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Buzz, 6-27: Chase Erased
Joyce Should Pay Fired Pilobolus Director
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider
There are 472 seats
in New York's Joyce Theater. If the theater's four-week presentation
of Pilobolus this summer sells out -- as it often does -- the theater
stands to bring in, at $42 per seat, more than $555,000. Allowing
that some of those places will go for less, let's say the Joyce
will net about a cool half million from performances of works one-third
of which were created or co-created by Alison Chase, the dance company's
co-director (and mother, Pilobolus having been founded in her dance
class, 35 years ago). The remaining directors have given no indication
they plan to pay Chase anything for the privilege. It is time for
the Joyce and its executive director, Linda Shelton, to do the right
thing, and ensure that Alison Chase is paid for her work from which
the Joyce, and its audiences, will profit this summer.
Unfortunately, the evidence
to date indicates that the Joyce would prefer to enable Pilobolus
in building its apparent case that Chase has no ownership rights
in work she created or co-created with the company over the past
35 years -- essentially, her life's work. If you can believe this,
the press release sent out by the Joyce's house publicist does not
even credit the individual choreographers (the argument apparently
being that the dances were created collaboratively, by 'Pilobolus.')
It has not always been thus.
Answering a 2004 inquiry
about that summer's Joyce season, co-director Robby Barnett told
me: "We're doing, as usual, three new works. "Megawatt" is a new
work by (co-director) Jonathan (Wolken).... 'New Company Work #2'
by Alison... still untitled, but a nice retelling of the Orpheus
myth. Some flying. Nice piece. 'New Duet' by (co-director) Michael
Similarly, when I wrote
to Barnett last July to ask, in connection with a story I was editing,
who should get the choreographic credit for "Walklyndon," Barnett
answered, "Robby Barnett - Lee Harris - Moses Pendleton - Jonathan
The policy, then, of
not listing the choreographers involved in creating a given work
appears to have been instituted recently, perhaps in anticipation
of building the case for institutional ownership over individual
authorship rights. (Last year's release couched the credits similarly;
at that point, Itamar Kubovy had already taken over as executive
Also miraculous in this
revisionism is an immaculate conception that beats even Jesus Christ's;
the company, says the PR,"germinated in the fertile soil of a Dartmouth
college dance class in 1971." No mention that it was a woman --
Alison Chase, the teacher of that Dartmouth dance class -- who fertilized
these particular eggheads and turned them into a dance company.
PS: The apparent attempt to erase Chase is evidently not the only
aspect in which the remaining Pilobolus directors and their corporate
executive director appear to be more proficient in mathematics than
history: The press release for this summer also states that "Gnomen,"
a moving work for four men, was created in 1978. In fact it was
1997 -- I was there.
PS 2: In the have they
no shame department, the press release also states that the company
"has not, however, forsaken its original impetus and remains a deeply
committed collaborative effort...." Just its mother.