The Buzz, 11-14: Arrested
Board Brinksmanship at American Ballet Theatre; Editorial Abdication
at the New York Times (or, a Tale of Two "Rain"s)
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider
Just what the Mac Lowry
is going on with the board of American Ballet Theatre, and the confused
coverage of its machinations by the New York Times? (Not the histrionic
board, the histrionics at the board.)
By now, most dance insiders
probably know about Robin Pogrebin's report in Wednesday's Times
that the Movado watch company, chaired by disgruntled former ABT
board member Gedalio Grinberg, has withdrawn a sponsorship valued
at $400,000 annually, directing it instead to New York City Ballet.
Movado, according to the Times, says it was (quoting the Times here)
"forced to do so because of financial mismanagement at Ballet Theater
(sic)." The paper goes on to quote Grinberg as scolding the ABT
board in a letter (presumably obtained by the Times), "Management's
actions and style have been inconsistent with my principles." Grinberg
resigned from the board this past June, in protest of what the Times
characterizes as the board's "ouster of a fellow member, Lewis P.
Geyser," who had "questioned Ballet Theater's financial accountability"
as well as the leadership of board chair Lewis Ranieri.
In a statement issued
to the Dance Insider yesterday on behalf of the board, ABT spokesperson
Kelly Ryan responded:
"There were a number
of factual and perceptual errors in the article 'Sponsor Spurns
Ballet Theater' which appeared on Wednesday, November 12, 2003 in
the New York Times.
"We strongly feel that
Ms. Pogrebin's one-sided reporting distorts the real picture. Had
Ms. Pogrebin checked the deficit figure at any time during her conversations
with ABT's chairman Lewis Ranieri, he could have had the opportunity
to correct her reporting. ABT's endowment fund grew from $6.6 million
at the close of '02 to nearly $9 million this year. These funds
are never co-mingled as alleged by Lewis Geyser in the Times article.
"As to the charge of
withholding financial information: Ballet Theatre Foundation prepares
and distributes financial statements quarterly. We take our financial
"As to ABT's relationship
with Movado: We are disappointed about the loss of their sponsorship.
However, we are grateful they have chosen to continue to support
ballet. Movado and ABT have had a long and fruitful association
since 1986, and ABT's dancers have benefited greatly from Movado's
generosity. ABT continues to hold Movado in high regard and is proud
and grateful to have enjoyed such a long association with this great
"In ABT's history, the
company has often relied on the extreme generosity of a few great
individuals, beginning with Lucia Chase and Richard Pleasant and
more recently with Peter T. Joseph and Lew Ranieri. Ballet Theatre
is grateful to these individuals and others without whom the company
would not be in the stable position it is today.
"Looking toward the
future, ABT is working successfully to implement a new strategic
direction for the company. ABT's board of governing trustees is
helping the company expand its national and international presence,
aggressively supporting the artistic vision of Kevin McKenzie and
working to provide an enhanced environment for the dancers. These
objectives are being accomplished through a carefully thought-out
plan designed to lead the Company to growth as well as financial
self-sufficiency. Equally important to ABT is the support of over
7,000 donors and a 20% increase in corporate support over the past
It's a little hard for
me to examine those quarterly reports from the other side of the
Ocean, so I will reserve comment on the accuracy of the Times report.
But Pogrebin's follow-up in yesterday's Times included at least
one glaring error, the statement, "City Ballet performs twice as
much as Ballet Theater (23 weeks)...." In fact, ABT performed 21
weeks last year, plus one week of partial company performances at
the Kennedy Center. The company rehearsed an additional 18 weeks,
for a total of 39 work weeks.
Regarding ABT's board,
I would humbly suggest that its members consider taking two simple
1) Stop taking your
problems with each other or your executives to the media, and solve
them internally. 2) Hire a new executive director pronto, and sign
him or her to a five-year contract to give the organization some
administrative stability to match the ABT
dancers' artistic consistency.
As regards the New York
Times.... For the moment I am more concerned with its critical consistency.
The most important and influential European modern dance choreographer
not named Pina blew into town this week, and the Times delivered,
well..... Herewith, excerpts from two takes on performances of Anne
Teresa De Keersmaeker's "Rain" by her Rosas company, as captured (and tamed) by Jack
Anderson reviewing Tuesday's NY premiere at BAM, and as Flash Reviewed
by our Rosa Mei at its Brussels premiere:
Rosa Mei in the Dance
Insider, February 2, 2001:
"An exceptionally beige
piece.... Beige and pastel hues shift to fuchsia, revert back to
the original tones, then lighten to beige and white.... A formalist
study in an impressionist painting."
Jack Anderson in the
New York Times, November 14, 2003:
"This "Rain" was often
"Flat interstate driving
to Steve Reich's droning and propulsive 'Music for 18 Musicians.'"
"The score weaves together
many chiming and pulsing sounds, all pleasing to the ear."
"De Keersmaeker has
a penchant for simulating the dynamics of longing in both the gasping
use of breath and the rag-doll flinging of the torso and limbs."
"Sometimes in the past,
Ms. De Keersmaeker's patterns have evoked turbulent emotions."
"The movement: simple
variations of running, skipping, jumping and turning, tra la la
dance in post-modern Isadora mode."
"Women gallop with an
exultation that recalls some of the early 20th-century modern-dance
works of Isadora Duncan."
"A sample phrase: step,
run, run, run, skip, arm fling side, fast roll to ground, stand
arch, head fling, head roll, arm fling, another fast roll to floor.
"They run in circles,
again and again."
"If everyone could make
Kansas look this good, you'd be looking at Kansas in a completely
different way. There'd also be far more traffic jams on that barren
stretch of I-70."
"This soothing 'Rain'
Actually, it hasn't;
you can catch Rosas in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's "'Rain," New
York dance insider, through tomorrow at the Brooklyn Academy of
Music. For more information, please visit the BAM web site.