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Buzz, 12-5: Conflict of Interest
Inside Track: DTW Books its Own Marketing Director for Fresh Tracks
You only gonna dance
in a loft,
Loft, loft, downtown loft.
-- New York choreographer
Copyright 2005 The Dance Insider
Having received a couple
of complaints about Gia Kourlas's review of Dance Theater Workshop's
latest Fresh Tracks program in last Monday's Times (including one
from one of the artists reviewed), I thought I'd mosey on over to
the Gray Lady and check Gia's story. Well, dance insiders! Forget
about what Gia wrote; it's what she didn't that caused my jaw to
drop. Among the artists DTW selected for a berth in this highly
coveted showcase was (wait for it) ITS OWN MARKETING DIRECTOR, John
you might work your butt off and you or your parents spend tens
of thousands of dollars for years developing your craft, you might
submit the best danged piece ever to the Fresh Tracks panel, you
might even be the second coming of let's-haul-out-her-name-again
ancient Fresh Tracks success story Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, but
the message this leading New York presenter has sent here is that
if you don't happen to be one of its employees, you're out of luck.
Where are the ethics
here? Simple rule suggestion: "Employees of DTW and their families
are not eligible for Fresh Tracks consideration." Message to DTW
artistic director Cathy Edwards: This is not the family basement
show. This is a publicly funded theater. Even if Mr. Wyszniewski
IS the second coming of ATDK, if he works for you, he shouldn't
be appearing on your stage. Whether he is talented or not is completely
irrelevant. You simply have no right to program your co-workers,
thus depriving someone else of a performing berth and the press
attention simply because you don't see their face every day at the
office. Why is this so hard to understand? (Ancillary rule suggestion:
DTW might also want to place a moratorium on considering performances
Peoples, if we are going
to program our buddies and colleagues for supposedly curated supposedly
competitive showcases, we forfeit our right to criticize critics
(like Gia) who say that modern dance is dead in New York. (Subsidiary
question for Gia: Why the Judy Miller moment? Your readers deserved
to know about John W.'s DTW connection.)
I'd love to see Mr.
Wyszniewski's draft press release on this, by the way: "This year's
Fresh Tracks, selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants, features
Isabel Lewis, Rachel Bernsen, Paule Turner, Jessica Morgan and...
Maybe DTW should change
the name of its program to Inside Track.
PS: Predictably, since
I first issued this opinion last week in the DI e-mail, the self-validators
in DTW's extended, inbred family have started circling the wagons.
Weeding out the immature invective and foul language ('inbred' may
strike you the same way, but I think it's exact), their defense
of their institution boils down to two arguments:
1) DTW's own rules say
this is appropriate, therefore it is, and I should shut up. (Never
mind that DTW receives public funds and benefits as a non-profit.)
2) How DARE I question
John W.'s credentials as an artist, or DTW's right to employ artists?
No one's questioning John W.'s merits; I haven't seen him perform
(that I can recall), so I don't have an opinion there. But if he's
as talented as -- giving them the benefit of the doubt that they
did make this decision solely on merit -- DTW and its Fresh Tracks
panel think he is, let him compete for a showcase somewhere else,
where he doesn't have an unfair advantage and won't be denying someone
else an opportunity simply because they're not so lucky as to be
able to say hello to the artistic director every day. And where
he won't be compromising the integrity of the institution and, by
inference, the seriousness and professionalism of the dance world.
PPS: I've also received
mail on this issue that says, in effect, "Surprise, surprise."
PPPS: Disclosure: When
Mr. Wyszniewski joined DTW a year ago, the institution's relationship
with this publication changed dramatically. I am mentioning this
because here at the Dance Insider, we prefer that YOU, the reader,
be the judge of whether we have a conflict of interest. I would
emphasize, though, that this is not about Mr. Wyszniewski, but conflict
of interest at DTW. As longtime readers will know, I have never
had any compunction about criticizing presenters -- including DTW,
where this issue has popped up before.