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The Buzz, 7-20: Mindful
Will YOU Show up for Taglioni?; Frankfurt Orphans; Critic Cornered; Surviving Your Dance Career, During and After

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider

Showing up for Taglioni

PARIS -- We're still looking for additional speakers and sponsors for the September 30 homage to Marie Taglioni being hosted by the Italian Institute here in Paris. If you're a dance shoe manufacturer, a tutu maker, a dancer, a dance teacher, librarian, scholar, or writer, you owe Marie Taglioni a debt. Yes, YOU, dance insider. I don't want to have to tell the Italian Institute, which has offered us the use of its ornate theater to honor the first to use pointe artistically, that the dance community couldn't get it together to honor one of its most important mothers. Yes, this means you too, post-modern dance insider; as a dance experimenter, you also follow in Taglioni's footsteps. This means you, Capezio; you wouldn't have a shoe to sell if Taglioni hadn't made it essential. This means you, John Minden and Eliza Gaynor; the innovation you tout in your shoe began with Taglioni. And I'd like to throw a special challenge out to Michael Weiskopf, who might not have a name for his magazine ("Pointe") if there hadn't been a Marie Taglioni: Hey Michael, how about sending your erstwhile editor, the ballerina Virginia Johnson, to join us in paying homage to the woman whose legacy feeds us all?

If you would like to take part as a speaker or dancer, or sponsor a participating dancer or speaker for our homage to Marie Taglioni, please e-mail me at paul@danceinsider.com.

Fractured Frankfurters

Speaking of dancers who advanced the art, half of the 32 members of the Ballett Frankfurt, which bowed out July 3 here in Paris, will not be carried over to the Forsythe Company, Frankfurt director William Forsythe's new, and private, enterprise. The Forsythe Ballet, which anticipates support from the German states of Saxony and Hesse -- its home theaters will be Dresden's Festspeilhaus Hellerau and Frankfurt's Bockenheimer Depot -- will have an annual budget of $4.8 million when it begins operating January 1. (The first performances will be in April, a company spokesman told the Dance Insider, declining to say where the company will launch.)The Ballett Frankfurt's last budget was about $9 million. In addition to the retained Frankfurt dancers, the Forsythe Ballet will hire two new members. We thought you'd want to know what will happen to the dancers who will not carry over.

The contracts of three of these dancers, Forsythe told the Dance Insider recently, "cannot be cancelled by the Stadtische Buhnen Frankfurt, and they will continue to work there in different artistic sections.... The contracts of 13 dancers weren't prolonged. Some of the dancers will start new careers as freelance choreographers, or they will start other artistic projects." (Several of the Frankfurt dancers recently released a CD showcasing their musical abilities.) We asked if the released dancers will receive a pension, having been, as members of the dance company, government employees. "All dancers of the Ballett Frankfurt will receive financial support out of the social contract and negotiations with the city of Frankfurt," Forsythe assured us. He will also try to use his contacts to help the dancers find work, and will use them himself as guest dancers from time to time, he promised.

Critic Cornered

Speaking of personnel matters, the dance gossip site "Criticaldance.com" has been getting its jollies lately by forwarding a gossip item from the July 1 Miami New Times insinuating that the reason dance critic Octavio Roca no longer works for its competitor, the Miami Herald, is that he "apparent"ly committed "plagiarism." I kinda don't know where to start with this one, but I'll try.

The New Times item is entirely unsourced. All the New Times columnist -- apparently, one Edmund Newton -- knows for sure is that Roca's "description disappared from the Herald website and his byline was no more to be seen in its pages." (There's, er, apparently, no dance criticism to be seen on the pages of the New Times web site, but that's another story.) "The apparent reason," opines Newton, "plagiarism." Apparent from what or who is not exactly clear. The New Times columnist cites not a single source who levels the charge "plagiarism" against Roca, and, by way of evidence, all he comes up with is quotes from two Herald articles in which Roca allegedly repeated himself from his own articles previously published by the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was the dance critic.

My dictionary defines "plagiarize" as "1. To use and pass off (the ideas or writings of another) as one's own. 2. To appropriate for use as one's own passages or ideas from (another)." From the evidence -- if we can call it that -- cited by New Times, Roca did not do this. In one instance, New Times alleges, he simply shared with his Herald readers a favorite Balanchine quote he'd previously shared with his Chronicle audience. In another, he's accused of repeating an observation about a performance by Baryshnikov. In other words, even if Roca did repeat himself as New Times claims, this ain't, contrary to what New Times insinuates, plagiarism.

There's a larger issue here, upon which both New Times and "criticaldance.com" missed an opportunity to comment. I haven't read a lot of Roca, but what I have read reflects a singular lack of imagination, a preference for superlative over substance. And yet for Roca's editors -- at the Herald and at the Chronicle -- superlative apparently sufficed. It's just dance, after all. Find enough ways to say it's pwetty, and we're satisfied. What's disturbing here is that in a universe full of dance critics who know how to go deep, the Chron and the Herald settled for one so shallow.

I Will Survive

Yes, the guitarist and synthesizer player who entertained me and mine for Bastille Day, which we celebrated in Les Eyzies, the capital of pre-history, did indeed play "I Will Survive" and other American er, chestnuts. (I won't name them, for fear you'll be cursed to then have them running through your head all day.) But the sub-title above refers to the Village Voice's most recent Dance Special, forwarded to me by our Tom Patrick, and which I'm remiss in not mentioning earlier. This year's edition, edited by Elizabeth Zimmer, focuses on the economic and working conditions facing dancers. With the caveat that I'd take any figures from Dance/USA and "Dance/NYC" with a grain of salt, as well as at least one other figure -- if you can really feed yourself for $100 per month in New York, I just might move back -- I urge you to check Jim Dowling's "Follow the Money," by clicking here, and Josephine Lee and Kimberly Bartosik's "The Etiquette of Dancing for Free, by clicking there.

I Will Continue to Survive

For most dancers, the survival challenge doesn't stop when their dancing careers do, it just enters another phase. We'll have a review on this later, but I wanted to let you know that the web site for Nancy Upper's "Ballet Dancers in Career Transition," featuring post-dancing career survival stories from Violette Verdy, Edward Villella, our own Robin Hoffman and others, is now live. Check it, dance insider!


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