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The Buzz, 11-21: Pharisees & Parasites
Exit Rockwell; Shoddy Standards at Dance/USA & Dance/NYC; Replacing Rockwell (Stop the Gia-had); Yank Choreographer Young Rated X by French

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider

Rockwell files; Dance/USA lifts

On Wednesday, our colleague Susan Elliott reported on MusicalAmerica.com that John Rockwell, chief dance critic of the New York Times, will leave the paper at the end of the year. On Thursday, in a shameful manifestation of unprofessionalism, "Dance/USA" and its affiliate "Dance/NYC" picked up the story in its entirety -- without permission, according to Elliott, and without proper attribution, mistakenly crediting the story to the Times itself.

Dance/USA sent the first two paragraphs of the story as an e-mail update, referring readers to its own website (not Musical America's) for the full article; both the e-mail and initially the website credited the writer but attributed the piece to the Times. (Following our busting them and alerting Musical America, the story now seems to have been taken down from the Dance/USA site.) Dance/NYC didn't even bother to credit the writer in its e-mail, simply sending her whole article out to its e-mail list with the erroneous introduction "From yesterday's NY Times." (You'd think an organization calling itself Dance/NYC would know how to recognize a NY Times article.) We'll get to the heady subject of future dance criticism at the Times in a minute, but first I'll explain why what these self-proclaimed dance service organizations have done here is so sorry.

If Musical America is anything like the Dance Insider, they, like us, struggle with limited resources to do what they do and then provide it to the reader for free. Dance/USA and Dance/NYC, by contrast, collect member dues and then what do they then turn around and do? Profit from the work of others for which they have not paid.

They could have avoided the error -- incorrectly attributing the story to the Times -- and avoided profiting from someone else's work by simply printing the first paragraph and providing a link to the whole article on the site/publication that originated it, as we've done above. (This would have also given readers the chance to see not the version Dance/USA lifted, which gave the impression that Rockwell sees his new compilation as a "symbol of journalism," but the corrected version, in which, he later told me, he states that he sees the book "less grandiosely, as a symbol of the end of my journalistic career.") By not doing so, they also deprived the publication that did the work of the vital 'eyeballs' -- visitor numbers -- which no doubt help them get advertising and thus support their work.

There's a word for people like this: parasite.

Johnson rocks well

Now let's get to what should concern us all, not just sensitive editors: Who will be the next chief dance critic of the daily newspaper that still provides, if not consistently the most informed, the most daily dance criticism of any newspaper in the world? Here I think we have two priorities: Stop the Gia-had (if it's not already too late) and provide some solid alternatives.

The problem with Gia Kourlas's dance criticism is that it is not dance criticism. So if you write to the Times to argue against her promotion, don't talk about the time she dissed you or your friend's company, nor even the time she dissed the whole New York dance scene, but rather, how she disrespects the art of dance criticism and by association her newspaper every time she publishes. This is banter that belongs in a girl's locker room, not on a critical podium.

Exempting critics for this publication, on whom I can't comment objectively, my pick to replace Rockwell, way ahead of the rest of the pack, is Robert Johnson, currently dance critic at the Star-Ledger in Newark, former news editor of Dance Magazine (when that mattered), accomplished dance scholar, child of a dancer, and a skilled journalist as well as critic. (Disclosure: Robert gave me my first assignment for the magazine.) But if you have other candidates, I'd be interested in the who and whyfore. E-mail me here.

How to get booked in France if you're a young American: Get-off onstage.

Sorry, I know that's a bit of an x-rated sub-head, but that appears to be exactly what young American choreographer Ann Liv Young has received for her new "Snow White," which opened last night at the Theatre de la Bastille here in Paris. From the invitation I received:

"Ann Liv Young's work, 'Snow White,' has been in rehearsal in France since September. It will premiere November 20 at the Theatre de la Bastille. Considering the current state of the work, we inform you that the work includes sexually explicit scenes that oblige us, in view of the regulations, to bar access to minors less than 18 years old."

(Parenthetically, one might ask how whatever Young has developed could be more objectionable than the girl in a red dress I caught vomiting on the same stage a few years back.)

Yesterday's editions of the Paris daily Liberation provide some more details: 'Self-satisfaction" will be involved, says the choreographer.

My upset here isn't with sex on stage, nor with Young, whose work I don't know -- maybe exploring her artistic theme requires probing herself. I am just sick that this is what it takes for a young American choreographer to get presented in protectionist, self-satisfied France.


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