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The Buzz, 6-30: Freedom Towers
Newspeak in NYC; Live Fungus in the Vaucluse; Dead Music & Brubeck for SF Ballet & "Lars" in Paris

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2005 The Dance Insider
Photo copyright John Kane

Freedom is as Freedom Does

PARIS -- In an epoch where George Bush can attempt to justify an unprovoked war which has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 100,000 innocent civilians by an attack, 9/11, with which they had nothing to do (not to mention the sacrifice of more than 1,730 young Americans), perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by George Pataki's unique -- and anti-American -- concept of freedom. Incredibly, a spokesman for the New York governor described Pataki in Saturday's Times as being "horrified" that the Drawing Center, which will be a neighbor to the proposed International FREEDOM (emphasis added) Center at Ground Zero, would think it has the freedom to program art that, as featured in the Daily News and as characterized by the Times, "seemed to mock President Bush and depict torture at the Abu Ghraib prison; at least one example, however, predated Sept. 11." Said Pataki: "...(W)e will not tolerate anything on that site that denigrates America, denigrates New York or freedom, or denigrates the sacrifice or courage that the heroes showed on Sept. 11."

So let me get this straight: As implied by the Times and Pataki, it may have been appropriate to "mock" the president and criticize US torture policies before our freedom was attacked on September 11, but after our freedom was attacked, we can only exercise our freedom if we don't criticize a Republican president and his policies of torture; if we try to exercise our freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, we are denigrating freedom. (And when did it become anti-American to criticize the president and his policies?) Come again?

Free to Fungi

It's actions like the above that I'm regularly called upon to explain to French interlocutors as soon as they find out where I'm from. "Explain to me again why Americans re-elected George Bush?" Contrary to the Francophobe propaganda, the French 'attitude' can't be explained away by an inveterate anti-Americanism. In fact, they don't just love most (cultural) things American, they adore them, and they even adore aspects of our culture which we, er, mock. The big event of the Paris Cinema film festival, opened Tuesday by Jackie Chan and Costa-Garvas, for example, will be a screening, presented by the director himself, of the uncut version of Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate." While I've yet to see a Jerry Lewis retrospective after four years living here, there seems to be a Western festival every month, as well as festivals for Woody Allen and Humphrey Bogart. "Friends" is readily available on DVD.

As regular readers know, French dance presenters have been the cultural exception to the local Yank culture worship, so to speak, effectively banning any American dance that's emerged since Bill T. Jones. While it's hardly an exception to this rule -- the company has, after all, been around for nearly 35 years -- I'm nevertheless happy to report that Pilobolus soon makes an appearance here, performing July 15 at the Festival de Danse de Vaison la Romaine in the glorious Vaucluse, not too far from Avignon. An all-star cast of Josie Coyoc, Otis Cook, Gaspard Louis, Ras Mikey C, Matt Thornton, and my friend Jennifer Macavinta Desmarchelier will perform "Walklyndon," "Symbiosis," "Tsu-Ku-Tsu," and the signature family unfriendly (according to the Joyce) "Day 2." If you can't make it to Vaison la Romaine and the Theatre Antique, don't be triste, go to Trieste, or Innsbruck, Sassuolo, Pescara, or Parma, also on Pilobolus's tour agenda. (Showing that this fungus knows no geographical restraints, the company simultaneously plays New York next month, albeit with a different line-up.)
Josie Coyoc, Rebecca Anderson, Otis Cook and Benjamin Pring of Pilobolus. Along with Jennifer Macavinta Desmarchelier, Gaspard Louis, Ras Mikey C and Matt Thornton, Coyoc and Cook perform for Pilobolus July 15 at the Festival de Danse de Vaison la Romaine in France. John Kane photo copyright John Kane and courtesy Festival de Danse de Vaison la Romaine.

And if you'd like me personally to bring you the Pilobolus play-by-play -- and if you have absolutely no official connection with the company -- write me for details on how you can sponsor our coverage at paul@danceinsider.com. It's a great way to show your love for Pilobolus and your appreciation for our and my efforts these past four years to bring you unique coverage of the many cultures of dance that tour France.

"Lars" Meets Brubeck, SF Ballet Dances to Dead Music

Not that I'll want for diversions if I'm 'stuck' here in Paris, where one of my favorite past-times is playing the flaneur on the Left Bank, scouring the discount bins at the used record shops of the Latin Quarter for bargain vintage jazz. One of my best finds this past year was Brubeck's "Time Further Out - Miro Reflections," a whole album inspired by the Spanish painter, who also adorns the cover. (2 Euros!) If there's anything American the Frenchies love more than our movies, it's our jazz. How right, then, that for his new piece for San Francisco Ballet's Paris season -- opening Tuesday at the National Archives -- Lar (or, as SF Ballet's subway posters are calling him, "Lars") Lubovitch has selected West Coast jazz king Brubeck, setting "Elemental Brubeck" to "Iberia" and "Elementals," from the album, "Time Changes -- The Dave Brubeck Quartet. Also premiering Tuesday are Paul Taylor's "Spring Rounds," set to Richard Strauss's "Divertimento for Small Orchestra, Op. 86 (after Couperin).

Speaking of small orchestras, incredibly and disgracefully, all the more so considering that ticket prices run $30 - $240, these world-class SFB dancers will be performing this engagement -- which runs through July 23 -- entirely to dead music. Balanchine -- whose "Who Cares?" and "Square Dance" will also be on the season program, as well as a "Don Quixote" -- must surely be weeping. (A spokesperson for the SFB tour would not comment on why the company was not performing to live music.)

Have a great Fourth of July week-end, Dance Insider -- and let Freedom ring.



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