The Buzz, 6-17: Going,
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.