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Flash News and Forum, 1-12: Time Out
Injury Fells Michelson; is the Divine Ms. M. a Winner or a Whiner?

Commentary by Paul Ben-Itzak
Response from Rebecca Lazier

As first reported by Elizabeth Zimmer in the Village Voice and noted in an alert to the Dance Insider e-mail list Friday, an injury to choreographer-performer Sarah Michelson has forced the postponement of Michelson's "Daylight," manager Barbara Bryan informs us. Scheduled to open January 6, the show will instead open January 17 at P.S. 122, where it is scheduled to run through January 22.

Zimmer's report appeared in a provocative big-picture article published in last week's Village Voice. As one might expect from Zimmer, the piece is no simple curtain-raiser but, rather, looks at the general situation of dance artists in New York today by looking at the living conditions of one of the scene's current successes, at least as measured by bookings. By that standard, at least, Michelson is having a good run -- but not, to hear her tell it to Zimmer, by her standard of living.

I'm down with the angst of being artistically successful but four months behind in your rent with no health insurance and unable to fix your busted teeth. (Why do you think I'm writing this from France? I got one tooth replaced for for $600, other carnage removed for less than $100. A check-up costs 20 Euros here and you can get oodles of prescriptions filled for less than 20. Call me up next time you're on this side, Sarah, and I'll set you up! As for rent, while the dive of the dollar has made things tighter, I'm still paying less in dollar terms than I was paying for my 8th Street hovel in 2001 and for an apartment twice the size, not including the expansive balcony and the Heavenly address.) I also remember the poignancy of interviewing Mark Dendy in 1997 in his Houston Street hutch, as he was preparing his breakthrough "Dream Analysis" for the Joyce, and him telling me he almost had his electricity cut off.

BUT...when the "Despondent Diva," as the Voice dubs her, starts complaining about not having a second room available whenever lovers stay over, I find myself reaching for the ever-ready smallest accordion in the world. And when she wonders whether it is all worth it, Walker commission, European touring (with Euro compensation) and all, I start to wonder how other really struggling -- not just with the rent, but for a berth for their work -- artists might view Sarah's plight.

In other words: Is Ms. Michelson a winner or a whiner? I put the question to our e-mail list Friday, and got the following response from Rebecca Lazier, artistic director of the Terrain dance company:

"You know, I often look to other choreographers and think, Oh how I would like to have what they have: a booking at P.S. 122, at the Kitchen, at BAM, a reputation for being ultra-cool, the darling of the downtown scene. I have been choreographing, year after year, and have some modest success (company budget last year: $30,000) and some huge aspirations. But, during this time, I have also been able to: buy a house, have a child, have health insurance, and develop a teaching career in the thing I love most: dance, without ever working in a restaurant. In the dark moments I want what I don't have, I crave to be the other. When reading Zimmer's portrayal of Michelson I couldn't help but feel extremely grateful for the first time in many months. The choices I have made, in this horrendous economic environment for arts, have accumulated to -- not a place of compromise that I so fear -- but a place of sustainable living and creating. Perhaps Sarah and I could trade places for a day, just to see what it feels like?"

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