The Buzz, 7-23: Life's
Paris Festival Cancelled; Graham Ensemble Explained; Parting Words
of White; One More Great Publicist; Altogether Different Solicitation
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider
-- So it has come to this, in the long hot summer of the strike
called by freelance performance artists and technicians in France.
The Paris Quartier d'ete summer festival having been cancelled,
including this week's run of Stephen Petronio in the garden of the
Royal Palace, as well as the popular (and free) outdoor movie festival
(this year's theme: A world of storms), summer fun options in the
City of Light have been reduced to Paris Plage, in which you can
go to the beach but can't get in the water. (Parks regulation number
5473293.) Sans spectacles to review, and before the city could dump
tons of sand along the banks of the Seine, I hied last week to this
coastal village where you are permitted to wade in the water (even
if you have to pay for it in restaurants) to do that and review
the beer, as colleague Rosa Mei's dog Nemo reviewed the passing
procession of kites by barking at them to descend at once. Hands-down
winner: St. Bernardus. (A trappist brew like Chimay but with more
bite, and I only tried the 8 percent version.) But before I headed
out Tuesday for a week of R&R in the Dordogne region in the southwest
of France, I wanted to send you this Buzz.
...Starting with the
ongoing strike of the Intermittents, as the freelance performing
artists and technicians here are called. As you've been reading
in the DI, they're pissed because the government and the employers
association wants to cut their unemployment benefits from a year
to eight months, and narrow the window in which they have to log
the 507 hours to activate the bennies. Worker power -- even freelance
worker power, and amen for that -- being what it is here in France,
the greving artists have succeeded in shutting down most of the
major dance and performing arts festivals here, including those
in Avignon, Montpellier, and Aix-en-Provence. (The last was cancelled
after Intermittents made a racket outside a performance of "La Traviata,"
pausing only for the Pause.) As in Montpellier, organizers of Paris
quartier d'ete -- this city's equivalent of the Lincoln Center Festival,
more or less -- decided to shut down because, they said at a press
conference Friday (as reported by Le Monde Sunday), the "incertitude"
of a "reconductable" strike, in which workers voted each day whether
to strike that evening's performances, wasn't fair to the audience
or artists. (The artists' contracts, organizers added, will be honored.")
But the unity in the
Intermittents' cause is starting to crack. In Chalon-sur-Saone,
as Le Monde reported Sunday, the 700 artists and technicians have
been sharply divided over whether to greve the Chalon dans la rue
festival, with 51.27 percent supporting an action. (An accompanying
photo shows demonstrators holding aloft signs reading "Moi.")
Speaking of vox populi, we always appreciate your corrections, including
this one from Martha Graham Center executive director Marvin Preston,
who, following a recent Buzz column, writes to clarify:
"The Martha Graham Ensemble
is not a junior company. It is the student performing group which,
instead of growing into an increasingly well-integrated group, provides
at most a two or three year experience prior to professional level
dancing. It does not focus on performing Graham works other than
to ingest and master elements of the Graham technique. It does focus
on new choreography, on innovation, invention, and new works. It
is a bit of a laboratory. It is heavily involved in educational
outreach. I believe that over time the content of the programs that
are performed by the Martha Graham Ensemble will make clear the
distinction between the company and the ensemble. They fill distinctly
different purposes and are not in any way junior or senior to each
Speaking of respected dance organization leaders, David White, who
departed earlier this month as executive director and producer of
Dance Theater Workshop, tells the Buzz he chose this time to leave
"simply because the timing is right, after getting the (DTW) building
up and open in a successful inaugural season, and after overseeing
my intended transition to Cathy, Craig, and Marion." Cathy Edwards
and Craig Peterson have succeeded White as DTW's artistic directors,
while Marion Dienstag becomes its executive director. As with Edwards
and Peterson, says White, Dienstag's elevation was "always part
of the anticipated change in leadership, given that DTW has become
a much more complicated beast to manage and given that she has a
paranormally elevated capacity both to strategize and to ride herd."
Also a factor in his
decision to hand over the reigns after 28 years at the helm, White
adds, was that "having lived apart from my wife and daughter a good
part of the time since December, I missed my family deeply." White
will join his family in St. Paul, where his wife, Betsy Gardella,
is an executive with the Minnesota Opera.
We also asked White
to what he attributes his uncanny timing in spearheading DTW's purchase
of its Chelsea building just ahead of a dot.com boom which forced
many dance organizations out of theirs, and then in securing the
funding for the building's reconstruction before the bottom dropped
out of the New York City economy.
"Dumb luck. Desperate
thinking. Deciding not to go to business school in 1970 because
of the Cambodia bombings. Hallucinatory flashbacks to a higher plane,
the result of one too many substances ingested in the late '60s.
Really good people around me, and really good artists to work for."
No longer around DTW are marketing and PR director Nolini Barretto
and marketing and PR manager Tom Pearson, the latter of whom would
like you to know he's still in business as a publicist. If you've
got an upcoming concert and would like to take advantage of Tom's
legendary press release eloquence and deserved respect among the
dance media, you can e him at email@example.com.
Speaking of really good people working for artists, one of my heroes
in this department is Martin Wechsler, who with executive director
Linda Shelton programs the Joyce Theater, with a particular brief
for its signature Altogether Different festival. Each year, they
have to put together a program of five or six companies who a) in
some manner suggest "altogether different," b) serve the Joyce's
various demographic and dancer constituencies, and c) can draw enough
that the theater won't go broke. Oh and then there's nattering back-seat
drivers like moi to contend with.
For next year's festival,
the Joyce has just announced a line up of John Kelly, Margie Gillis,
Peter Pucci, Rebecca Stenn, and Ben Munisteri. (Pucci will be presenting
a new evening-length solo; details are sketchy on the other works.)
This time around, I
thought I'd ask you, dance insider, what you think of these choices.
Please send your responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please specify if you'd like your response to be anonymous.
....Speaking of e, I'll be travelling in the southwest of France
and out of e-mail reach through noon New York time next Tuesday.
Nicole Pope, freshly elevated from Bennington, will be watching
things here at Dance Insider Paris and fielding your urgent e-mail
queries to email@example.com
Bonne vacance, dance insider, and a bientot!