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The Buzz, 6-17: Going, going, gone
White Steps Down at DTW; Another ABT Exec. Bites the Dust; Queer Journalism at the Voice; India Disses Older Dancers; California Rallies for Arts Funding; Congolese Dance Giant Killed; Post-pomo Rhythm Masters & More

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider

David White, the fiery dean of New York dance presenters and an impassioned national advocate for dance, will step down July 1 as executive director and producer of Dance Theater Workshop after 28 years, DTW announced Monday.

Co-artistic directors Cathy Edwards and Craig Peterson will succeed White as artistic directors. Current director of planning Marion Dienstag, White's partner in raising $14 million for the renovation and reconstruction of DTW's Chelsea theater and offices, takes over as executive director, a DTW spokesman announced.

Dienstag's appointment would seem to address board concern (according to a DTW insider) that Edwards and Peterson, reportedly anointed earlier this year by Mr. White, lacked the experience necessary to succeed him. On Monday, White emphasized his pleasure at turning the direction of DTW over to "another generation of artist-leaders -- just as I was entrusted with the organization by the artist-founders Jeff Duncan and Art Bauman in the summer of 1975." Beyond listing their current responsibilities, the DTW announcement did not contain any information on Edwards's and Peterson's artistic background.

White, who will move permanently to St. Paul to join his wife and daughter, said DTW was entering a "major stabilization effort through the year 2010," and that his decision "simply recognizes the moment to fully engage that future.... This is simply the right timing for a decision that has been a personal goal ever since DTW bought its property in 1995 and embarked on the journey that has been the creation of DTW's extraordinary new Doris Duke Performance Center," which opened last fall.

With uncanny foresight and by tapping into municipal bonds, White spearheaded DTW's purchase of its own building in 1995, just before a dot.com boom that would force many leading dance organizations out into the street as rents skyrocketed in downtown Manhattan. Then, with similarly serendipitous timing, he set in motion plans for the reconstruction and renovation of its 19th Street facilities just before a downturn in the local economy that would likely have doomed such ambitious plans.

While the programming at DTW under White sometimes seemed parochial (less so this past season), his advocacy for dance was global and refreshingly fearless. When New York magazine fired longtime critic Tobi Tobias last summer, the ballsy DTW director didn't get down on his knees and beg the publication to restore dance criticism; he stood tall for dance and threatened a consumer boycott if it didn't. According to the DTW spokesman, White will continue as a contributing producer; The Buzz hopes he'll continue to buzz the butts of politicians and journalists as well.

Speaking of leadership, the mess at the top of American Ballet Theatre continues, with the news, reported in today's New York Times, that the organization has lost its third executive director in less than three years. Elizabeth Kehler, who succeeded Wallace Chappell after 10 months last August, resigned Monday, the paper says the company confirmed. Chappell had replaced Louis Spisto, drummed out of the company in August 2001 by, among others, the New York Times, despite having increased the company's contributed income. An ABT spokesperson -- who could not be reached by the Dance Insider at presstime to confirm the resignation or request a comment from Ms. Kehler -- told the Times a search will be initiated for Ms. Kehler's successor. The ABT board doesn't have to search far. To stabilize the organization once and for all, it should offer the post to current ABT marketing consultant Lawrence Wilker, the savvy former president of the Kennedy Center. Then it might dump artistic director Kevin McKenzie (for his lackluster and unimaginative programming), and search instead for an artistic director with the vision befitting a company that considers itself "America's" ballet company.

Speaking of DTW, as we were above, regular DTW artist Sarah East Johnson is just one of the three "lesbian" choreographers highlighted in Sara Wolf's feature "Lesbian Choreographers Redefine Motion" in this week's Village Voice.

Perhaps in other hands the subject might have had merit. But, perversely enough, in perusing a topic that calls for open-mindedness, Wolf compounds at least three stereotypes.

First, two of the three choreographers she concentrates on create work that might be considered 'butch': Elizabeth Streb and Johnson. I'M not saying they create athletic work because they are, to use Wolf's word, "dykes." But by not including examples of lesbian-oriented women who create work in the more lyrical or simply traditional modern or post-modern dance or, God forbid, ballet idioms, Wolf reinforces the idea that lesbians can only create butch art. (And that a woman has to be a lesbian to make such work.)

Second, the article contains this appalling and entirely unsupported statement: "Still, identifying a lesbian in dance can be harder than finding a heterosexual man. While anecdotal estimates of the number of gay men working in the Manhattan dance scene hover between 80 and 85 percent, the idea of coming up with an equivalent percentage of dykes seems laughable."

Come again? Without basis in fact, such a blanket statement reinforces the stereotype that if you're a man in dance, you must be gay!

And finally, the reporter lets stand unchallenged what she says is Anne Gadwa's belief that "a straight woman wouldn't make the kind of no-holds-barred work (Gadwa) creates," continuing that, "while hesitant to generalize, (Gadwa) thinks straight women 'take charge of the space less, and their work is more contained.'" I know a number of space-eating non-lesbian choreographers who might dispute that contention. (To read Wolf's article in full, please click here)

Speaking of stereotypes, anyone who's had the pleasure of seeing Trisha Brown, Kazuo Ohno or other dancers of a certain vintage perform in recent years knows you don't have to be under 45 to move audiences by your moving. Anyone except, apparently, the Delhi High Court, which ruled earlier this year that the Indian Council for Cultural Relations was justified in removing dancers over age 45 from its register of performing artists. As the council, a government agency, recommends artists for touring abroad, the removal from its list has practical consequences for artists and foreign audiences. For Ramaa Bharadvaj, director of the California-based Angahara Ensemble, a rule "that picks the country's cultural representatives based on their birth certificates and sends them abroad for me to 'experience' somehow seemed like a direct attack on my aesthetic intelligence." To read Bharadvaj's report on the decision on www.narthaki.com, please click here.

While we're in California, Bharadvaj also alerts us that local arts activists will rally and perform tomorrow at the 18th Street Arts Complex in Santa Monica to protest a proposed 75 percent cut in the budget of the California Arts Council, the state arts funding organization. For more information, please click here. The CAC is dear to my heart, having funded in part my own arts education at the Center for Theatre Training, predecessor to the School of the Arts in San Francisco.

And while we're in the Bay Area, dance insiders there as well as today's San Francisco Chronicle report the passing of a local treasure, world-renowned dancer and drummer Malonga Casquelourd, a leading member of Fua Dia Congo, the Congolese music and dance group which has been a Bay Area staple since the 1970s. Casquelourd, a much-beloved teacher at the Alice Arts Center in Oakland, was killed, reports the Chronicle, "when a suspected drunk driver crashed head-on into his car while going the wrong way on a one-way street, police said." "It's like jazz losing John Coltrane," percussionist Tacuma King recalled to the Chronicle of Casquelourd, a former member of the National Congolese Dance Company and one of the first teachers of Congolese dance in the US. To read more about the life and impact of Malonga Casquelourd, please check the Chronicle article here.

And finally today, speaking of Streb as we were a few items ago, Streb co. mainstay Terry Dean Bartlett, aided and abetted by Katie Workum, brings dance to Joe's Pub in the Village this Sunday at 9:30 p.m., for what could become a monthly gig if you turn out in numbers, dance insider. On the program for this month's "Dance Off," in addition to a new "very Streb influenced" work from Bartlett: Leigh Garrett, Julie Atlas Muz, Paul Matteson, Cynthia Hopkins, David Parker and The Bang Group, and Cintia Chamecki, a tap artist whose "Qui Nem Jilo," Chamecki tells us, "explores the Brazilian rhythms of baiao and samba." The tap trio of Jenai Cutcher, Michelle Dorrance, and Chamecki "also take on the roles of percussive instruments and play these rhythms with their feet...."

Workum and Garrett will riff on Charlie Rose with their signature movement and text approach, Bartlett tells us, while Parker and Co. a.k.a. those "internationallly award-winning post-pomo rhythm masters - thumbsuckers - velcro stickers - toe tappers bring 'Ranbow Down,' choreographed by Parker and performed by Parker and Jeffrey Kazin...." The piece, promises Parker, "tap dances barefoot down the yellow brick road with tender affection and queer intentions," as the dynamic diva duo "recast themselves as the stars of an 8-minute distillation of Hollywood musical romance which finds them strutting, fretting and grappling to songs sung by beloved divae like Debbie Reynolds and Jane Powell. The rainbow may be upside down but their love is here to stay."

Special tips of The Buzz beret today to dance insiders Tom Patrick, Rita Felciano, and Aimee Ts'ao.




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