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National Museum of Dance

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Ballet Alert Community:

The following is excerpted from an email I sent to a BA buddy this morning, in response to an email that he sent to me. It expands on my comments in the Saratogian newpaper of yesterday morning, that you can find in the "links" thread. Since my cover is now totally blown anyway(not that I had much anonymity here to begin with since I didn't have enough imagination to come up with a moniker), I have decided to exorcise my distress by subjecting all of you to it. Thank you for letting me do so--

I don't know what the problem with the museum is, but I suspect that like most issues that arise among human beings the root of it is a quest for power. It's really a damn shame that they can't seem to get it right there--ever.

I really do think the world of Jacques. He comes from a modern dance background (as did Toni Smith, two directors ago) but he is eclectic in his interests, and so open to exploring all types of dance. Personally I've always wanted to see more ballet there, and one director ago Siobhan Dunham WAS a ballet person but she didn't last very long either. It's a really tough place to work.

The relationship between SPAC and the museum is strange and confusing. On the one hand, SPAC "oversees" the museum and Herb Chesbrough (SPAC director) is on their board. But after years of going back and forth on membership lists (one list or two?), they now apparently maintain separate lists(?). I do somewhat regret talking with Mae Banner--she called me at work on Friday and her first words were "WHAT DO YOU KNOW? (answer--not much) because I am paranoid about my job at SPAC. People have been fired from that place for doing less than criticizing a decision that Chesbrough may or may not have been part of. I earn a tiny amount of money there, but it was never about the money--I love the place and I love working there. I hope I am still an employee next summer.

I'm so distressed by our current culture in the United States. That's part of what I was trying to say in my comments. We don't value people--the corporate world has always had these types of "clear out your desk by the end of the day--you're done here" attitudes, but now that has spilled over into the non-profit world, arts, education. A friend's husband was recently fired from the United Way in just this manner. The assistant director of our library system--same story. Jacques spent a year getting his green card (he is Dutch), he and his wife bought a house here, they have two little girls--one is an infant. The librarian, has breast cancer. I am heartsick.

The corporate mentality is rampant all over SPAC--NYCB and PO are money losers, so they are in jeopardy. Not unique to us either--there was a similar article yesterday about the Ravinia Festival and the problems that CSO has had there. It all comes down to a question of what we value--and we need look no further than the current occupant of the White House to learn the answer to that question.

Martha Argerich, Andre Watts, Lang Lang--all appeared at SPAC this week to less than sell-outs. Marvin Hamlisch sold out and then some--and it was a good show, don't get me wrong, but come on!

Those of you who know me and my family know that my daughter, a sophomore at Barnard, is a talented musician who has also taken years of ballet class and continues to do so. She has decided to pursue a career in arts administration. I have always encouraged that path (indeed I would consider it myself if I were 19). But what kind of world am I encouraging my child to enter? My older child is getting a masters in education--he will be a superb teacher--but again what kind of world will he be facing? Does "do what you love" still hold true in 2003?

I think I'll go have a good cry. So sorry to be such a downer on this beautiful late summer morning!

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Yes, "rk" thank you for your views. I admire your spirit and willingness to stand up for something "on the record" in that newspaper piece. "For Art's Sake" is the perfect name for your volunteer organization. More power to you all.

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Hey BW! Thanks for the good wishes, but sadly For Art's Sake is defunct, at least for now. I don't know why Mae trotted that old news out again--it has been years since there has been any activity from that front. Small group, not enough time to do volunteer things, not enough commitment from the majority of members.

I suppose if we reach a crisis point here--no ballet and/or orchestra--or severely curtailed-- for summer '05 (everything is in place for '04), maybe it will goad some more people into activity. For now...banging one's head against the wall.

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'I don't see that the direction of the museum is going to change. We're looking to put in place an educational program to interest more people in coming into the museum and to emphasize (inclusiveness) in forms of dance and region and diversity of membership. We also want to build our volunteer base,' Smith said.

"Burgering, the fifth director of the museum since it opened in 1986, said he was fired due to 'a conflict of vision between the board and myself. We had a different vision about where the museum is going.'"

These two quotes appeared in the SAME article of the Saratogian newspaper! Mr. Smith has been appointed "Interim Director". The last such person stayed a few years, an eternity in Dance Museum history. Mr. Smith does call himself a "dance scholar". I've never seen any evidence of his scholarship, and I am acquainted with him.


People, if you have visited the museum in the past year, under Jacques' direction, please question this so-obvious contradiction. Please write to the president of the museum board, to the editor of the Saratogian, please. PM me and I will give you specifics.

Nothing can be done to save Jacques' job, but this is just wrong.

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