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The Buzz, 10-17: Engaged
Danspace Projects; What's the Pointe?; Stowell Starts

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider

What's a disclosure, in the journalistic sense? Well, for example, I would tell you before the following rave that two of the three companies referenced feature good friends and colleagues as dancers or choreographers, and I would also tell you that the presenter being raved advertises on the Dance Insider. Now, to my mind, that's not why I'm raving, but it's not for me as the raver to determine my objectivity -- you as the reader need to know all the facts. Then, after reading the item, you can determine if I was sincere or under the influence.

This fall season isn't the first time that Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church has introduced dance companies into the rarified and occasionally insular realm of the big New York three, the Joyce and Dance Theater Workshop making up the other too. (For the purposes of this rave, I'm discounting the Kitchen, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, PS 122 and other theaters with multi-genre programming.) But looking at this venue's fall line-up, one can't help but notice, and I've got to rave, that just this month alone, three of of the companies DS executive director Laurie Uprichard and her team are presenting are companies that (by their tenure, not their talent) would usually have to toil a lot longer before being admitted into the circle of the big three: Eun Jung Gonzalez & Catey Ott, reviewed here Tuesday by Tom Patrick; Heather Harrington, who opened last night and which Darrah Carr will be reviewing for us; and Jordan Fuchs with "Rest Stop Rendezvous," which opens October 30 and which I reviewed in 2002.. (Disclosure: Ott and Fuchs dancer Veronica Dittman are DI contributors and PBI friends.)

As one can read in Tom's and my reviews, Fuchs and Gonzalez/Ott have artistic chops, and assuming Harrington does too, this would be the reason Danspace Project programmed them. But a presenter must also take into account factors like "box office" and "draw," and these considerations often (and understandably) can dissuade a theater from programming an artist who has something to say but not necessarily a proven audience who wants to hear it. So the Buzz salutes Uprichard and company for moving in this direction, and encourages you, New York dance insider, to check Harrington this weekend, regardless of whether you've every seen or heard of the company. (For more info, please visit the Danspace Project web site.)

When potential conflicts of interest arise, there's another way to go besides disclosure: Recusal. While this happens a lot at the Dance Insider, as a general policy it would be impractical and unfair because most of our writers are dance insiders -- active dancers and/or choreographers who work or have worked with other dancers or choreographers we review, or who merit being reviewed themselves. (For the latter, we have a policy of limiting reviews of concerts by choreographers who also write for us to one per year.) Their being involved in the field also gives them a unique insight to the artists, so as long as we disclose any and all connections, the benefit to the readers and artists of such insight makes it worth it.

Similarly, Henning Rubsam no doubt had a unique perspective to bring to his profile, in the current issue of Pointe magazine, of prima ballerina assoluta Eva Evdokimova, who he's worked with before. And if anything, Evdokimova, a longtime touring partner to Rudolf Nureyev, doesn't get the exposure she deserves, at least in the US media. Knowing Henning, I trust that his interest in writing about her was to expose more young ballet dancers to this major artist, and had nothing to do with promoting his Joyce Soho concert this month featuring her in his work. But Pointe's readers should have been informed of that connection, and they were not. (Additionally, serious allegations were made about Evdokimova's treatment by Boston Ballet, where she was ballet mistress last season, with no opportunity provided to the ballet company to respond, a serious lapse in news judgment.)

Unfortunately, it's no surprise that Pointe's editors wouldn't catch this omission of disclosure. The same issue -- appalingly -- prints as "News" the announcement of a new product by American Harlequin, which just happens to be a major advertiser in... Pointe.

Meanwhile, Pointe has finally decided that a publication which promises "ballet at its best" should include some coverage of what ballet dancers at their best do, which is to dance. Yes, the magazine has begun publishing reviews. The bad news is that they're not really reviews, but demi-reviews. Rather bizarrely, all the reviews end with the note "continued on pointemagazine.com." Print-Web synergy can be a good thing, but the way it's usually done is that the print publication lets its readers know of additional reviews to be found online. By so truncating its print reviews and making readers go to its web site to see how they finish, Pointe may drive its numbers up on the web site, but it's not serving the artists, writers, or reading audience.

Speaking of ballet at its best, Christopher Stowell definitely represented that in his years as a principal at the San Francisco Ballet. I've never seen anyone shape like Stowell; I remember watching him once in a Helgi Tomasson ballet and blurring my eyes just to see the patterns Stowell described.

Stowell retired from San Francisco Ballet in 2001 (read Aimee Ts'ao's Flash of his farewell performance by clicking here), and is now carving out programs at Oregon Ballet Theater, where his inaugural season as director was celebrated in a black-tie opening Saturday. From Portland, where she was staging Paul Taylor's "Company B" for company Stowell (an unforgettable Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy at SFB), former PT etoile (and emeritus DI promotion director) Rachel Berman writes, "Christopher is shaking things up in Portland! I am so proud of him. He is doing a fabulous job and the dancers are wonderful. The first concert consisted of Balanchine's 'Rubies,' Helgi Tomasson's 'Twilight,' (father) Kent Stowell's 'Duo Fantasy,' and 'Company B.'"

In Portland for the opening were Stowell's SFB colleague, Joanna (no relation, no disclosure necessary) Berman, with her husband and 5-month old twin boys; Stowell's parents and directors of Pacific Northwest Ballet, Francia Russel and Kent Stowell; Tomasson and his wife, Marleena Tomasson; PNB principal Patricia Barker; BodyVoxers Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton; Joe Goode's Jennifer Cook and other SanFran colleagues. And here's a nice, dance insider twist: Not just the choreographers, but the stagers too were invited to take curtain calls, reports Rachel. "After Chris's bow -- to a standing ovation -- they did a red white and blue balloon drop and a reprise of the Pennsylvania Polka (from 'Company B')... and then had a champagne reception onstage. The whole city seemed a buzz! The dancers were wonderful.... The show went off without a 'hitch.' 'Company B' was, of course, the crowd pleaser. Everyone seemed refreshed to see beautiful neo-classical ballet.... Christopher is going to be a great director and the company will be one to watch on the West Coast."

Speaking of the West Coast, this one goes out to Karen (disclosure: la belle-soeur), who's always engaged.

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