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Flash Response, 11-12: DTW has no Bias
A Letter from David White


While I haven't seen your written remarks, I understand you think the fix was somehow in for Carolyn Hall at the Bessies because she is a part-time receptionist at DTW. And perhaps because a work she dances in (but didn't choreograph) was selected for Fresh Tracks by an artist panel. I just want to disabuse you of these specious notions -- as any Bessie member will tell you, the fundamental conflict of interest rule on the committee (also re-emphasized in the Bessie program every year) is that you cannot nominate or vote for anyone you 1) live with, 2) used to live with, 3) produce, present or commission, 4) create work for, 5) dance or otherwise perform with, or 6) have any other perceived obligation towards, implicitly or explicitly.

This is the first and foremost organizing principle of the committee, and anyone can call anyone else on an appearance of conflict. These are objective relationship questions, but the committee relies on everyone's self-policed compliance, an honor system if you like....

As for Fresh Tracks, I wasn't on the panel for this cycle of the auditions, so had nothing at all to do with the decisions. As always, it is the panel that deliberates on the work presented (not of the performers, but of the choreographers, mind you), and makes the final selection as a group. Again, DTW has no bias in favor of someone who may work here (many of DTW's staff are dance, theater or music artists), just as it has no obligation to produce (and doesn't) an artist simply because of the fact they work here.

Then again, I always thought it was a good idea for artists to help run the organizations and influence the policies that affect their working lives and community. Maybe I should ask Carolyn to go back to waiting tables? Maybe you want to tell her?

By the way, I notice a number of good reviews of some of your artist-writers by other of your artist-writers? Logrolling dance insiders, or just one artist appreciating another? Hmmm... Maybe you need to dust off your own conflict-of-interest policy.



David White is executive director and producer of Dance Theater Workshop.

Paul Ben-Itzak responds: Regarding Fresh Tracks and the Bessies, I would refer readers to my original piece. Regarding Mr. White's comparison of Fresh Tracks adjudicating to Dance Insider review assigning, there's one crucial difference: Unlike the selection by the Fresh Tracks panel (which includes DTW senior producer Craig Peterson) of a work commissioned by one of DTW's employees, on which she is credited as collaborator, my assigning a review of a performance by an artist who also writes for the Dance insider does not exclude other artists from being reviewed. For the record, since September 1, of the 50 performances reviewed by The Dance Insider, two have involved choreographers who also write for us. (The record will also show that writing for the Dance Insider does not guarantee a 'good' review.) And finally, to answer Mr. White's question, no, I'm not suggesting the gifted Ms. Hall return to waiting tables. I am suggesting that if the work she has commissioned is as promising as the Fresh Tracks panel believes, she should have no trouble getting it programmed or presenting it at another theater in NYC which does not employ her.

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