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The Buzz, 10-14: Dance Locally, Test Globally
More supporters for Taglioni; Sense from Sensedance; Small-thinking at BAM; Follow the Dancing Publicist Down the Red Road

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider

PARIS -- You don't know what you got 'til it's gone, goes the Joni Mitchell song, and that sure applies to your mother tongue. One of the hazards of living in a country whose native parlance isn't yours is that drop by drop, word by word, you start to forget how to say things in the language you were born with. First to go for me in France, where I've lived for three+ years, have been the English versions of words I use a lot in French. Modern dance here is Danse contemporaine; talking the subject in English with an American colleague recently, I found myself saying "contemporainey" instead of...what was it... contemporary. Trying to hang on to what's left of the mother tongue in mine, I prize the language more today. This makes me extra indignant when I see the president of my country butchering it -- not accidentally in a malapropism, but with fear-mongering purpose. As even a Yale man should know, when John Kerry said he'd apply a "global test" to US foreign policy, he didn't mean he'd go around the world asking permission. Rather, he meant "global" in the "universal' sense: In considering whether to go to war, he wouldn't be guided by whether the dictator in question had insulted his pappy, but rather whether the war in question met a universal set of tests or standards.

Before you accuse me of going political on you in a dance journal, the above is actually a long-winded segue into today's first item, so....


Global Thinkers for Taglioni

Speaking of thinking globally, a tip of the Dance Insider beret to the following dance insiders who get the big picture, and Marie Taglioni's importance in it. For their support of our efforts to preserve and celebrate Taglioni's legacy, we'd like to thank our latest contributors:

**Anonymous, in the name of Flamenca Phoebe Vernier, who you can catch dancing locally in Petaluma (or Pet-a-luma, as we called it when I was growing up in the area), California, this Saturday at Zangria restaurant at 1370 Redwood Way, in seatings at 7 and 9 p.m. More info: click here.

**Rebecca Mosley

**Hannah Wiley, of the University of Washington dance department

**And Peter Kyle, of the same and formerly of the Nikolais and Murray Louis dance company.

What's the message here? That as crucial as her heritage is to ballet in particular, Marie Taglioni's legacy and its preservation is one in which we all -- dancers of all stripes, and the dance infrastructure that supports and profits from them -- have a vested interest. To read the latest on our campaign to properly remember Taglioni, please click here. If you don't know who Marie Taglioni was and why you should care, write to me at paul@danceinsider.com and I'll explain. To find out how you can contribute, write the same address.


Sensical Sensedance

Is that a word? I'm not sure anymore. But I am sure that dance's big thinkers include Byron Segal-Jacobs, administrator of Henning Rubsam's Sensedance. In reminding us last month that four Dance Theatre of Harlem artists join the company for this week's Baruch Performing Arts Center performances, Segal-Jacobs asked, "Did you know DTH is laid off until June 2005?" We didn't, not until Segal-Jacobs told us. Consequently, and after confirming the story with two other sources, we were able to inform the community immediately of this crisis, rather than waiting for the press conference, and I use the term loosely when it comes to DTH director Arthur Mitchell. Click here to read the story again, and to check Sensedance's "Django" program, go to Baruch College Performing Arts Center tonight through Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. or Sunday at 3. The evening includes four premieres and work from the repertoire, performed by company members Shizu Yasuda, Kathryn Sydell, Michael Pendell, Samuel Roberts, and the choreographer, plus DTH guest artists Ramon Thielen, Melissa Morrissey, Akua Parker, and Sonny Robinson. More info at 646-312-4085.


Half-court Press

....a basketball term, if I recall correctly, employed here as a cheap-shot subtitle to introduce the next item, a continuation of our "global test" results. The press office at the Brooklyn Academy of Music usually scores straight A's here, but this week it's a ringing D-.

Believe it or not, my reviewing dance from stages in France is not just an excuse to keep me in baguettes and the cats in more kinds of cheese than your palate would have time to adjust to, let alone your pet's. We assume that our readership of dance professionals and dance fanatics has an interest in dance so keen that it extends beyond what they can see this weekend in their own backyard. They want to keep abreast of developments in the field, on a global canvas. (Metaphor mixage predated my move here.) However, in all our reviews from around the world (not just mine), we are pleased when we can tell our readers when they can see the dance in question at a theater near them. As much of the dance in Europe -- not just France -- that passes through here eventually makes its way to the US, I and my DI colleagues here are often able to give our US readers such head's ups. (Here's a freebie: Our Darrah Carr tipped you to Portuguesa De Bailado Contemporaneo, playing this week at the Joyce Theater in New York, in this 2001 Flash Dispatch from Sintra, Portugal. Darrah's another big picture thinker.)

So after Sasha Waltz and her dancer-collaborators blew me away the other night at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt with the Paris premiere of "Impromptus," I naturally sought out the company management afterwards to ask if the piece would tour to the United States. From company officials Jochen Sandig and Manfred Stoffl, I got -- and was able to include in my story -- the helpful information that yes, "Impromptus" would receive its US premiere at BAM on December 5, 2005. My US presenter-versed companion and I also offered helpful suggestions about other presenters in the US that might receive the work well, such as Cal Performances in Berkeley and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. We were four big picture people essentially interested in spreading the gospel of dance through this special work of art.

BAM executive producer Joseph Melillo is a big picture guy too, which is why we got an appreciative note back when I hipped him to our review yesterday. The head of the BAM press office is normally a big picture person as well, which is why I was shocked by her reply when I FYI'd her about the review and its mention of the upcoming BAM engagement. I wasn't looking for a 'thank you'; it was just common reporter-publicist courtesy. But I wasn't expecting what came back. "I'm sure you think this is helpful," she wrote, "but we won't be announcing this engagement, or the 2005 Next Wave, for quite some time."

My pique with (at?) this maybe-to-you innocuous note is not personal but, er, global. The sentiment apparently expressed here ties into the global problem among some small-thinkers in our community that dance can only bear so much media play. Practically put: If the news gets out now, more than a year before the engagement, the media won't want to cover it next year -- or so goes the thinking -- when we'll need to sell the tickets. Here at the Dance Insider -- and there are many of us global thinkers outside of our publication -- we like to think big. We treat a new and groundbreaking work by a major choreographer like Sasha Waltz not just as review fodder but as NEWS. We regard the news that this work of art will hit US shores next year as a SCOOP. By treating advance word of a dance concert as just as excitement-generating and attention-deserving as a scoop in any other realm (took me three minutes to remember that word), we recognize that dance has a primary place in the cultural and in fact news diet of readers...globally. (Big-thinking is also why we've assigned -- with the appreciated cooperation of the BAM press office -- two reviews of the same piece in Pina Bausch/Tanztheater Wuppertal's upcoming BAM season. She's big, we have the opportunity to assign critiques by two big reviewers, Chris Dohse and Gus Solomons jr, so we have.)

Small thinking like that shown here by the BAM press chief reminds me of a saying we used to have at Dance Magazine. Attending a performance of the New York City Ballet, my colleague Caitlin Sims and I noticed that, despite its featuring a City Ballet dancer on the cover, the boutique at the New York State Theater had no copies of our current issue. Before our next performance, we grabbed a few issues that were sitting in a big stack at the office and simply gave them to the boutique manager, who was quite pleased. The next day we were scolded by the circulation manager and reprimanded by the associate publisher. This and other instances of non or even anti-promotion of a journal the staff was then quite proud of led us to come up with the ironic slogan, "Dance Magazine: The best kept secret in the dance world."

Dance insiders, our art is not a precious secret to be hoarded among the cognoscenti. It is a transformative jewel to be discovered by all, and that thus needs more, not less press.


The Global Red Road

Speaking of publicists, the good news is the most of those who work in dance are global thinkers. Some are even globally qualified. (I don't mean the rest aren't qualified, I mean that some are multiple-threats.) Take Tom Pearson, the former PR manager for Dance Theater Workshop, now running his own shop. Besides writing some of the best press releases in the business -- this is important if you want my and other assignment editors' and potential reviewers' attention, dance insider -- Tom also designs some of the best banners in the business, for clients with the interest and wherewithal to market their activities on the web. But that's not all! A tonic to all editors about to hurt someone if they see the word "beautiful" or any of its empty superlative cousins in another press release, Tom is a DANCER and CHOREOGRAPHER as well, and draws on this experience in his original PR material. You can check Tom this Sunday, FOR FREE, performing his "Ceremony" at the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, on the waterfront between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. (Rain location: White Wave's John Ryan Theater, located at 25 Jay Street, on the waterfront in DUMBO, Brooklyn.)

Global thinker that he is, Tom also makes sure to tell us that the program, playing from 1 to 2 p.m. as part of the d.u.m.b.o. dance festival, also includes Melissa Briggs Dance, the Highcliffe Project, Amy Beth Schneider -Thread Dance Theater, Aimee Rials, Melinda Ring - Special Projects, Emily Faulkner and Sabine Heubusch. As for "Ceremony," which draws on Tom's Cherokee/Muskogee roots and in which he's accompanied by Thunderbird Indian Dancers director Louis Mofsie and Rob Mastrianni, the New Yorker called it "Movement that shimmers with unusual psychic static...." (More info on Tom's Web site.)

On that note: I know what you're thinking, so I'll sign off before the static blocks out the shimmer.

 

 

 

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