Dance: August 2002

Friday August 30

WHY BILLY’S LEAVING: Long before William Forsythe announced this week he would quit the Frankfurt Ballet, there had been rumors. Rumors his contract might not be renewed. Rumors city funding was to be cut. Critics have charged that Frankfurt’s cultural policy has been half-hearted, and that its commitment to excellence is weak. “The short-sighted discussions on whether the culturally derelict banking city wants to keep financing a choreographer of world renown has been simmering for quite a while.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/30/02

  • Previously: CAN YOU FIGURE OUT WHY HE’S LEAVING? Here’s a resignation speech for you. William Forsyth announcing he’ll leave the helm of Frankfurt Ballet (which he tuned into one of Europe’s most experimental contemporary companies) in 2004 after 20 years: “For the present, I feel strongly that my own methodological evolution would be best served if conducted in a context less integrated into a field of political practice that is, understandably, challenged by the task of establishing primary descriptive models of cultural policy that can be accurately represented by numbers.” The New York Times 08/29/02

AUSTRALIAN BALLET’S NEW ERA: Richard Evans is, at 35, Australian Ballet’s youngest-ever executive director, as he begins the job this week. “This organisation being 40 years old, there’s a lot of conversation about what’s happened in the past, about the ‘golden age’ of the Australian Ballet… but the essence I’m interested in is the future, and what we can do in the next few years to mix a bit of alchemy ourselves and to really take it to a whole other level.” The Age (Melbourne) 08/30/02

Thursday August 29

CAN YOU FIGURE OUT WHY HE’S LEAVING? Here’s a resignation speech for you. William Forsyth announcing he’ll leave the helm of Frankfurt Ballet (which he tuned into one of Europe’s most experimental contemporary companies) in 2004 after 20 years: “For the present, I feel strongly that my own methodological evolution would be best served if conducted in a context less integrated into a field of political practice that is, understandably, challenged by the task of establishing primary descriptive models of cultural policy that can be accurately represented by numbers.” The New York Times 08/29/02

Wednesday August 28

WHO OWNS A DANCE? “A federal judge has ruled that the majority of dances that modern dance legend Martha Graham created belong to the Martha Graham Dance Center, dealing the second blow in as many months to Graham’s heir. Ronald A. Protas had claimed sole ownership to Graham’s dances and their sets and costumes. But U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum ruled that Protas only has the rights to one dance, “Seraphic Dialogue,” a dramatic piece about Joan of Arc. The Martha Graham Center dismissed Protas, who was a close companion of Graham, as artistic director more than a year ago. Graham died in April 1991.” Baltimore Sun (AP) 08/27/02

Sunday August 25

WHAT BECOMES A CLASSIC? “Just what makes a ballet a classic? Consider what happens, or doesn’t happen, in certain productions of supposed classics. We often don’t know what ballet’s classics really are choreographically. Company directors claim to revere the classics. Stars long to dance them. Audiences flock to see them. But what is it that they are seeing or dancing? The choreography for many works has eroded. Some scenes have been altered, some have been omitted and others have been added.” The New York Times 08/25/02

Friday August 23

WHY WE DANCE: Dance is one of the most basic arts. Millions of people dance. So “why do many people still find dance, the friendliest art, so mysterious when they encounter it on a concert stage? Perhaps the problem is communication. When we see another human body, we expect it to look familiar. We also expect to read with ease the physical signals that other people’s bodies send us. Yet choreographers – the artists who make concert dances – give the body an exceptional appearance.” Newark Star-Ledger 08/23/02

Wednesday August 22

ROCKETTES SETTLE: Radio City Music Hall has made a settlement with its Rockettes, averting a strike. The Hall will buy out 41 of the veteran dancers for $2 million – between $30,000 and $120,000 per dancer, depending on length of service. “It’s not the price the Rockettes wanted, but in the context of the negotiations, it was a reasonable price.” The New York Times 08/22/02

BAD MOVES: New York Magazine miscalculated when it fired dance critic Tobi Tobias. But the magazine has been cutting back on space for its other critics, and some might worry other cutbacks are in the works. “Eliminating a major voice from an important venue—either for budgetary reasons or to bring in someone trendier—is not merely a dance-world scandal, it’s a dark comment on the priorities of today’s journalism.” New York Observer [low down in the column] 08/21/02

Monday August 19

DECLINING DISCOURSE ON DANCE: What’s happening to dance criticism? There’s less and less of it. Major publications around the US have been cutting back on dance coverage. The latest to go is New York Magazine’s esteemed Toby Tobias, who was recently let go from the magazine. Orange County Register 08/18/02

Sunday August 18

DANCE FESTIVAL BRIBE SCANDAL: Thirty thousand people are expected in Liverpool to attend Creamfields, Britain’s largest outdoor dance festival. But the festival has been hit with charges of corruption after police “arrested one of the organisers for allegedly bribing a council officer responsible for awarding its licence.” The Guardian (UK) 08/17/02

DANCE FESTIVAL CALLS IT QUITS: Los Angeles dance presenter Dance Kaleidoscope has folded after failing to find a new director. “In its heyday, Dance Kaleidoscope was the city’s premier showcase for local dance, presenting a multi-week festival of modern, classical and world dance performances. In summer 2000, the event included five performances of nearly 30 artists or groups in four locations over three weekends.” Los Angeles Times 08/17/02

Thursday August 15

ROYAL DANCERS WON’T STRIKE: Dancers of the London’s Royal Ballet may be unhappy with artistic director Ross Stretton (they were talking strike earlier this week). But after talks with Covent Garden chief, the dancers have decided not to take a job action. BBC 08/14/02

Wednesday August 14

ROCKETTES REJECT CONTRACT: The Radio City Music Hall and its 41 Rockettes have broken off negotiations on a new contract. Owners of Radio City want to buy out the dancers and hold auditions for each new show. Cablevision, owner of the Rockettes, is holding a firesale of its assets, and trying to cut down on expenses. For now the Rockettes will work without a contract. Newsday 08/14/02

Tuesday August 13

BOURNE AGAIN: Star choreographer Matthew Bourne has had a rough couple of years. “He lost control of his celebrated production of Swan Lake and of his company, Adventures in Motion Pictures, and the big plans to settle as resident company at London’s Old Vic collapsed.” But he’s staging a comeback “His team of loyal dancers, once familiar AMP faces, have formed a new company, aptly called New Adventures.” The Telegraph (UK) 08/13/02

FAILED PROMISE? Ross Stretton’s fortunes as director of London’s Royal Ballet took a quick dive in his first season. “Only last September the Australian walked into Covent Garden as the Royal Ballet’s new boss, full of plans to move the company forward. Today his own dancers are so upset with his style of management that they are threatening to strike.” The Times (UK) 08/13/02

  • NATIONAL SNOBBERY? “There are two main reasons why the first year of Stretton’s three-year contract has ended badly. The first reason is chauvinism. The attitude in the British ballet world is this: Australia does not tell us what to do – we tell it… Sydney Morning Herald 08/13/02

Monday August 12

THE LATEST TRENDS IN DANCE: Toronto’s Festival of Independent Dance Artists is Canada’s largest international dance festival. “The first half of the festival reveals several interesting trends: There is an emphasis on beautiful dance, anchored in strong technique and form. There are also more group pieces rather than a long line of solos. The solos themselves are less introspective and self-indulgent than in previous years. Humour is making a welcome return.” The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/12/02

ENDANGERED ROCKETTES: Is Rockefeller Center getting ready to toss out its high-stepping Rockettes? “The corporate owner of the landmark concert venue wants to replace the standing roster of Rockettes with a system of open auditions. The dancers with the trademark high-leg kicks have been working without a contract since February.” Nando Times (AP) 08/11/02

Sunday August 11

UNHAPPY ROYAL DANCERS: Dancers in the London’s Royal Ballet are unhappy with director Ross Stretton, who just completed his first season with the company. “The performers’ principal gripe concerns Stretton’s casting decisions, which are said to have left dancers uncertain whether they would be performing in productions until the last minute, and the public attending performances not featuring the advertised cast.” Dancers have considered taking a no-confidence vote in Stretton’s regime. The Guardian (UK) 08/10/02

Friday August 9

ATLANTA HIRES NEW EXEC DIRECTOR: Atlanta Ballet has hired Terri Rouse as its new executive director. Rouse comes from the visual arts world, where she has run museums. “She joins Artistic Director John McFall at the helm of the ballet, which has a $7 million annual budget. The company, with 22 full-time dancers, is coming off a season of critical kudos but struggling with a $1.2 million deficit.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution 08/08/02

Wednesday August 7

DANCING WITHOUT A NET: “Nowhere in the nation is there anything like Boulder’s Aerial Dance Festival. It is unique. It is cutting-edge. And during the next few days, students will converge on Boulder to study with the greats of this emerging art form… What, exactly, is aerial dance?” Think low-flying trapeze work, combined with elements of modern and classical dance. Weird? You betcha. Dangerous? Sure. But hey, it’s art. Denver Post 08/07/02

Tuesday August 6

DISAPPOINTING FIRST YEAR: Ross Stretton has just finished his first year as director of London’s National Ballet. How’d he do? “Yes, ballet is a hazardous job and every company gets its share of injuries, but the Royal Ballet right now seems worse than most. Possible causes are choice of repertoire, overworking dancers through casting policies, and the quality (or lack of it) in teaching – all of which must end up on the director’s plate. Not a wonderful end for Ross Stretton’s first year in charge.” The Independent (UK) 08/05/02

DANCE PIONEER DIES: Freidann Parker, co-founder of the Colorado Ballet, has died at the age of 77. Parker and her lifelong business associate and companion, Lillian Covillo, established the Colorado Concert Ballet in 1961 and saw it through a number of incarnations. Today, the Colorado Ballet has a company roster of 30 professional dancers and 30 apprentices. Denver Post 08/06/02

Monday August 5

SCOTTISH BALLET’S NEW COURSE: Ashley Page is about to take over as director of the troubled Scottish Ballet. The company’s directors have declared the company will be remade into a modern company. Page says that will mean expanding the company. He also says that “under his directorship the ballet would be performing an ‘eclectic’ mix of work, which may require the addition of another 10 contemporary-skilled dancers to the company.” The Herald (Glasgow) 08/04/02

Sunday August 4

THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE: Is New York dance on the road to extinction, or at least irrelevance? On the surface, it seems like a silly question. After all, the Big Apple is the undisputed capitol of American dance, and one of the world’s great centers of the art. Certainly, there is “a strong circumstantial case for New York still being the dance capital of the world – until you notice that every one of these attractions relies on a presiding talent that is either middle-aged, old or dead.” So once the Baryshnikovs and the Cunninghams are gone, will young innovators like Mark Morris and Christopher Wheeldon really be able to carry on the tradition of great American dance? The Telegraph (UK) 08/03/02