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The Buzz, 11-18: Fetes and Farewells
Joyce Festival on 'Hiatus'; Paris Quarter Celebrates its Ballerina

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider

Altogether Gone (for now)

Mecca for many, resentfully maligned by others, for the first time in 20 years New York's new year's harbinger of dance, the Joyce Theater's Altogether Different festival, has been suspended, an official at the theater told the Dance Insider yesterday. "We are taking a hiatus from Altogether Different to re-evaluate its format and place in New York," Elizabeth Fort, the Joyce's marketing director, announced.

The theater's stated reasons for the hiatus are somewhat opaque. "Since (the festival) began in January 1985," Fort said, "theaters and service organizations dedicated to dance have changed the marketplace. Theaters like Dance Theater Workshop and the Duke present similar companies and similar festivals." In fact, DTW and its Fresh Tracks festival of new artists have been around since before Altogether Different's inception, as the Sampler Festival, in 1985. The Duke, operated by the New 42nd Street, is largely a rental facility and does little presenting.

If any theaters have usurped Altogether Different's sometimes questionable claim as a foundry for emerging artists in recent years, they've been Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, which the past two seasons has programmed a slew of younger artists who in other times would have had to wait much longer for entry into New York's major dance theater circuit; and the Joyce's own Joyce SoHo facility. Young companies are more likely to surface there -- either presenting themselves or as part of the annual Joyce SoHo Presents festival -- than in Altogether Different, which in recent years has featured predominantly mid-level companies which have yet to find a larger audience, rather than meeting the festival's stated artistic mission of focusing on young companies.

Audience development, fundraising, and other infrastructure guidance for young companies is also part of the festival's mission, but whatever infrastructure assistance the Joyce has provided its Altogether Different companies has not been enough to push many of them to the next level.

The festival's very name has also made it an easy target for the resentment of some authentically emerging choreographers, who in recent years took to referring to it as "Altogether the Same."

"We're taking the hiatus," Fort said, "to strategically assess how the Joyce can best serve (the) dance community."

As you might imagine, the Buzz has a couple of suggestions for executive director Linda Shelton, program director Martin Wechsler, and the rest of the Joyce brain trust:

**Cultivate young and truly emerging companies by concentrating your efforts on Joyce SoHo, 'growing' successful programs like the residency and mentor ones. You deserve the community's accolades for what you've achieved in this pristine space, and its encouragement to continue to expand.

**At the larger Chelsea space, concentrate your efforts on presenting -- in their own seasons proper -- mid-level or even veteran companies that have been stuck in the Altogether Different ghetto, returning two or three times. It may be too late for these particular companies now, but past examples would have included Doug Elkins, Mark Dendy, and Sean Curran. Only Curran among these has really had consistently sound and aggressive management -- notwithstanding his US touring since he turned its booking over to IMG. Elkins -- the most musical choreographer of his generation -- seems to have imploded, or at least his company has, appearing only sporadically. Dendy is simply the most brilliant spectacle-maker of his generation, a quadruple threat able to create barefoot and on pointe, stinging theater as well as original dance. If they were working in France, all three of these men would have long ago been granted their own choreogrpahic centers and the resources and centrality that come with them. In the US, they struggle.

Where was I...? Oh yes: How does this relate to Altogether Different? To truly help companies emerge, and not just tread water, I think the Joyce would be better advised to devote resources currently diffused among many middling companies of varying merit to supporting the work of a handful of artistically talented but administratively challenged choreographers.

But what do you think, dance insider? Has Altogether Different met its stated mission, expressed by Fort as "to further the Joyce Theater Foundation's mission to serve and support the art of dance and choreography and to enhance the public interest in dance by helping young companies with audience development, fundraising and development, administrative structuring, etc."? And, going forward, as the foundation takes this pause to "strategically assess how the Joyce can best serve that dance community," as Fort put it, do you have any ideas? Write me at paul@danceinsider.com. Or drop a line to Linda Shelton at lshelton@joyce.org or Martin Wechsler at mwechsler@joyce.org.

Taglioni Feted in Her Quarter

If Marie Taglioni was the 19th century's first star, the Paris neighborhood that benefited the most from her luminosity was the 9th quarter, home to the old Theatre de l'Academie Royale de Musique on rue Peletier which saw her greatest glories, including the March 12, 1832 premiere of her father Filippo Taglioni's "La Sylphide," in which she became the first dancer to use pointe artistically. (Also not far from where I write you now on the rue de Paradis.)

So it's fitting that the quarter should celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of the world's first grand ballerina who was also its own, which it does tonight at its city hall, 6 rue Drouot, beginning at 7 p.m. Free to the public, the event includes a round table featuring Taglioni expert Pierre Lacotte, who's staging of Filippo Taglioni's "Sylphide" is considered the authoritative one; ballet historian Sylvie Jacq-Mioche; and music professor Francoise Meginant. The discussion is moderated by Martine Kahane of the Paris Opera Ballet.




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