-called threat [that] is largely nonexistent,'
and global warming is "a verdict in search of evidence.'"
In 1994, Donald McKayle
created, for San Francisco Ballet, a work, "Gumbo Ya-Ya," which
treated a post-(environmentally) Apocalyptic society. The ballet
was inspired, McKayle told me, by his witnessing first hand, during
a tour with the Martha Graham company in the 1950s, environmental
devastation wrought in Malaysia and elsewhere. Would that ballet
have a chance at entering the rep. of Mr. Koch's ABT?
Fortunately for its
audience, another ballet company, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley,
has made a home for three of McKayle's ballets, in a tribute program
which opens tonight and runs through Sunday at the San Jose Center
for the Performing Arts. The program includes "District Storyville,"
"Death and `Eros," and "House of Tears."
And while we're in the Bay Area, San Francisco Ballet principal
Muriel Maffre -- who created a principal role in "Gumbo Ya-Ya" --
was among the winners of the annual Isadora Duncan Dance Awards,
or "Izzies," announced Monday in San Francisco. Joining Maffre as
an awardee for individual performance were Diablo Ballet's Kelly
Teo and Oakland Ballet's Erin Yarbrough. Michael Lowe's "Bamboo,"
also on Oakland Ballet, won forbest choreography. Ensemble performance
went to Joanna Berman, Julie Diana, and Katita Waldo in the SFB
company premiere of Jerome Robbins's "Dances at a Gathering." Company
performance went to Jess Curtis/Gravity Physical Entertainment and
fabrikCompanie in "fallen" at the ODC Theater, and to Na Lei Hulu
Ka Wekiu in Patrick Makuakane's "The Hula Show" at the Palace of
went to Shelly Senter for Trisha Brown's "Glacial Decoy" and phrase
material from "Foray Foret," sound/music/text to Joan Jeanrenaud
for the sound score from "Be With," for Anna Halprin and Eiko &
Koma. Patty-Ann Farrell got the nod for visual design for the same
Special awards went
to Lines Ballet for "The People of the Forest" and to Theatre Artaud
for, among other things, closing the theater responsibly after financial
insolvency. Sustained achievement awards went to the San Francisco
Butoh Festival and the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. Individuals
receiving the award included founding Lines member Marina Hotchkiss,
and director emerita of Berkeley Ballet Theater Sally Streets.
Speaking of sustained achievement, the late Bertram Ross, seminal
Martha Graham dancer, certainly qualified for that recognition,
as did his Graham colleague, who writes with this reminiscence of
Mr. Ross, who passed away last month:
So many stories about
Bertram, and yet volumes would yield no more than a hint of his
brilliant, lovable, complex self. Peter Sparling's piece is splendid, and he's right.
I most remember that
Bertram made it fun to be serious about dancing. After a long day
of rehearsal when we were all aching to get out of the studio, his
pinpoint concentration and rampant imagination would ignite, energy
would zoom, and something marvelous would happen. To have Bertram
in a new dance made the dance, and the choreographer, better.
His humor could be devastating
yet was never hurtful. He liked to make up song parodies. In Natural
Bridge, Virginia, to the tune of Sweet Adeline: "I lost my bridge,
on the Natural Bridge..."
After the 1950 European
debacle, to the tune of "Besame Mucho": "Bethsabe, Bethsabe Rothschild.
There's been a rumor that you lost mazuma on us!"
And to the logo tune
of the old Arthur Murray Dance Studio:
"Martha Graham taught
me dancing in a hurry
I do contractions with ease.
To Martha I'm beholden
My spiral thrust is golden
But I can't get off my knees."
Have a great week-end, dance insider, and don't bow down to anybody.