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Flash View, 7-12: Free to Dance
An American Tragedy, an Iranian Tragedy, and Why Dancing is a Right, but Presenting a Dance is a Privilege

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider

PARIS -- This week in Durham, North Carolina, Ariane Reinhart succeeded in mounting a concert that may forever cast a shadow over the weighty legacy of her parents, Charles and Stephanie Reinhart, the rightly esteemed directors of the American Dance Festival. The Reinharts ignored not only the conflict of interest in programming their own daughter at the in-part publicly funded enterprise they lead, but also that Ms. Reinhart is not a choreographer, making the programming choice seem even more odd for the choreographer-driven self-proclaimed (and acknowledged in much of the dance world) "home of an art form." In addition to tarnishing the reputation of this dance world institution, that this citadel of dance standards and carrier of the Dance Standard could be so easily stormed and taken by one willful young person hinders Dance's efforts to be taken as a serious art.

One can hardly fault the rest of the talented and dedicated ADF staff for not actively opposing the Reinharts' decision -- by, for instance, pointing out the damage it would do to their and ADF's reputations. More shocking is the failure of the local Durham media, at least from what I've seen, to seriously address the consequences. And in at least one quarter, they've expanded those consequences.

A puff piece on Ms. Reinhart published in the Herald-Sun Wednesday contains this apalling and revolting statement -- not, it should be pointed out, by young Ms. Reinhart, but by the reporter, Cynthia Greenlee:

"Though her (Joyce Soho in New York) show happened about two weeks after Sept. 11 and (Reinhart) lost about 20 hours of valuable rehearsal time because the recovery efforts closed access to parts of the city, the show garnered positive reviews from The New York Times and the Village Voice."

I'm sorry Ms. Greenlee, but many New Yorkers and other Americans lost so much more.

Like Ariane Reinhart, Mohammad Khordadian fell in love with dance from a very young age. Unlike Ariane Reinhart, not only is he not so fortunate as to have a premiere dance venue placed at his disposal whenever he wants it, but for the next ten years he is one dancer who will not be able to earn his living at dance at all.

As you may have read, Khordadian, a popular Los Angeles-based instructor in traditional Iranian dance, was arrested last month when he returned to the country after a more than twenty-year absence for his mother's funeral. The native Iranian, whose videos have given him a following in Iran as well as the States, was detained at the Tehran airport as he was preparing to return to Los Angeles.

On Sunday, an Iranian court banned Khordadian from leaving the country for ten years. It also banned him from teaching dance ever again, the BBC reported, and from attending weddings other than for familly members for the next three years. As the BBC's Jim Muir explained: "Although many Iranians dance at private parties, especially weddings, the ruling clerical establishment frowns on such behaviour, especially when it involves the mingling of the sexes." How did Khordadian receive the verdict? His full reaction is not known at present. However, Muir noted that regarding the ten years' country arrest, "he said that living in Iran should be regarded as an honour not a punishment."

Ms. Reinhart could stand to learn some lessons from Mr. Khordadian in aplomb, gravitas, and humility; if any dance stage is sacred, than performing on an ADF dance stage is an honor, to be claimed by virtue of talent and with blood playing no influence. And what's the lesson in these two contrasting stories for the rest of us in dance? For one, while being able to dance -- at, say, a wedding -- is a right, performing as a dance artist is a privelege.

In her story on Ms. Reinhart, Greenlee writes:

"But (Charles Reinhart) said Ariane proved herself in New York, when she came up with the idea of approaching four choreographers on her own. 'She showed very good management skills.... She did the performance under a real glare, "Oh, my God, it's the Reinharts' daughter." She had tougher odds than most people because everyone was watching her to watch her fail,' Charles said."

I'm sorry, but the daughter of the leading dance impresario in the United States does not face tough odds, particularly when approaching four choreographers who depend on the good will of her parents for ADF commissions.

Mr. Khordadian, now -- he faced tough odds when he returned to his native country to honor his mother. He honors dance by this real sacrifice, and he furthers it by showing the real, tangible cost of a career in dance. The only thing young Ms. Reinhart has risked sacrificing in mounting her concert at the venue her parents direct, in my opinion, is the deservedly good name of her parents, and the only thing she has furthered is her career. Hopefully, Charles and Stephanie Reinhart's phenomenal previous good work will eclipse this one misstep. (Who among us hasn't been blinded by love and moved to an instance of bad judgment by a child?) And as for Dance, it's got to be bigger than this.

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