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 Post subject: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2001 10:50 am 
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Here is a series of special articles in the Village Voice about the problems and issues facing dance:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><B>What's Eating the Dance World?</B><P>Elizabeth Zimmer, Village Voice<P><I><B>Profiles in Outrage</B></I><P>In 1965, the federal government authorized the National Endowment for the Arts; hard on its heels came a dance boom that launched hundreds of troupes across the country, fueled college dance programs, and helped raise the caliber of performance as well as choreography. For two decades American dance was hot, pulling audiences to theaters and to revolutionary television broadcasts.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><BR>The articles in the series consist of:<P><B>Between a Rock and a Hard Place</B><BR>by Homer Avila<BR>"I write at the 11th hour prior to the amputation of my right leg…. But it should not have come to this."<P><B>Incubator Space</B><BR>by Marya Warshaw<BR>"Space and time to create and safe places to take risks are not expendable; they are not 'extras' we can negotiate away."<P><B>Where Are the Women?</B><BR>by Jodi Liss<BR>" 'Of the choreographers you present, how many are male and how many are female?' "<P><B>Generation Gap</B><BR>by Chris Bergman<BR>"Why are artists of this generation—myself included—so dispassionate? Modern dance was a rebel force."<P><B>Dance Without Me</B><BR>by Janice Berman<BR>"What's eating the dance world? It's doing a pretty good job of eating itself, thank you."<P><B>The Money Trap</B><BR>by Karl Anderson<BR>"In the financially strapped, self-censoring world of dance now, the trust-fund artist has the best shot at success."<P><B>A Dance Critic's Lament</B><BR>by Mindy Aloff<BR>Dance is "a mode of speech. It's a way to speak to a partner. For a few, it's a way to speak to God."<P><B>Who Cares?</B><BR>by Deborah Jowitt<BR>"Art is viewed as 'a special ivory-tower thing, yet the artists are not treated as if they were very special.' "<P><B>Undertow</B><BR>by Deborah Jowitt<BR>"It's not my job to look at the economics of [universal coverage], but it is my job to say,'Keep thinking about this!' "<P><BR><A HREF="http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0117/zimmer.shtml" TARGET=_blank><B>More...</B></A>


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2001 11:14 am 
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Thank you Village Voice for featuring dance and bringing to light some issues, concerns and recurring problems which are besetting us at this point. This looks like quite a harrowing set of articles. I skimmed through a couple of them. The question for me is...why has modern dance flourished during harsh economic/political times (Depression, and l940's), and now, during relatively prosperous times (well, pre-current stock market jitters), dance is struggling and floundering; well, those might be harsh words, but.....can't think of any better words, actually. At least to describe US situation!! I dont' think it has much to do with lack of "stars", or managment problems, although those might contributing factors. Any ideas anybody?????


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2001 12:17 pm 
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There have been some theories posited - that despite what common sense would have us believe, the arts flourish the most under stressful times.<P>I am not an historian, but I have read some interesting studies about this. Several scholars have written about how frequently people went to the theaters/movies/shows during the depression in the 1930's when 40% of the population was out of work. <P>Another example often cited is during the bombing of England during the Second World War, the theaters were open and filled during some of the worst times.<P>I do know that in my travels, some of the places in which art literally spilled out of the doors onto the sidewalks, was Port au Prince, Haiti (Jamaica was another) - certainly one of the poorest and most beleaguered places on earth. <P>Perhaps when for the general population life is good, there are many choices and complacency rules. It is possible for a potential member of the audience to say - well if I miss this performance, I can always get the video, or go next time. Life doesn't seem quite so sharply drawn - quite so poignant in its day to day enjoyments. There isn't as much need for the escape from ordinary life that the arts provide. This vista is good, so there is little need for another.<P>Like in painting, light is shown best when next to the shadows, it takes the shadows to bring out the light. So too, perhaps, the necessity for appreciation of the arts/dance needs the possibility of being denied an opportunity for its enjoyment. Go today, you might not be able to go tomorrow.<P>As to modern dance, you all know I am ignorant of this particular art form, but every revolution needs constant revolt. Thomas Jefferson recommended periodical revolutions. However, in modern dance I don't know what that would be.


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2001 10:38 pm 
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I wrote a response to this earlier but then I had technical difficulties so it evaporated. Writing it over seems irritating so I'll just say this -- These articles seem mostly to be about Big Dance and NYC issues, and make me glad to be Little Dance. I'm having a much better time than it sounds like these folks are.<P>I do appreciate concerns brought up in Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Where Are the Women?, Generation Gap (at least it was funny), and Undertow. And it's not to say I can't relate to or care about people in dance (somewhere) having a tough time, but "Profiles in Outrage" and "lament" are not words I would apply to my dance world.<P>Do others out there feel as awful as these people seem to?<p>[This message has been edited by Priscilla (edited April 26, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2001 5:10 am 
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Having read the articles above I find them terribly one sided, slanted, and it seems to me, composed to illuminate preconceived ideas. <P>Just my opinion.


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2001 7:30 am 
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WEll, I guess I have to say that's one's perceptions and/or perspective on issues can be determined by one's life experience: age, locale, etc. It's also what your criteria of comparison is. My main performing career was in NY during late 70's and 80's. I feel like I lived at end of a "golden era" of dance: the tail end of the Judson Church era, the heyday of such greats as Balanchine and Baryshikov and Graham, etc. Since that time I have experienced the following: a significant number of friends, teachers, mentors and colleagues have contracted and/or died of AIDS; funding and employment programs such as the National Dance Touring Program no longer exist (many companies toured and some of their cash flow from such programs during the aforementioned time periods from such programs), another significant number of friends moved to Europe to work and live.(mainly due to economic concerns I think it would be fair to say) Well, I think you get the picture. I guess I basically agree with most of what was in the Village Voice feature. But who was it that said "better to light a candle, than curse the darkness". Dance history tells us that everything goes in cycles. What goes up, must come down. Every generation takes from the past, changes it and adds their own inimitable (spelling, help!!)stamp to it. I enoy teaching now, because I feel I can contribute to the future. Maybe a student of mine will be another Mark Morris: lolol!! Who knows? I feel an obligation to pass on to others what was given to me....to make a positive contribution.<P><p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited April 26, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2001 11:01 am 
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Great quote, Trina.<P>"better to light a candle, than curse the darkness" -- I like that.<P>I'm glad all these down-sides to dance haven't completely run you off!<P>


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2001 12:24 pm 
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"Better to hire a lighting designer than to curse the darkness."

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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2001 12:43 pm 
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LOL!<P>I really like this set of articles, I could identify with a lot of them. I agree with you Trina that there's no sense in bemoaning the problems in the dance world; I think in moving forward it helps to clarify some of the issues. And there's something to be said for hearing other people's stories too since our dance life experiences can often seem like isolated events and/or occurrences.


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2001 2:07 pm 
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Basheva wrote:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Having read the articles above I find them terribly one sided, slanted, and it seems to me, composed to illuminate preconceived ideas.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><BR>This is a series of articles about the environment in which modern dance in New York finds itself today. This is a reasonable universe of discourse for the Village Voice to adopt as an NY based alternative magazine which regularly reviews small scale modern dance and to a much lesser extent ballet. <P>A number of individuals from different perspectives are enlisted to discuss this theme and there is a concensus that the art form, Modern Dance, is in crisis in a variety of ways. Has the VVoice only asked for views from those who are unhappy/unsuccessful? I believe the Editor Deborah Jowett to be a serious, dance friendly critic with wide experience. Thus I am inclined to believe that the survey was not organised in a profoundly biased way.<P>I do not live in the USA and my knowledge of the arts scene is based on articles I have read on criticaldance and conversations with those involved with the site. Thus my knowledge is clearly limited. But comparing systems is interesting to me and the differences and similarities between the US, UK and Continental Europe provides much food for thought and each has strengths and weaknesses.<P>My impression is that the US arts funding system where personal and corporate donation has such a strong influence favours the established, 'large arts'. Cutting edge small scale modern dance in Europe, which is the most vibrant form of the dance art form in the UK, is sustained by public subsidies which are not available in the US to anything like the same extent. <P>Healthcare, an issue raised more than once in the articles is organised very differently in the US compared with Europe. At the top end, I am sure that US dancers get better treatment than their counterparts in the UK. Indeed, I am aware of a UK dancer in a company visitng the US who recieved state of the art treatment from the SFB health center that saved his career. However, whereas most Continental European dancers will get excellent general healthcare regardless of their income, and in the UK will get good care, I think few would argue that the US healthcare system provides high quality care for the poor who are not sufficiently poor to qualify for Medicare. <P>Overall, these articles suggest that modern dance and the artists associated with it suffer from inadequate healthcare and the lack of time and space resources to create fine new work. None of this runs contrary to what I have been reading and hearing over the past two years.<P>Which aspects of the Modern Dance scene do you feel are not represented in the articles, Basheva?<P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited April 26, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2001 3:18 pm 
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Well, Stuart, let's see....first of all I am certainly not against anyone getting first rate health care regardless of ability to pay. That's a given. The State of California has contingency plans for people who fall into that middle ground - and I helped to elect the legislators who saw to that.<P>However, I usually am suspect of anything that presents either an almost entirely negative or entirely positive perspective. There is usually a middle ground, I believe.<P>I have known through the years many, many modern dancers. Ballet class is filled with them. They didn't seem unhappy, put upon, lacking in health care, mistreated, abused, suffering from lack of opportunities.<P>Quite the contrary. I found them to be people who were getting a great deal of pleasure from their art, their creativity. Many of them made their own opportunities - and continue to do so. There is a fairly vibrant modern dance scene here - surely not like London or New York, - but still it is alive and very creative. <P>I am especially thinking of three of them women who are along in years, shall we say, and instead of bemoaning their fate, they created their own dance company (it is about 25yrs old now), and to this day they perform, create, teach and enhance the community. They don't have time to think negatively - because they are consumed by the positive things they do.<P>I am not saying the editor had any preconceived ideas in soliticing these articles.....but as I stated before, it does seem rather odd that they are almost uniformly negative. <P>But, then, I am willing to admit to error.<P>


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2001 6:30 pm 
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Stuart says:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>This is a series of articles about the environment in which modern dance in New York finds itself today. This is a reasonable universe of discourse for the Village Voice to adopt as an NY based alternative magazine which regularly reviews small scale modern dance and to a much lesser extent ballet.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Put that way it's much clearer why these stories do not reflect my experience.


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2001 6:50 pm 
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Priscilla, Yes!!! exactly my point. Everyone's individual life experience will determine their perspective. BUT, since New York is an important capital of dance, it behooves us to "pay attention" to what's going on there, as a bellweather of what's going on in an professional arena. Apropos of this discussion, I wanted to share a letter sent by a professional dancer, re-printed (with permission) in "Pathways", the newsletter of Kaleidescope, a professional children's modern dance company based here in Seattle. I am sharing excerpts, and I offer this without comment, as ONE PERSON'S opinion or account of living in two differnt cultures. This person, as you will see, was in the upper echelon of modern dance in the US, before moving to Europe. His name is Graham Smith, and he is an alumni of "Kaleidesope".<P>"Leaving America....I had been an apprentice in Merce Cunningham Dance Company. I had spent enough time in New York to see that the "old and established" companies were by and large the only ones that had survived the Republican dismantling of the National Endowment of the Arts. Without the NEA, it is very hard for innovative artists to get anything off the ground.When I speak my friends in the US who are still squeaking out a living as dancers, they inform things are much the same, lamentably. (He now dances in Europe)..."The European approach to dance, Theater and ARt in general is one of inclusiveness....The theatres themselves are almost exclusively subsidized by the state. We are all city employees and are indirctly paid by the taxpayers, thus giving the taxpayer a substantial interest in what is going on in the theater" . Well, it goes on from there. Mr. Smith currently dances and lives in Basel, Switzerland; he dances with the company of Joachim Schloemer, in the tanztheater genre; he will soon be re-locating to Portugal. Ps, He is a graduate of State University of New York, Purchase, one of the top dance training schools in the US.<P>Again, I am not offering this as a political diatribe, but as one person's account. In the interest of generating further discussion. <P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited April 26, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2001 3:29 am 
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Basheva wrote:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>I am especially thinking of three of them women who are along in years, shall we say, and instead of bemoaning their fate, they created their own dance company (it is about 25yrs old now), and to this day they perform, create, teach and enhance the community. They don't have time to think negatively - because they are consumed by the positive things they do.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><BR>That's really good to hear Basheva. Do you know how these fine ladies finance their work?<p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited April 27, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: What's Eating the Dance World? Esp. New York
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2001 5:30 am 
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Stuart - to the best of my knowledge they finance their work in much the same ways others do - private funding, grants, some government funding, and box office.<P>I used them as an example, but they are not alone. There are several groups like that here. Malashock is another and Sushi. They have their good times and bad, but they do survive and they do create.


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