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The Buzz, 7-9: Flack Attack

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider

In the latest of several seismic shifts which have seen the biggest changes in the dance infrastructure in more than a decade, the Joyce Theater, long considered the leading dance venue in the United States, will part with its publicist of nearly two decades, Ellen Jacobs, considered by many the queen of the dance publicists, the Dance Insider has learned. After August, the Joyce will no longer employ Ellen Jacobs Associates and begin working with Richard Kornberg & Associates, a major player on Broadway whose clients have included "RENT," and who brings the top-line dance publicist Tom D'Ambrosio to the Joyce team.

The Jacobs-Joyce divorce was confirmed by the publicist and by Joyce executive director Linda Shelton, who told the DI, "The Joyce will be working with Richard Kornberg & Associates for the season. Ellen Jacobs will still be working with many of the companies that perform at the Joyce and we hope to work with her again in the future. As you have pointed out, Ellen is a terrific publicist. The reason we are not working together right now is between us." Jacobs also declined to elaborate on why the relationship has been severed.

In discussing the breach with the Joyce, her client since 1985, Jacobs was considerably more circumspect than when she was dismissed by the Paul Taylor Dance Company after 23 years in February, telling the DI that she was "fired... for a string of rational reasons including, but not limited to: lack of loyalty, insufficient knowledge of the repertory, failure to get coverage, particularly in The New York Times, as well as general incompetence and illiteracy. I guess I pulled the wool over the company's eyes for a quite a while, huh? -- even the genius himself." (A Taylor official disputed the use of the word "fired," saying simply that the company had "decided not to continue working with" the firm.)

With its credentials in theater publicity, the Kornberg agency could help the Joyce broaden its brand recognition beyond the rarified dance world. The agency and its rep. D'Ambrosio have previously run campaigns for Momix, the Parsons Dance Company, and Complexions, all companies who see their audience appeal beyond just dance.

Jacobs, meanwhile, will be handling publicity for the Joyce's Chelsea neighbor, Dance Theater Workshop, which has decided not to retain an in-house publicist for the 2004-2005 season.

It was the departure of DTW's longtime chief artistic director David White last July that seemed to set off a series of leadership changes in New York's major dance theaters, with the subsquent departures of Craig Peterson, artistic director with Cathy Edwards of DTW; Mark Russell, who "resigned" as director of PS 122 effective last month; Liz Thompson, out at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council; Joan Finkelstein, who left the Harkness Dance Project to head the dance program in the New York Public Schools; and Elise Bernhardt, who resigned last month as director of the Kitchen for the proverbial option of pursuing independent projects and spending more time with her family. Before White departed in 2003, he terminated long-time technical director Philip W. Sandstrom, the respected and beloved DTW and dance world institution, a pillar of the New York dance world.

Edwards, already a leader at DTW when White was there, is now the theater's sole artistic director, sharing leadership duties with executive director Marion Koltun Dienstag. Debra Singer was named to replace Bernhardt last week, and the PS 122 board which by at least one account is responsible for Russell's departure has appointed one of its own members, Anne Dennin, as acting executive director. Tom Healy has taken over at the LMCC, while the 92nd Street Y has not yet named a replacement for Finkelstein.

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