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The Buzz, 11-14: Staking a Claim
Voices on Bujones; Less Voices at Voice; Paris isn't Burning

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2005 The Dance Insider
Photograph copyright Roy Round

Native Son

Funeral services are to be held today in Miami, birthplace of Orlando Ballet artistic director Fernando Bujones, who passed away Thursday at the age of 50 from a malignant melanoma. "Fernando Bujones's pure classical technique and bold temperament made him one of the first American-born male dancers to become an international ballet superstar," Anna Kisselgoff wrote Friday in the New York Times. At American Ballet Theatre, with whom Bujones thrilled audiences for some two decades, artistic director Kevin McKenzie said Thursday, "Fernando will be missed as a friend and colleague by so many people. He will be remembered as an inspiration and an example by many more. With his stellar career as a performer behind him, he was claiming another stellar career as a teacher and director that he leaves behind too soon. We are all poorer for it."
Fernando Bujones, in a studio shot by Roy Round. Photograph copyright Roy Round and courtesy American Ballet Theatre.

In Orlando Thursday, the Ballet's former board president, Tricia Earl, recalled how Bujones "took an average local company and made it into a world-class organization. He was an exceptional gift to the world of dance -- not only as a performer but with the legacy he leaves." "All of us at Orlando Ballet have lost a mentor and a friend," executive director Russell P. Allen added.

Bujones telegraphed the impact he would have on the field early on, becoming in 1974 one of ABT's youngest principal dancers ever. That same year, he became the first American dancer to win the gold medal at the Varna International Ballet Competition in Bulgaria. He would go on to receive the Dance Magazine award, the New York Times/Florida prize, and the Hispanic Heritage award, among others. In 2002, he was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

But this is one dance legend whose impact was also immediate, as we learned when we asked dance insiders to recall him Thursday. "I remember his double cabrioles as a cause for celebration," dance journalist Suki John said. Edward Ellison, artistic director of the Ellison Ballet - Professional Training Program, told us, "I just saw Bujones two years ago, teaching at Boston Ballet's summer intensive. He was full of life, giving very energetic, strong classes, demonstrating everything like a man half his age." Robin Hoffman, who danced for the Joffrey and Louisville Ballets before co-founding the Dance Insider, related, "In my one experience working with Bujones, I found him to be a real prince."

Fernando Bujones is survived by his wife Maria, daughter Alejandra, mother Mary Calleiro, sister and long-time coach Zeida Cecilia Mendez, father Fernando Bujones Sr., half-brother Manny, and half-sisters Susi and Annette. A funeral service is scheduled for today in his native Miami. The family has requested that support of Orlando Ballet through contributions to the Fernando Bujones Endowment Fund be given in lieu of flowers.


Less Choices @ the Voice

As first reported Thursday on the Dance Insider e-mail, the Village Voice has cut its dance section from a full page to a half page for the foreseeable future, the Dance Insider has learned. In a decision reportedly driven by economic factors, the Voice will also no longer be assigning dance articles to any other writers besides longtime senior staff writer Deborah Jowitt, sources told the DI.

In addition to being a showcase for Jowitt, one of the deans of dance criticism, under senior editor Elizabeth Zimmer the Voice dance pages have also become a forum for other senior dance critics, most notably Tobi Tobias, as well as an important vehicle for introducing new talent to the field. Zimmer has been a veritable miracle worker, somehow squeezing a multiplicity of critical voices into a very proscribed space.

Speaking of proscriptions, I'm under oath not to rant this, but -- with the best of intentions -- I'm going to interpret that promise narrowly to mean I can't whine at the Voice brain trust for this move. And franchement, I have no interest in doing so. When I read 'economic factors,' however, I can't help wondering if those with the resources in our community might influence the Voice to reconsider by plying the paper with advertising for their concerts. Elizabeth is no doubt cringing to hear me saying this because, like a true professional journalist, she respects the sacred wall between advertising and editorial. It's a noble respect and I don't want to take it away from her, but speaking generally -- again not ranting the Voice in particular -- we all know why even the most saccharine of movies somehow get space in, say, the New York Times, while even the most important of dance concerts or dance news stories have to fight for it. (Just take a look at those full-page movie ads.) And as someone who (unlike my colleague) is both the editor responsible for assigning stories and the publisher responsible for bringing in the loot that makes it possible to publish them, I can't ignore the connection. So instead of simply whining (again) about the reduction in dance voices, I suggest that those of us who can -- Dance Theater Workshop, for example -- take pro-active steps like investing in advertising. NOT as a quid pro quo to get reviews for THEIR concerts, but, well, as a responsibility to the dance community whose general well-being they profess to care about. (Though regarding DTW in the post-David White era, I have my doubts. Franchement.)


Paris isn't Burning

While we're speaking French -- if you'll forgive the digression -- enough readers have asked me about the recent events here in France, where I live, that I feel a brief commentary is appropriate, especially as I understand that not all of this has been reported in the US press.

In my view, the recent riots have been prompted by a combination of factors social, political and, yes, criminal. Legitimate social concerns don't legitimize wanton destruction and, indeed, killing.

The good news is the situation seems to have calmed.

The bad news is that I'm not sure official France gets it.

Incredibly, the curfew law invoked last week by prime minister Dominique de Villepin was introduced in 1955, when it was used in Algeria against the grandparents of many of the young people rioting today. And in 1961, the Vichy war criminal Maurice Papon -- not only not yet tried but appointed prefect of Paris -- apparently used a curfew law selectively, against Algerian French in the Paris region. That October a demonstration by Algerian French resulted in the deaths of between 32 and 200 demonstrators. (The massacre was only recently acknowledged by some French authorities.) It's even alleged that many of the demonstrators died after being hurtled into the Seine by police. (For confirmation of these details, I've relied on this Wikipedia article.)

Villepin is throwing some money into the 'burbs, so he's listening as far as the lack of opportunities for young people there, but I don't know that official France gets it about the discrimination, particularly the discrimination that started all this -- the police focus on young men of color. On a fundamental level, white France has a tendency to suspect black and brown France that it can't own up to because it conflicts with the fundamental post-war French value that "we are all French," a penance for an era when for Papon and his Nazi-enabling ilk, some were not French enough to keep them from being deported to the death camps.

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