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Chevalier de la Barre, 6-7: Rants, Raves, Scoops, & More
Hook on Women Choreographing; Beware the Audition-Workshop; Week-end Picks; and all the Pilobolus and Momix News Fit to Print

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance insider

PARIS -- Good morning, Dance Insider!, from football-land (that's soccer to you, bub), where even if you know how to ask for it, you can't order a glass of menthe sirop-infused mineral water without having it arrive in a McDonald's glass decorated with French soccer team players, you can't try out a new cheese without the same players smiling out at you from the wrapper, and you can't sit at a sidewalk cafe quietly sipping your demi-tasse without a huge tele looming over your head blaring non-stop play-by-play of the World Cup.

Speaking of feet, I put mine in my mouth in yesterday's Flash Pick to our e-mail list, incorrectly paraphrasing dancer, choreographer, company director and teacher Sara Hook's insightful comments on the subject of women choreographers. Ms. Hook writes to clarify:

"I am concerned that the paraphrasing of my comments at the APAP conference makes it sound like I was asserting that women choreographers are more hard working and full of integrity then men, which was not at all my point.

"What I recall saying is that I was concerned about the numbers of women who were slower and more reticent about formally starting companies. I noticed that women seemed more likely to 'test the waters' by doing work and then assessing the response in stages in an effort to gain the confidence to present themselves as 'artistic directors' versus 'free-lance choreographers.' I mentioned it because I thought it was a reflection of the perception a lot of female choreographers have about their chances to succeed and I wanted that to be addressed by our community. Not starting a formal entity to represent yourself as a choreographer is sometimes a disadvantage in terms of grant seeking and in terms of being taken seriously by presenters and even potential audience. I was curious and concerned about why men were more likely as a group to take this leap sooner than their female counter parts."

Speaking of former Pilobolus dancers, one of whose upcoming concerts (Tamieca McCloud, at the Joyce Soho) was the subject of that Flash Pick, former and co-founding Pil Moses Pendleton opens the fall season at the Joyce September 24 with a three-week run by his company Momix. On the bill, the Dance Insider has learned, are the company's latest melange, "Momix in Orbit," and Pendleton's most recent evening-length work, "Opus Cactus."

Speaking of former Pilobolus dancers, two, dance insider William Murray writes to let us know that the New York Theater Workshop run of Martha Clarke's "Vienna: Lusthaus (revisited)" has been extended through the summer. You can read Faith Pilger's Flash by clicking here.

Speaking of Faith, current Pilobolus dancers, and former Momix dancers, the divine Ms. P. will tour to New Orleans this summer with former Pendleton muse Rebecca Stenn's PerksDanceMusicTheatre. Check her, she's a dynamo!

Speaking of not-so-former Pilobolus dancers -- yes, if you haven't guessed it yet, we are starting the countdown to my favorite company's June 24 Joyce opening! -- a few years back, before there even was a Dance Insider, I reported in another magazine that the Pils were said to be 'playing' in the studio with children's book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. That playing evolved into a Holocaust-themed collaboration, "A Selection," eventually involving, as well, Sendak collaborator Arthur Yorinks and the music of Czech composers Hans Krasa and Pavel Haas, who in fact were murdered by the Germans in the Holocaust. When I first heard about this collaboration, I thought, Oh to be a fly on that wall and observe the frission and fusion as fungi and wild things fly fast and furious. Well, voila! Filmmaker Mirra Bank had that same desire, and was able to actualize it, somehow convincing the myriad and in some cases mercurial personalities involved -- three Pil choreographers, Robby Barnett, Jonathan Wolken, and Michael Tracy, as well as Sendak -- to let her tag along for a year as they and the dancers created the piece. The results, Bank's "Last Dance," can be seen at the Quad Cinema in my old 'hood, Greenwich Village, beginning July 12. Look for a preview here, and we'll also try to get more dates in more cities for you.

Speaking of morally ambiguous -- for this is what make "A Selection" challenging but ultimately brave theater -- you dancer readers all know about the "audition workshop." This is where a company announces both a workshop and that it happens to be looking for a dancer or dancers to join the company. The often out-of-work dancers, then, pay what is for them big-time money to take a workshop that can last from a couple of hours to a week or longer, at least in part to be seen by the director/choreographer in the hopes he/she will hire them.

In defense of this practice, the choreographer can argue that if you want to dance for his/her company, you presumably like the choreography anyway and want to learn it, which will benefit you regardless of whether you get in. There's also the economic reality that the choreographers do need to make an income. My sense is that as long as they're honest about it -- being clear, for example, exactly how many spots are open in the company, and honest about how often company dancers are hired straight from a workshop -- an argument can be made in favor of the workshop-audition.

Less ambiguous is the experience an American dancer working here in Europe claims to have had in March with a week-long audition workshop for Michelle Anne De Mey in Paris, ahead of De Mey's performances here next week. Even if she didn't get into the company, our dancer believed, she would at least learn the De Mey rep. -- which, as noted above, is a reasonable defense for this set-up on the part of the choreographer. Imagine our dancer's surprise, then, when one of De Mey's assistants charged with teaching the combinations started teaching her and the other hopefuls phrases not from De Mey's rep., but apparently taken directly from a Wim Vandekeybus workshop that both our dancer, and the De Mey assistant, had taken the week before! The American dancer was so irate that she left after one day of the workshop, in her view because she shouldn't have to pay for a workshop with what looked to her like lifted material.

Speaking of lifting, I've heard worse. A choreographer who worked in New York in recent years was notorious for placing ads in the Village Voice for auditions, promising paid work. She would then grill the unsuspecting dancers -- often freshly-arrived in NYC -- about every aspect of their personal lives to use later in her own work, inevitably calling the dancer and saying while she'd love to be able to work with them, she had to hire someone else. I can see several dancer heads out there nodding!

Unless it's just the rain clouding my end-of-the-week mind, I am leading up to something: How about the New York dance community getting together to establish a dance mentor program? Veteran dancers in New York -- perhaps even with a stipend -- could be assigned rookies newly arrived in the city to whom they would be big brothers or sisters. Maybe Dance Theater Workshop could add this to the number of other ambitious projects it's announced for its re-inaugural season this fall in its new-old renovated Chelsea headquarters? If anyone could pull this off, it's the incredibly prescient David White and the rest of his DTW crew. White must have been an oracle in another life; how else to explain how before the mini-dot.com boom that resulted in the eviction of many dance institutions from their NYC headquarters, White knew to buy the DTW building on 19th Street; or that before the current mini-exodus and building slow-down in NYC, he knew to secure funding for the expansion and overhaul of the same building? (DTW's re-inaugural season kicks off October 2 with Ronald K. Brown/Evidence's "Walking Out the Dark." For details on the rest of the season, please visit DTW's web site.)

Of course, informal mentor programs exist, including alumni networks or simply the work of dedicated individuals. The champ here, when it comes to adopting dancers (not just helping them find their Gotham sea legs, but even housing them) has got to be Lisa Wheeler. I don't know that Lisa wants me to send her any more newbies, but I don't think she'll mind you sending me to see her in Ben Munisteri's latest work, opening next Wednesday at Symphony Space.

That's the good news -- a new work by Ben Munisteri, featuring Lisa Wheeler and other regulars. The bad news is that this time, Munisteri stalwart Tricia Brouk will not be around for the ride. The good news is you can still catch Brouk's act at Symphony Space -- in fact, she opens tomorrow night's four-hour Dance Sampler, beginning the proceedings at 7 p.m. with Eun Meh Ahn's "Boxing Queen." I haven't seen this dance, but I'm making it one of my three picks of the weekend because whatever she's dancing, Brouk emanates an encompassing, welcoming presence on the stage -- she's a dancer who is not just in her own world, but invites you into that world, to experience and share the dance with her.

My other picks for your NYC dancegoing pleasure: Tamieca McCloud's Restless.Native.Dance, continuing tonight through Sunday at the Joyce Soho; and the Sunday night program of Food for Thought at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, curated by Anna M. Glass of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company/Pentacle. On the program: an evening of solo works by Homer Avila, Rachel Shao-Lan Blum, Maia Sage Eermanson, Sun Ho Kim, and Pene McCourty. You go Homer! GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!

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