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Annual Dance Critics Conference to Take Place at Dance New Amsterdam Again this Year

by Merilyn Jackson
June 2, 2007
Dance New Amsterdam
280 Broadway, 2nd floor
(Entrance on Chambers Street)
New York, NY 10007
(212) 625-8369

Featured Dance Companies:

American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre (office)
890 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

New York City Ballet
New York City Ballet (office)
New York State Theater
20 Lincoln Center
New York, NY 10023

Look, listen and learn new things about dance when the Dance Critics Association (DCA) holds its 33 annual conference this year at Dance New Amsterdam (www.dnadance.org) in Lower Manhattan from June 16 - 17. Dance New Amsterdam hosted the DCA last year and its location at 280 Broadway with its entrance on Chambers Street is convenient to transit uptown.

The two-day event opens with a Friday, June 15, evening reception for pre-registered conferees. It includes optional pre-ordered luncheons and a membership meeting for voting members.

Founded in Philadelphia in 1973, the DCA was formally incorporated as a non-profit organization the following year. Deborah Jowitt, Jonnie Greene, George Dorris, George Jackson and Marcia Seigel (see photo from the 2004 Philadelphia Conference reception hosted by The Pennsylvania Ballet) were among the founders. Held mostly in New York City in the early years, the conference traveled to other cities like Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Berkeley and back to Philadelphia, twice.

In 1999, the conference took place in Philadelphia during the 2000 Feet Festival and in 2004 celebrated its 30th anniversary there. Both visits offered the attending critics a lot of dance to see, including Christopher Wheeldon's newly revamped Swan Lake, which garnered no less than 20 reviews and features worldwide.

While attendees enjoy exploring dance in different cities, critics who live where they can't see much ballet really appreciate being able to take in American Ballet Theater's and New York City Ballet's spring seasons. And there's always a multitude of other dance styles to see in New York where dance never stops.

A summary of dance scheduled during the conference follows, but do check out The New Yorker, Time Out and The Village Voice for additional dance concerts. It always seems that when companies hear we're coming, they arrange additional concerts to preen before the dance writers.

The 2007 Senior Critic Honoree is David Vaughan, archivist of the Cunningham Dance Foundation and author of Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years (Aperture, 1997) and Frederick Ashton and his Ballets (Dance Books, 1999.) Vaughan curated Invention: Merce Cunningham & Collaborators: A collaborative project of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Cunningham Dance Foundation, and the John Cage Trust. If you pre-registered for the conference and can extend an extra day, you will be invited to a pre-opening reception at the NYPL on Monday, June 18.

The 2007 conference chairs, Kena Herod and Lisa Traiger, (DCA co-chairs) dedicated this year's panels to the memories of Lincoln Kirstein (May 4, 1907 — Jan. 5, 1996) and Katherine Dunham (June 22, 1909 – May 21, 2006). Dance historians Richard A. Long, Thomas F. DeFrantz and Constance Valis Hill discuss Dunham's critical writings in a session called "Kaiso! to Minefields." And Robert Gottlieb discusses "The Real Lincoln Kirstein" with critic Nancy Dalva. On Sunday morning, a session with New York Times Magazine ethicist, Randy Cohen and Ballet Review associate editor, Marvin Hoshino answer your ethical dilemmas and questions. Professor of dance at Barnard College, author of Dance Anecdotes (Oxford University Press, 2006) and former DCA newsletter editor, Mindy Aloff, moderates.

Former Washington Post critic, George Jackson, continues to write for Ballet Review, and other publications and maintains his supportive role in the DCA. Of the conference dedication choices he said, "Dunham will be jumping with joy in her grave because the causes she loved will get attention. Beware of venturing to Kirstein's grave!"

Robert Johnson, one of the few remaining staff critics on a major American daily, writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. and is reviews editor for Pointe Magazine. He summarizes the weekend with audience participation in the final session, "Pulling it all Together," late Sunday afternoon.

Editors Note: Jackson adds this personal note: "I cannot say how much my life and my work are enriched by membership in the DCA. I've met so many people in love with dance and writing — some lucky enough to be in that small, and ever smaller, group of staff writers, but most struggling through entire careers as freelancers. It is hurtful when anyone perceives us as doing this for anything other than the purest of motives. Yes, egos are involved, but our love for dance and the human truths it reveals almost always triumphs over ego. I hope to see old friends and meet many new ones at this year's conference."

To register: www.dancecritics.org

Merilyn Jackson wrote as principal dance critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1996 – 2005. She received a NYT's/NEA Critic's Fellowship in 2005 and served on the DCA board of directors from 1999 until 2004 when she co-chaired the Philadelphia conference with Tedd Bale, Boston Herald critic, who also received the NYT's/NEA Critic's Fellowship in 2005. She continues to write on dance and food for numerous publications.

American Ballet Theater's Spring Season: June 15 Manon, 8 p.m., June 16, 2 & 8 p.m. Metropolitan Opera House, Columbus Ave. & 64th St. www.abt.org.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet: Ohad Naharin's Decadance, 547 W. 26th St., June 7 – July 1, Tues. – Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. www.cedarlakedance.com.

Hip-Hop Theater Festival: The Get Down: B-Boy/B-Girl Battle, curated and hosted by oLive Dance Theatre, Dance Theater Workshop, 219 W. 19th St. June 16, 7:30 p.m. 212-924-0077 www.dtw.org

Invention: Merce Cunningham & Collaborators: Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza. 2007. The exhibit features photographs, multi-media materials, and interactives that document performances from the 1940s to the present.

Neta Dance Company: Neta Pulvermacher's Gotta Go, Dance New Amsterdam, 280 Broadway (entrance on Chambers) June 14-17, www.dnadance.org.

New York City Ballet's Spring Season: Balanchine and Robbins and Tradition and Innovation programs, New York State Theater, June 15-19, www.nycb.org.

Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre: Symphony of Psalms, If By Chance, Black Diamond, The Joyce Theatre, 175 8th Ave., 212-691-9740, June 12 – 17 www.joyce.org

The Second Decade: Choreography, Transitions and Parenthood: Shannon Hummel/Cora Dance Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX) June 15 – 16, 8 p.m. Tickets: 718-832-0018 or www.bax.org

9th New York International Ballet Competition: Rose Theater, June 20-24, Broadway at 60th Street, www.nyibc.org, or email Ilona Copen at nyibc@niybc.org
Founders of DCA at 2004 30th Anniversary Conference in Philadelphia From L - R: Marcia Seigel, George Jackson, George Dorris, Jonnie Greene, Deborah Jowitt

Founders of DCA at 2004 30th Anniversary Conference in Philadelphia
From L - R: Marcia Seigel, George Jackson, George Dorris, Jonnie Greene, Deborah Jowitt

Photo © & courtesy of Jean Brubaker

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