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Should A Magazine Ignore A Country's Dance For Political Reasons?

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Dance Europe, a London-based glossy, announced that it would not cover companies based in Israel for poliitical reasons. This has sparked a lively debate elsewhere on the internet; here's an editorial published on Article 19.

Dance Europe's position on Israeli dance

As always, those blokes mince their words, but you can probably get an idea of their take on things from these excerpts:

The news story reported yesterday on Article19 and a few days before in the dance ‘blogosphere’ concerning Dance Europe and their policy of not featuring Israeli dance companies unless they denounce their own government’s policies regarding The West Bank and Gaza Strip shows a disturbing level of arrogance and lack of accountability in the all too cosy world of arts journalism.

That any publication would demand the stating of a political position, or worse, the pretense of adopting a political position to stand a chance of being featured is so utterly bonkers that when we first learned of the story we thought somebody must have gotten this very very wrong.

Dance Europe have declined to speak to Article19 about the issue but not before firing off some strongly worded emails to freelance writers and publications that make their position all too clear.

For that position, read the whole editorial. But, without getting into the many fascinating tangles of Middle East poliitics and just sticking with the question of the journalistic responsibility, what do you think?

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It's interesting that their reaction to all the bad publicity has not been to rethink or retract the policy, but to do away with the entire list. Israeli companies are not reinstated. To avoid that, they simply got rid of the list itself. Equal opportunity discrimination?

In the first piece, the editor, Emma Manning, was quoted as saying that she (as editor) has the power to make any such decision. This is not in question. Article 19, in my opinion, got to the heart of things:

QUOTE: "Dance Europe's own editorial mantra reads: 'The editorial policy aims to provide an unbiased platform for dance throughout Europe and beyond.' We can only imagine what depths the staff of this magazine think they have to sink to before the become biased?"

Whatever one thinks of the Israeli occupation, Dance Europe's original gesture seems a trivial and sanctimonious response to a very serious and complicated problem.

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without getting into the many fascinating tangles of Middle East poliitics and just sticking with the question of the journalistic responsibility, what do you think?

If the companies linked on the Article 19 site are a fair representation of the European modern dance scene, I have to wonder what comes first there, the politics or the dance. I mean, that's a chicken or the egg question, but if it's a fair question then I'm not surprised at Dance Europe's decision.

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I don't know. Dance has certainly had a history of governments considering it to be a propaganda tool... certainly world tour funding has on occasion come about in the past because companies' governments considered promoting the culture as positive propaganda. But did Dance Europe think the dance companies were the tools of the Israeli government? It seems a bit much. Political disclaimers could really get out of hand. Just imagine, after the "no flash photograph or recording devices; please turn off your cell phones and a reiteration of our company's current political disclaimers..." Perhaps we should have a contest: author a humorous political policy disclaimer for your favorite company without offending or boring the current audience. [but that would be a violation of this forum's "no politics" policy].

Does anyone think the "I'm not going to play Sun City" had any effect on ending Apartheid?

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I don't think that an observer of the Israeli modern dance scene woud seriously consider any of the prominent companies or choreographers to be propaganda tools for the perpetuation of the occupation of the West Bank/Palestinian Authority. Like many other artists in many other countries, Israeli choreographers and dancers are as a whole a left leaning bunch.

Some like Ohad Naharin (Bat Sheva) and Rami Beer (Kibbutz Dance Company) have made topical, relatively political work. Kyr, Ohad Naharin's first major work for Bat Sheva, and IMO a masterpice, is an incredible commentary on and analysis of Zionism and the State of Israel.

Others like Inbal Pinto work in their own remarkable fantasy world (although I haven't seen any of her most recent pieces).

Further more, the Israeli dance scene is very much an equal opportunities area, unlike many other fields of Israeli life. You don't have to be a native=born Israeli Jew in order to be fully accepted in the dance community.

Also, I'm no defender of many Israeli policies, but is Israel really the most evil of all the empires out there today? Is anyone saying they will boycott Sudanese companies until the Sudanese government is prepared to take action against the genocide currently taking place in Darfur?It's the pick and choose aspect of Dance Europe's decision that is incredibly obnoxious.

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