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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2004 1:45 pm 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 1999 12:01 am
Posts: 3663
Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
...Which reminds me of the story of Pia Zadora's appearing as Anne Frank; it was (supposedly) so bad that when the SS troops came searching in Act III, the audience shouted, "She's in the attic!"

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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2004 2:51 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 19975
Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Hi FionaM - I covered some aspects of your question about experiences outside NY in my post above.

One major difference in Europe is the fact that many dance venues receive significant subsidies from central or local funds. Thus it is possible to adopt a more experimental stance.

Nevertheless "cash-flow is King" is not just a mantra from the corporate world and dance companies and venues in the UK, must cut their cloth accordingly as wage bills must be paid. Thus most companies and venues must think of their audiences if they are to survive. Audience development is possible, but it is an incremental process. While a risk-free approach is likely to give dull uniformity, an over-aggressive risk-welcoming policy in a venue of 500+ is likely to result in financial problems in the UK.

In Continental Europe, there are examples of a commitment to avant-garde art and until a year ago, Ballett Frankfurt and Tanzteater Wuppertal were both outstanding examples of artists shielded from financial considerations and allowed to experiment in an unfettered way. But the former will close this year and everyone has their fingers crossed for the latter.

I understand that the French choregraphic centres also allow more experimentation than most, because of their generous grant funding.

<small>[ 12 March 2004, 05:49 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2004 1:57 am 
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Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2004 12:01 am
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Location: berlin, germany
hi. as a response to the mainland europe question, i can only provide a response from the berlin perspective. here there is so much emphasis on conceptual art rather than performance and audience. the new young choreographers are making works that they sit for hours at a desk and write about it and then go discuss it over coffee with a scientist friend then go to the studio and make the dance without any editing. the result is a dance that works well on paper, but not at all on stage (for my taste).

i spent several years in ny and know how everything tends to look the same and i think that happens in any ´scene´ where there is an established scene. the good thing with ny is that there are lots of wonderful educational establishments and a lot of people that will blatently tell you that that piece needs a lot of work and quite honestly stinks. i haven´t found that here. i am still new (almost 2 years) to the scene, but have enough experience to know that when it comes to seeing a show, it is a long agonizing process of motivation to leave the house!!

and for the forsythe dilemma, he will be back with his company, traveling between dresden and a small town outside of frankfurt. as for pina, i think she will make things work even if it is not in the same realm of what she is doing now.


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2004 3:10 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 19975
Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Welcome clintie and thanks for providing a Berlin perspective on this topic.

From what you say, the message seems to be that the artists follow their own instincts and do not take acount of what an audience might expect or want.

My experience of Estonian dance, which has German influences, is very similar. Mart Kangro, one of the leading Estonian performers said in an interview:

'I'm a freelance choreographer / performer.' Mart is not interested in dance in the conventional sense. 'I would rather perform for 100 people than do something that entertains, I don't want to compromise,' he says without the slightest hint of irony.

Here is the full interview

<small>[ 18 March 2004, 04:12 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2004 8:38 am 
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Joined: Tue Nov 02, 1999 12:01 am
Posts: 2708
Location: Seattle, WA USA
Wow, Clintie, thanks for your perspective. We here in the U.S. think (or at least me)that the funding and general arts climate in Europe is just better, as a rule. I am stunned to hear about Pina, an artist whose funding security I thought was unassailable. Also, from what you've said Clintie, it sounds like the conceptual art scene there is where US performance art was in the 60's, ie, minimalism, performance art, etc. We look forward to hearing more from you.


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2004 8:09 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 12:01 am
Posts: 25
Location: New York City
Hey Clintie-
thanks for the input. Yes, I think it's true about NYC, that there can be substantial critical dialogue going on. (People here work so hard on their work, god bless 'em, and with no resources hardly) The kind you're talking about, I think, is artist to artist, "here's what I think of your piece, and how about trying this to make it better." Which I just want to add that that's a real different process than sanitizing repertory so that audiences don't have to have their expectations challenged at all.


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Thu May 13, 2004 6:23 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 12, 2004 11:01 pm
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Location: New York
Hi, everyone. Ben Munisteri here. It seems the short Times article has generated a lot of discussion and debate here.

I pitched several angles to writer Valerie Galdstone, and she in turn pitched them to the Times editor. The editor then coordinated with Valerie, the Joyce's publicist, and the Joyce staff. Various angles and quotes were badified and the article finally went to press the week my showed opened at the Joyce. The issues involved in my 12-year dancemaking career culminating in a debut at the Joyce are myriad. An article so small can't begin to cover any of them, or expatiate on even one. My goal in pitching the article and giving the subsequent interview was commercial: I wanted to sell as many tickets as I possibly could.

It's easy to extrapolate certain concrete conclusions from the article, I suppose. I've never compromised my choreographic ideas for lowest-common-denominator audiences, as some readers here may have inferred. I didn't dumb down my Joyce program or play it safe. Instead, I tried to balance my more popular pieces with my less popular ones. I did this because I wanted to garner as many bookings as I could -- from both risky dance presenters and ones in Podunk, Alaska.

Like many of my colleages, I personally lose thousands of dollars each year paying for dance-company expenses not covered by grants or fees. I don't make a dime. I want bigger audiences, more touring, and to make ends meet. Otherwise, I don't know if I'll be able to stay in this field.

(In defense of my quote where I said I wanted to be like Parsons: I meant his workload and booking schedule. I also said that I wanted to achieve John Jasperse's artistic integrity at the same time. So, let's read carefully.)

At this point in my career, I will gladly consider programming advice from staff at any theater I'm contracted to. At PS122 I light fires and pull my clothes off; at the Joyce I don't. Theater directors know their audiences better than I do.

I was very happy to read that Fiona thinks my axed piece sounded interesting. I feel the same way, and I'm pleased to say that dance will get its premiere yet -- probably at an outdoor venue in summer '05! I haven't given up on it.

I hope members of this forum will feel comfortable in contacting me with direct questions in the future (though I doubt I'll have another Times feature anytime soon). I am happy to talk about my work and my decisions. I am a better source than the NY Times.

Did anyone actually see my concert or just read about it in this Times article?

Ben


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Thu May 13, 2004 10:56 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
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Location: SF Bay Area
Welcome, Ben, and thank you for sharing your side of the story with us. I hope Fiona, Clintie and others respond to your comments.


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2004 4:47 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 12:01 am
Posts: 25
Location: New York City
Ben,
Wow, thanks for entering the discussion. It should be abundantly clear that I didn't start this thread to criticize anything about the intrinsic value or worth of your work - my assumption was that you are a vital, interesting artist with something important to say.

I was commenting on an article that seemed to infer that in order to gain certain visible opportunities, artists are pressured to conform to the perceived demands or expectations of a marketplace. As artists, we all negotiate the relationship between art and commerce in different ways, and have to figure out our own strategies for doing that. Liz Streb, an artist whom I regard as having great integrity, once told me that she would put American Express logos on her costumes if they would make her shows financially possible. So that's one orientation...but can I imagine Merce Cunningham doing that? Probably not - and I can't quite imagine him capitulating much to anyone else's expectations. His work is what it is, and he's made us come to it, rather than the other way round.

While I know my perspective is in the minority, I buy tickets too, and I don't want presenters or the press handing me something that they think I want, rather than whatever the artist's vision is. Mainly the tone of the Times article struck me as being at great odds with the publicity campaign behind the Altogether Different Festival. I don't see that as your responsibility at all, and I know balancing the pressures of financial and artistic survival are intense. And as an artistic director, you have to make your own decisions about that.

I'm sure you are the best source for information about your work itself. But the article was published in the New York Times, and the issues outlined in the article are what I was responding to. As a public document, that article presents itself for discussion.


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