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Flash Report 2, 7-25: Up the Stairway to Heaven Without a Critic
Good News and Bad News from Dance Conference

By Sandra Aberkalns
Copyright 2000 Sandra Aberkalns

WASHINGTON -- Originally, I was going to work this image into my conclusion, but I think I'm going to use it now to jump start this wrap-up. In the movie "Stairway to Heaven," David Niven is sitting on some stairs talking to some French guy when he suddenly realizes that he is being tricked into going to Heaven against his will and starts to run down the stairway, which has been moving the whole time like an escalator. As the camera pulls back to show the entire staircase you see how far he has moved towards Heaven, but you also see how far he would have to go to actually get there.

I thought of this movie because at Dupont Circle (a subway station in D.C.) after you go through the turnstile you turn the corner to exit and there is the most incredible escalator that you have to go up to get out of the station. It is VERY long, VERY steep, and as you gaze upward you are blinded by the sunlight streaming into the station.

So what does this have to do with the Dancing in the Millennium Conference held last week in Washington D.C.? That 700 people attended a conference to talk about dance is a major accomplishment, but we cannot loose sight of the fact that in this country, at least, Heaven is still a ways off.

Last Tuesday, members of the dance community addressed Congress (yes, dancers can speak quite eloquently when they choose to). I believe it was either Tuesday or Wednesday that the Washington Post announced that Michael Kaiser was the new head of the Kennedy Center and was being praised as a wonderful choice by Democrats and Republicans alike. There was this conference. We talked a lot in Washington D.C. this last week but did anyone hear -- and if they did will they do anything about it?

If you want to get a sense of how jam-packed our days were and what some of the presentations were about, Chris Dohse and Tehreema Mitha diligently covered this conference and their reports can be found on elsewhere on the site. Just type "Millennium" into the search engine.

I'm sure that there are people who can attend a conference of this magnitude and successfully write a witty wrap-up, but I have to admit that I'm a little numbed by everything I saw and heard last week. So my good news/bad news is as good as you get.

1) Good news: I was amazed at how many presentations were scheduled (there were eight or nine presentations happening simultaneously); that there was so much to say about dance was great. Bad news: I am only one person and I was only able to attend a fraction of what was there. It is also inevitable that there would be a time slot where there was absolutely nothing of interest, and in the next time slot four things that you are dying to attend.

2) Good news: There are presentations that are wonderful. When you get a speaker that brings you into the paper the time flies and you get lively a question/answer session. Bad news: There are duds. Also, some of the presentations seemed to be the dysfunctional children of the publish or perish family.

3) Good news: A lot of people have a lot to say about dance. Bad news: Dance is a visual art and a few of the research presenters seem to have forgotten that.

4) Good news: You have a unique opportunity to hear about work being done in other areas of dance. Bad news: A lot of people seem to primarily attend presentations in their respective fields.

5) Good news: You can make new friends. Bad news: You end up with the same old cliques.

6) Good news: Approximately 300 Saturday night banquet attendees had a GREAT time during the community dance held after the dinner. More good News: The dance critics left when the dancing began so there will be no review of that performance!

So forget the good news/bad news already. That this conference happened at all is a miracle in itself. Hey, if we don't reach for Heaven no one else will.

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