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Flash View, 3-12: Say it Ain't so, Charles
Reinharts Book Their Own Daughter for ADF Season

(Editor's note: The following represents the opinion of the author, and does not necessarily reflect that of any other member of the staff of the Dance Insider.)

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider

To be taken seriously by the outside world -- even more critical these days, as we compete with life-sustaining charities for precious funding -- dance has to take itself seriously, and that means holding the dance support structure to the same high professional standard to which the artists are held. As well, dancers and choreographers who train and create seriously deserve like professionalism from presenters, publicists, and other administrative staff. And most of the time, they get it, particularly from publicists and presenters. An ideal for the field, and an idol for me personally, has always been Charles Reinhart, the longtime director of the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC, in recent years with the able and equally dedicated Stephanie Reinhart. Charles has lived by his credo, expressed in his words to the late Joe Mazo, that it is up to those of us that don't dance to support the work. (I paraphrase, and I refer to him familiarly because we're on a first-name basis.) Beyond the annual ADF summer season which showcases some of the best (if not always the latest) American dance, at the core of ADF's mission and utility to dance is its school. Charles particularly has also made individual choreographers his lifetime charges, championing and nurturing their work. The choreographer Mark Dendy has likened him to a father. Well, Charles and Stephanie Reinhart actually have a real daughter, Ariane Malia Reinhart, and when I learned this morning that the Reinharts have booked their own daughter at one of their theaters this summer, I almost cried.

Here's how the ADF describes itself in its press materials: "The ADF was established in 1934 in Bennington, VT with Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman as founding artists led by Martha Hill. Currently under the direction of Charles and Stephanie Reinhart, the ADF has a world-wide reputation for discovering, commissioning and bringing deserved recognition to many of modern dance's finest talent."

Here's the blurb on the young Ms. Reinhart, taken from this year's ADF season press release:

"July 9-10, 8 PM Reynolds Industries Theater

'In her ADF solo debut, Ariane Malia Reinhart will present works choreographed by renowned choreographers Martha Clarke, Mark Haim, Doug Varone, and Shen Wei, '. . . works that capitalize on her matrix of gifts: a flair for drama, a mighty set of pipes...' (The Village Voice) In her performance of Doug Varone's 'The Drawing Lesson,' Reinhart, '...stormed the stage with delicious, skittery mime...an evening-length Reinhart-Varone song cycle can't come soon enough.' (The Village Voice) 'She was especially satisfying in two works that proved her to be a well-trained soprano as well as a skilled dancer.' (The New York Times)

Actually, the complete sentence referenced in that first quote, from Alicia Mosier's October 31 review in the Village Voice, reads: "Ariane Malia Reinhart, daughter of dance impresarios Charles and Stephanie Reinhart, made a sophisticated solo debut (Joyce Soho, September) with works that capitalize on her matrix of gifts: a flair for drama, a mighty set of pipes, and impressive connections."

Ah yes, the connections; there's the rub. Ariane Malia Reinhart may well be talented; I haven't seen her in performance, so I can't say. But even if Ms. Reinhart were the second coming of Martha Graham, Marian Anderson, and Sarah Bernhardt combined, she'd still be the daughter of Charles and Stephanie Reinhart, and it would still be highly inappropriate of them to program her at their own theater as part of the (publicly funded) festival they direct. That these respected leaders of the dance community would take this misstep is a tragically embarrassing blemish on their otherwise salutary recordsof lifting up the art form.

To the outside world, this unfortunate and misguided decision only serves to bring the art form down; why should the world take dance seriously when the festival many of us hold up as the paragon, and which has done so much good work to earn that reputation and regard, does not, in this one instance, take itself seriously?

And what message does this send to other young artists when they see that the only sure route to getting booked at the ADF is to be related to the directors? That when it comes to being programmed, who you know is more important than what you offer? What other talented artist might have filled that berth at the Reynolds this summer if the Reinharts hadn't given it to their daughter?

And, most important, what message does this decision send to the 350 young charges who flock to ADF every summer to demonstrate, enhance, and test their commitment to the field? For six weeks, these kids sacrifice their summers to devote themselves rigorously and religiously, body and soul, to dance, rising for class before 8 in the morning and not stopping until after midnight, when the last rehearsals end. I've observed them at this late hour, hundreds of them clustered together in the un-airconditioned building known as the Ark, sweltering as they run through routines repeatedly and with gusto and freshness in the hopes a choreographer in residence will pick them for his or her piece. Their eyes as they do this sometimes reveal disappointment when they're selected out, but never, never cynicism. It's inspiring to behold these young people in this dewy-eyed stage, before they depend on the results of the audition for paying the rent and putting food on their table, before an audition consists of sixty seconds of running across a room and hoping the choreographer isn't distracted, before they will be judged in part simply on their looks and/or body type, before politics will enter into the casting equation, and sex as well.

When we started The Dance Insider in 1998, it was natural to launch it at the American Dance Festival in Durham. This was where dance lived. This enterprise was what we aspired to -- to be as essential to the chronicling of dance as the ADF had become to its pedagogy and performance. This man, Charles Reinhart, combining strong direction with gentle grace, containing a vision not just of his own institution but it's place in the big picture, was my leadership model.

That summer, Charles and Stephanie were gracious enough to host me in Durham so that we could launch the DI there. My own goal was simply to distribute the magazine to these high school and college students from around the world, and ignite some buzz. But once I touched down in Durham that sultry summer, the trip took on vaster personal and professional dimensions. It was these kids, these teachers, these artists and those Reinharts who were giving to me. To be in the midst of all these devotees to the shrine and keepers of the flame of Modern Dance re-vivified me and reminded me what it was all about.

An image lingers frozen in my mind, encapsulating that summer. It's of a young woman in black with long straight blonde hair flowing in the summer breeze, seen across the field on the Duke University campus which houses ADF in the summer. No doubt, I thought, she was taking advantage of a rare respite between class to kick back. But no, she no sooner plopped down her backpack than she got up and began. . . to dance.

That image signified the purity of the ADF mission, a distillation of the purity that ideally would always mark dance. A pure love for the field. A pure devotion to it. A pure belief in it. That belief, I remember thinking then, will have plenty of opportunity to be tested later by the real world where factors besides their innate ability will enter into these young dancers' odds for success, where non-artistic influences will occasionally corrupt the field.

That glistening image now sports a shiner of a black eye. And so unnecessarily; it is wonderful that Charles and Stephanie Reinhart believe in their daughter. But there are other ways -- particularly if she is talented -- for them to give her support. By all means, use your connections to open other doors, to get her that audition, to get that video seen. There's nothing wrong with this, particularly if Ariane Reinhart is talented. But to book your own daughter at your own theater!? In an ADF season that also includes Paul Taylor!? This one ill-considered decision mocks the standards, and standard, Charles Reinhart has stood for all his life. Does it negate that good work? Of course it doesn't, and of course it's not for me to say. But it casts a shadow of cynicism over this heretofore noble enterprise, and it raises a question in this heretofore admiring child's eyes, best expressed as:

Say it ain't so, Charles.

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