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Flash APAP Journal, 1-22: Views Into a Nation's Soul
Moving Words on Dance from Arts Presenters Confab '02

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2002 Darrah Carr

NEW YORK -- When members of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) checked into the New York City Hilton January 11, the events of September 11 were not far from anyone's mind. The guidebook to the annual conference included safety instructions in case of an emergency in the city. Workshop titles included "Dealing with Crisis in Difficult Times," "Developing and Retaining Sponsorship in the New Economy," and "International Work in a Changing World." It did not go unnoticed that former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who was there to accept an award, currently holds the newly created post of director of the Office of Homeland Security.

Clearly, presenters today face a plethora of new concerns, such as the impact of 9/11 on the economy in general and on arts funding in particular, and the logistics of negotiating air travel for potentially hesitant international artists, to name a couple. Nevertheless, the attack and aftermath have also highlighted the power of the arts to inspire and heal. Such recognition seems to have given APAP a renewed sense of purpose and a palpable feeling of community. This year's conference felt less like an industry meet and greet machine and more like a gathering of concerned colleagues.

Such a sentiment was evident during the annual awards ceremony and members luncheon. "The last four months have been extremely difficult," Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) noted. "Thank God we have an organization such as yours. We need the restoration of joy in our land." The Senator then presented Masaru "Pundy" Yokouchi, Chairman of the Board of the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, with the first Sidney R. Yates Advocacy Award. The award is named after the late congressman who authored the legislation creating the National Endowment for the Arts, and who presided over the Congressional arts caucus. Yates was also known for saying, "The arts reflect a nation's soul. Do we really want an arts policy that reflects no soul?"

Ridge was honored with the second Yates award. According to Philip Horn of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the former Pennsylvania governor is "a great friend of the arts." During his seven years in office, Ridge increased the state arts budget from $9 million to 15 1/2 million, far above his campaign pledge of $12 million. As Horn quipped, "I am not sure he knows that not all governors do this -- and I sure am not going to tell him!" Ridge also approved arts officials using state money to travel outside of Pennsylvania to further cultural exchange programs. Horn, who was in Japan on such a mission on 9/11, related, "Our generous Japanese hosts offered to pay for our hotel if we needed to extend our stay. Though it was uncomfortable to hear the news comparisons of September 11 to Pearl Harbor, I was struck by the thought that in less than a generation, we have moved from being two countries trying to destroy each other, to sitting down and talking about an artist exchange. Let there be no doubt that what you do contributes to a more peaceful and vibrant world."

Lighting designer Jennifer Tipton received APAP's award of merit. Upon introducing her, Charles Reinhart of the American Dance Festival noted, "Jennifer was a dancer first. Her sense of what moves onstage stems from her initial training as a dancer. She transforms work. In that sense, she is not just a lighting designer, but also a choreographer. " During her acceptance speech, Tipton expressed her profound love of dance. Reflecting colleagues' concerns that, given so many needy causes after 9/11, dance may be forgotten, she reminded us, "Life is just not worth living without the dance."

The luncheon speeches were not only highly inspirational, but they also provided a moment of quiet reflection in the midst of what was otherwise a packed schedule. A visit to APAP is like a one-stop shopping trip. There is so much to pick up: showcases of companies large and small, workshops, panels, and the sprawling resource rooms, where managers' booths are set up with pamphlets and displays as in an enormous science fair.

IMG Artists, whose clients include Pilobolus and Trisha Brown, held its showcase at John Jay Theater this year. Having a larger space, with full technical support, enabled presenters to see the work as it is meant to be seen, rather than crane for a glimpse in a crowded studio setting. Ken Maldonado, Director of Zia Artists, a new agency whose roster includes Doug Elkins Dance Company, Nicholas Leichter Dance, and Janis Brenner & Dancers, followed the same principle when arranging his showcase at City Center. Maldonado rented risers, wings, and lights in order to heighten the experience for presenters. He then made the package available to other showcases in Studio 4. Zia Artists also sponsored several as yet unrepresented, yet promising young choreographers, including Sharon Estacio and Esse Aficanado, on a program entitled "New Voices." This is an important service, as it is notoriously difficult to attract presenters' attention without an agent.

American Repertory Ballet was one of the companies that took advantage of Zia Artists' snazzy set up in Studio 4 and found that it complemented its showcase very well. Nearly 25 years old (as ARB and in its previous incarnation as Princeton Ballet), the New Jersey-based company welcomed artistic director Graham Lustig in 1999. Although ARB, like many dance organizations, has felt the burden of the recession (resulting in several recent layoffs of dancers and administrative staff), it stands poised to move beyond its state boundaries, and is looking to opportunities in New York and Pennsylvania. In addition, part of Lustig's vision includes a way to address the oft discussed problem of gender inequity in the dance field. He has initiated an innovative program entitled "Dancing Through the Ceiling" which provides opportunities for female choreographers to work in the classical medium. As he noted, "There are just too few of them."

A walk through the resource room, however, did provide information about several international female choreographers. Compagnie Maguy Marin, part of the highly successful France Moves Festival in New York last Spring, returns to the United States in April for a six-month tour (unfortunately, the company will not stopping in New York this time). Nanine Linning of the Netherlands was touted at APAP as another choreographer to watch. Just 24 years old, she presented work at Jacob's Pillow last summer and assisted William Forsythe on a recent film.

In the midst of viewing work and meeting the creators of that work, APAP also offers the opportunity to talk about the field in general. Workshops take place every few hours, on topics from arts in education to marketing to funding. One topic of particular interest to our college dance insiders might be "Linking Programs to Campus Curriculum," which explored possibilities for increasing program collaboration between university presenters, artists, and faculty. Issues addressed included: enticing underpaid, overworked faculty to give their time, encouraging student attendance at events, affording high caliber artists, juggling the university calendar, and balancing interests of the students with those of the outlying community. The discussion provided an eye-opening look at the complications presenters face at the university level -- especially given dancers' oft-held view that at least universities provide a safe haven for their art! Workshop participants encouraged students to get involved in program planning at their universities, in order to facilitate the process.

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