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Flash Response, 4-11: DTW's Eviction of Ellen Robbins
A Total Turn-around of the DTW Mission
(Editor's Note: After more than 30 years of giving renowned children's creative movement classes at Dance Theater Workshop, internationally revered and respected teacher Ellen Robbins is being evicted by DTW artistic director Carla Peterson and executive director Stephen Greco.The decision has set off a firestorm in the dance community. Following is one response, reprinted from DTW's blog with the author's permission. More reaction can be found here. )
By Katie Bull
Copyright 2008 Katie Bull
Shame on this egregiously bad judgement for the eviction of Ellen Robbins. My name is Katie Bull. I am a jazz vocalist, playwright, director, professional vocal coach, and teacher at New York University's Atlantic Theater Company Studio, where I am also the head of the vocal production program for their professional classes. Growing up in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s with my father, dancer/choreographer Richard Bull and my step-mother, dancer/choreographer and dance anthropologist Cynthia Novack, Ellen Robbins and DTW was a fixture. My parents were dedicated to dance improvisation as a performance art way before it was an acceptable idea, and ELLEN was and IS a pioneer in that regard, teaching choreographic improvisation and incorporating improvisational options into performances for children who are THE NEXT GENERATION OF ARTISTS. I was beyond proud when -- all these years later -- Ellen accepted my daughter, Hannajane Prichett, into her program at DTW. Hannajane is now one of Ellen's students and recently performed on the mainstage in Ellen's DTW Family Matters. EVICT ELLEN ROBBINS? What are you people thinking?
Dance Theater Workshop without Ellen Robbins teaching the next generation of professional dancers? Do you NOT recognize the relationship between training the younger generation and "the next" generation of professionals you say you support? Do you not see how that investment is ABOUT "fresh tracks"? Stop and really think for a moment. And what about ethics? How callous. This woman has DEDICATED HER LIFE to developing a COMMUNITY that DTW benefits from. Where is your sense of respect? What is this world coming to when a woman who has dedicated her ENTIRE LIFE to nurturing the professional dance world from its SEED gets EVICTED from the VERY PLACE SHE HELPED TO BUILD because you people who are supposedly servicing the "professional world" can't get it together to place her PROFOUNDLY IMPACTING work in the perspective it deserves, and raise the necessary funds. Come on. How pathetic. I was born and RAISED in the dance world, and I remember when my father took me to DTW (and when he performed there) and how Ellen was creating a FORCE OF ENERGY that was like BLOOD to that place. My father and my stepmother must be rolling in THEIR graves; and thank you David White for recalling Bessie Schonberg in your blog response -- the Foremother of this generation of dance at DTW needs a voice in response to this egregiously bad judgement. Seriously: what is this world coming to? Yes, with ALL expansion comes some sacrifice, but let me tell you, if THIS is the sacrifice you are going to choose, I will not attend any more of your so- called "professional" performances. I boycott you. And I bet I'm not alone. Do you actually think that that absurd letter of eviction would get you off the hook? Step up and think about this again and consider other options. And don't put out some BS about fundraising and rededicating rehearsal hours; you do very well at that for projects you support. This is transparent. I don't know what's going on behind the scenes, but this is about withdrawing support CREATIVELY for a woman and a legacy that has EARNED IT. I work for a very well established theatrical institution and their board is doing a brilliant job of raising funds for the core projects that it KNOWS are the LIFE-BLOOD of the mission. To attempt to put Ellen in some category that is somehow not about the DTW mission, or not about professional work, but rather about "education" -- is compartmentalizing education and from my point of view, a total turn around of the DTW mission, NOT a natural evolution. Actually, to say you are re-dedicating your funds to "professional work" is just plain patronizing. She has earned better respect, and she HAS it from GENERATIONS of alumni, and their parents. This will impact your institution. This will impact the dance world. It's like abolishing the minor league system. It's absurd.