The Buzz, 8-7: California
Giving Back to the Arts; Back to the Future for "Dance Magazine"?
"I'm deeply concerned
about what this is going to do to the arts ecology of the state.
The attitude that the arts are a frill, a disposable part of society,
is so very, very wrong. The economic impact alone is enormous."
--Lisa James, San Francisco
Opera, commenting to the San Francisco Chronicle on California's
plans to reduce arts spending to 3 cents per person
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider
SACRAMENTO, Oct. 8 --
In his first move as governor-elect of California, actor Arnold
Schwarzenegger today called on state legislators to enact a 5 percent
arts tax on all gross earnings from films made in the state, with
half of the proceeds mandated for arts in the schools.
"California has given
the Hollywood film colony a home for a hundred years," the actor
best known for his role as "The Terminator" noted. "It's time for
the industry to give something back."
Well -- it could happen,
dance insider. Before his entry yesterday into the race to succeed
Gov. Gray Davis if the latter is recalled October 7, Schwarzenegger's
most notable political achievement was last year's successful initiative
to mandate state funding for after-school programs.
It's clear that such
a bold step is needed; last week, the state's Democrat-controlled
legislature sent Davis a $100 billion budget that increases police
spending while slashing state arts funding, $18 million last year
and $32 million three years ago, to just $1 million. The new budget,
a California Arts Council official told
the San Francisco Chronicle, means the state will spend less than
3 cents per person on the arts -- "dead last," as the Chronicle's
Steven Winn put it, in a nation that spends an average $1.10 per
person. It's an embarassment for the state, and should be an embarrassment
for the state's premium arts industry, the Hollywood film community.
If Schwarzenegger wants to advance a positive plan for the state's
recovery, rather than just dissin' Davis, he might call on his colleagues
to follow the example of the Silicon Valley's Apple Computer, which
has long donated computers to cash-strapped schools, and start giving
Speaking of California dreamers, taken alone, the 'news' that "Dance
Magazine" is moving back to New York signifies little. What shocked
the dance world when the magazine left New York for Oakland about
four years ago was not just the move itself, but the jettisoning
of most of the staff to whom DM owed its credibility in the field
that came with it. Even then, the magazine might have regained some
ground had its publisher not driven out its new editor, Janice Berman,
a former Newsday dance critic who also had credibility among dance
A publication is more
than a name, and the journalists and other staff who made the name
Dance Magazine mean something have long since departed and left
its staff barren -- with three exceptional exceptions. Senior editor
Clive Barnes, New York editor Wendy Perron, and news editor (last
time I checked) Alan Ulrich are all held in deserved high regard
by the dance world.
I was tempted to ignore
this non-story, but the fact is, dance could use a third (after
Ballet Review and the Dance Insider) high-brow national publication.
A multiplicity of media voices means a healthier industry overall.
So, in its typically humble fashion, the Buzz would like to say
what it would do were it in the shoes of Jeff Schaeffer, president
and CEO of MacFadden, the current owner of "Dance Magazine."
First, I would bring
in one of the field's gray eminences as the publication's new executive
editor -- someone widely and internationally respected among both
dancers and dance journalists. Richard Philp, who over a nearly
30-year period made DM what it was before its current editor and
publisher proceeded to demolish it, would be one ideal candidate.
Elizabeth Zimmer, longtime dance editor of the Village Voice, would
be another. The executive editor would not be merely titular, but
would have a real responsibility for rebuilding the magazine's reputation
and setting the overall direction and vision of the book, which
are currently wandering.
Next, I would elevate
Perron to editor-in-chief. With all due respect to the DI's own
staff, Perron is probably the most gifted dancer-dance journalist
working in the field today. Placing her in charge of the book's
content, in tandem with a Philp or a Zimmer, would instantly re-establish
credibility among dance artists and, particularly, the New York
I would then try to
convince Harris Green, a features editor under Philp jettisoned
with the move West, to come back as managing editor, responsible
for establishing a consistent style-book and raising the current
uneven editorial standard. (The most recent bad example: An article
by a former dancer advocating dumpster-diving and complimentary
class hopping as respectable survival tools for dancers. Please.
Do we really need to push dancer esteem any further into the gutter?)
I'd also try to lure back Doris Perlman, a former editorial assistant
at DM, as copy chief.
The magazine would then
need to bring on a reviews editor with the stature of the late Gary
Parks, who held that position under Philp. Tobi Tobias, a DI contributor
and a former longtime contributor to DM, is probably too busy, but
it would need to be someone in her league. Nancy Dalva, another
DI contributor, also comes to mind.
Ulrich could and should
be retained as news editor. It's probably good for at least one
editor to view the scene from outside New York, and Ulrich, a San
Francisco institution, has always maintained a global perspective.
Just as critical as
new editorial leadership is bringing in a publisher who, er, has
some actual knowledge of publishing, and of the dance advertising
landscape. Here the choice is obvious: Eileen Darby, DM's former
advertising director. (First, MacFadden would have to settle Darby's
claims with the former owner.) (Lest Eileen's current employer gets
the wrong idea, she didn't put this idea in my head; in fact, Eileen,
a colleague, is probably losing her breakfast over my having put
Have a great week-end,
Dance Insider, however you express it.