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The Buzz, 10-22: The Ballerina Wants to Stop
Dorothy Opts out of Oz; The (Intermittents) Revolution will not be Televised; Red-Faced at the Moulin Rouge

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider

She had achieved what every ballet dancer dreams of from the moment she tries on her first pair of slippers: Principal status in one of the world's premium ballet companies. The promotion came after a stunning opening night for a new production of "Swan Lake" in which she created the role of Odette. More accolades followed, including one of the country's premium honors for entertainers in any medium, the Helpmann award. But yesterday, just a year after artistic director David McAllister named her a principal of the Australian Ballet, and at 28 years old in the prime of her dancing life, Simone Goldsmith announced she didn't want to dance anymore.
Simone Goldsmith and Steven Heathcote of the Australian Ballet in Graeme Murphy's "Swan Lake." Jeff Busby photo courtesy the Australian Ballet.

Calling Goldsmith "arguably the company's best-known female face," today's Sydney Morning Herald reported that the ballerina's decision to step down a the end of the current Sydney season "has shocked the dance world, with many wondering why the young dancer, the photogenic face of Graeme Murphy's 'Swan Lake,' and widely seen as one of the most talented and promising stars to have emerged in recent years, would be hanging up her pointe shoes, particularly so soon after being appointed principal dancer."

The answer, according to sources close to the ballerina (at presstime, the Ballet had not responded to repeated requests for comment from Goldsmith and McAllister), is simple: The ballerina simply wants to stop dancing.

Never mind that her departure comes amidst other recent or imminent high-profile exits at the Oz, including, reports the Herald, Margaret Illman, Felicia Palanca, and another recently promoted principal, Joshua Consandine; the decision does not reflect unhappiness with McAllister nor suggest bigger problems at the company, Oz insiders say.

What about you, dancing dance insider? Are there reasons you would stop, or have stopped, dancing in the prime of your career? Drop the Buzz a line, why don'tchya, at paul@danceinsider.com. Meantime, to read more about what Goldsmith has achieved and is giving up, check Suzanne Davidson's DI review of her Odette by clicking here.

Speaking of the fame game, here in France, there's none bigger than Star Academy. The Buzz doesn't have a television, but as near as I can gather, the show is a rip-off combining the best (or worse) of MTV's Real World and Star Search. Three to six million French people turn in every Saturday to see who will get kicked off the program. (And you thought they just sat in cafes wearing berets and arguing philosophy.) The 3.5 million "telespectateurs" tuning in this past Saturday found agitation of a different kind, as about 50 Intermittents du Spectacle -- or freelance performing artists -- infiltrated the academy and unfurled a banner imploring viewers to "Turn off your televisions." By the end of the evening, according to the Paris daily Liberation Monday, six Intermittents were injured and four in jail after a melee erupted with police and security guards working for the broadcasting network, TF1.

The Intermittents, you'll recall, have been more or less on strike since June, protesting a plan by employers, acceded to by the government and some smaller unions, that would drastically reduce their unemployment benefits and make it harder to qualify for them. (The government and employers' main argument: There's less money in the system.) Under the current system, the Intermittents need to log 507 hours of work -- they can be with multiple employers -- over a 12-month period in order to qualify for 12 months of compensation. The new accord would give them ten (performers) or ten-and-a-half (technicians) months in which to accumulate the hours, and lower the compensation to eight months. The Intermittents are pissed, and their main union, the CGT, promised and delivered a long hot summer, forcing the shut down of most of the major festivals across France.

The combination of factors that enabled this summer's actions -- the threat of reconductable strikes (with workers at each festival voting every day whether to strike that night) and mostly sympathetic festival directors -- has been largely absent this fall, with only two theaters throughout France lowering their curtains. And the government has other, larger concerns to deal with, the biggest being choler in Brussels that the country continues to exceed the 3 percent deficit limit set by the European Union. Politicians are also debating whether to retain the 35-hour work week instituted by the last, Socialist government, and many French are no doubt more concerned by a 20 percent rise in cigarette prices than what many see as the needs of underemployed artists.

To retain the public's attention, the Intermittents have escalated their tactics; earlier this fall, they occupied a mansion belonging to the actor Gerard Depardieu. Depardieu, who doesn't live there, said they could stay, but the city ordered police to eject them anyway, saying the building was unfit for habitation.

The Star Academy siege was an attempt to draw attention to what some see as the biggest abuser of the Intermittents system -- the audiovisual industry, which, together with the radio and cinema sectors, employs on average 35,000 of the 100,000 workers in the system. For example, the charges go, a production house will hire a costumer for 40 hours, but only report 20 hours, instructing the worker to file an unemployment claim to cover the other 20 hours.

"In intervening before six million (sic) telespectateurs, we touched a nerve," one of the organizers of Saturday's action told Liberation. "This they cannot accept. We only wanted to read our text and explain the reasons for our movement."

The Intermittents had unfurled their banner and were about to make their case, reported Liberation, when the network pulled the plug and substituted another popular show, Julie Lescaut, after a confrontation elsewhere in the studio between another group of militants and police and security guards left a window broken. Organizers insist they had already decided to leave when the police arrested them.

"Two hours later," reported Liberation, "the broadcast resumed and "the (Star Academy) candidate Anne was eliminated, under the eyes of 3.5 million telespectateurs."

Speaking of labor actions, a Paris Court of Appeals has fined the Moulin Rouge 10,000 Euros (about $12,000) plus 4,500 Euros in damages for illegally refusing to hire people of color to work in its dining room. Or, as the Paris newspaper France Soir put it in its headline Saturday, "Whites in the dining room, Blacks (only) in the Kitchen."

In November 2000 (recounts France Soir's Sandrine Baglin-Brandel), Abdoulaye Marega, a Frenchman of Senagalese descent who had just completed a course of study in Hotel work, learned that the dining room of the Moulin Rouge was hiring. But when he called to respond to the ad, Marega says, he was told "We do not take people of color in the dining room." When he followed up with a personal visit to the famed Montmartre dance hall, he was told the problem was that he didn't speak English or Spanish. However, shortly after he arrived, a young Dutch person who also didn't speak these languages was hired.

Marega alerted SOS Racisme, which conducted a test, recorded by hidden cameras, sending equally qualified white candidates and black candidates to apply for the same job. The test confirmed Marega's experience. An inspection later revealed that, in fact, no Blacks had been employed in the Moulin Rouge's kitchen since 1962.

"The people from the Moulin Rouge did not respect the rights of man," Marega told France Soir after his victory. "My most beautiful victory is that since my affair, two persons of color have been employed in the dining room!"


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