Sunday, October 21, 2007

New York news at the weekend

New York, New York

Last night's James Sewell Ballet performance was one for the books. From beginning to end, one could hear a pin drop in the audience, so rapt was the attention. To my eye and ear, it was the best performance so far, and it was a gift to be among the spectators. Schoenberg even sounded like real music to me.

The usual physical pains aside, everyone remains in good health and spirits.

We continue to wait for the NY Times to retract the reviewer's statement that Emily lip-synched her song in "Opera Moves." The waiting has hung like a cloud in everyone's mind.

B (formerly with Ballet Arts Minnesota) was down from Boston Ballet and taught company class before Friday night's show. We also have seen many former JSB dancers, plus many friends and colleagues of long-standing.

One of many benefits of performing at the Joyce Theater is the infrequent opportunity to work with an organization that has determined what it takes to do things right, and then secures the capital to make it happen. Unlike so many of the venues with which we deal, this one expects excellence of itself and its people in every department. It is simply refreshing to deal with folks who do not accept mediocrity as good enough.

Except for rains that finally visited us all day on Friday, the weather this week has been great -- with this weekend the most glorious of all!

Did you know that a modest asking price for a modest 650 sq. foot studio apartment anywhere in Manhattan is $425,000?

From Minnesota we have seen W, H, F, and G, and (via Dusseldorf) M and M. Members of dancers' families have come in from Minnesota and Maryland.

We have 7th and 8th performances today, and will be home tomorrow.

See you in St. Paul next weekend! (Bring friends.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

At the Joyce Theater with James Sewell Ballet

New York, New York

After two glorious New York fall days of sunshine, light warm breezes, and only a few clouds, it seems we may enjoy today some of the rain and dark clouds that the midwest has had since the weekend.

Everyone is healthy and well. We arrived in Manhattan about 11pm Sunday night. Monday was taken up with technical load-in and spacing rehearsal, followed by a dancers' worklight rehearsal from 5-7pm.

Kevin Jones could teach lighting design and efficient theatrical and dance production. He is so well organized. The crew here had lights placed, color installed, lights focused, and cues run without dancers before 2pm on Monday. Quite an accomplishment compared to some of the disorganized companies we hear about.

Yesterday's dress rehearsal worked out all of the sound, light, and movement bugs.

The photo shoot progressed well with a number of movements and poses from the three ballets on the program. This photo call drew only three photogs, down from past years, and a sign of the changing times in the print press business -- plus, it's a very busy week in New York for dance and other things.

Our publicists, Ellen Jacobs Associates, are on the ball. From Paris (where she was several days last week) to Chicago (Monday this week) to New York, no one does it better than Ellen, in spite of all the changes in the p.r. business. JSB has worked with her since 2001, in spite of the journalistic changes, on the premise that you dance with those what brung ya.

Last night's opening house of 326 received the performance with lots of enthusiasm. We papered last night and tonight, after which we should be rolling for the rest of the run. I might add some papering for the Sunday matinee to maintain the audience energy level.

Former JSB dancers, M & B, took the train in from New Jersey and joined us briefly afterward. C, formerly of Jazzdance by Danny Buraczeski and now a professor in Pennsylvania, also made the scene.

Life at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church ( is relatively quiet, save for the morning jack-hammers for street construction outside. We do not lack for spiritual opportunities: morning and evening prayer daily at 8am and 5:30pm, plus mid-day sacramental services.

I understand we will get the A-List, with photo, in City Pages next Wednesday for our O'Shaughnessy season in St. Paul.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

It cannot last ...

Louisville, Kentucky

Such the life my brother and I lead.

One week I am conferencing and partying in Columbus OH.

The next week, he phones me while scraping off gravestones at night in a Pineville MO cemetery.

The next Saturday night, we are eating steaks with a sister and cousins at the Plains Tavern in Plains KS.

The next Saturday, he is texting me from a gathering of cousins in Boulder CO, and I am texting him back from a party for a thousand people at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

Two weeks later, I will be a week in New York City.

It cannot last...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"That's just crazy!"

Louisville, Kentucky

Ben Cameron delivered the keynote speech to the Performing Arts Exchange today. The PAE is the Eastern/Southern booking conference, and Ben is arts program director for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Ben recounted the application received from a dance company seeking a grant to buy land on the internet's "Second Life" in order to construct a building in which to hold virtual performances. Second Life is an alternate, virtual universe in which $1.6 billion of real world money transactions occur daily.

At its Second Life facility, the dance company sells out its performances and has added performances in order to meet the demand for tickets.

All of us at our luncheon table said "That's just crazy!" -- at the same time we furiously took notes about this latest frontier.

In the culture wars for survival, organizations that wish to thrive must step up the pace and brainpower of their marketing and fundraising efforts.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dance/USA, the best ever...

Chicago, Illinois

Friday started with two presentations summarizing the changes in audience behaviors. Subscriptions are down. More single tickets being sold later -- often in the last 24 hours. It is daunting to do marketing in this environment, and few have the $$ resources to "be there every step of the way."

News flash: People 25 and under no longer use email. It is very yesterday. Now, they exchange messages among their networks by way of instant messages on their MySpace pages and other postings. No longer good enough to have a great website; companies now need a MySpace and YouTube presence. Yikes!

The remnants of live journalists from San Francisco, Boston, and cyberspace reported on how best to interact. Newspaper writers are split: some want email press releases only, while others want the hardy copy follow-up. Apparently, the internal mechanics of newspaper work require both. If one wants coverage: previews or reviews, there have to be current photos available, in a color option, that pertain to the work being performed. Photos need a striking central image, high resolution, good contrast, and cannot be generic.

M presented the half-hour all-conference gathering on Career Transitions for Dancers with ease, authority, articulation, and moderation. I sat in the front row to encourage him. Proud of him.

We bused to the Columbia College Dance Center for another reception and showcase performances by Muntu, Lucky Plush Productions, Hedwig Dances, Human Rhythm Project/BAM, Mordine & Co., Dance Colective (sp), Giordano Jazz, River North, and Luna Negra. Ninety minutes without intermission.

Saturday evening, what started as a group of four, increased to eight, 12, and eventually around 20. We went to Rumba restaurant for dinner. When live Latin dancing got started, lessons were given in salsa and cha-cha. Four of us left the group near midnight. No one was in the lobby at 6:30 Sunday morning when I caught the airport express.

Following the February 2006 Dance/USA meeting in D.C., I got a bit mouthy -- as they invited us to do -- about the poor schedule dynamics and other shortcomings. In the hallway after the final blessing on Saturday, Dance/USA's executive director looked at me and said "Well?"

"It was the best ever!"

"That's what I want to hear!"

Friday, June 15, 2007

Dance/USA, so far

Chicago, Illinois

The published business agenda of the Dance/USA Councils gets gaveled to order this morning, but two days of other real business already has happened.

A fair number of people came to Chicago on Wednesday in order to catch the six dance companies on Wednesday night at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Muntu, Oregon Ballet, Lubovitch, Limon, Complexions, and Hubbard Street). There was a pre-performance reception at the museum. A Joffrey director hosted a post-performance reception at his home downtown.

The Dance/USA board met all day Thursday, while non-board members wandered into town. The opening night reception happened from 5:30-7:30 on stage at the 1,500 seat Harris Theater next to Millennium Park.

The energy here is very high with a swirl of generational mix. It is striking how so many of us, so suddenly, look definitely older. There is a whole group of newer, younger people. Such a swirl of unfinished conversations...

Tonight's reception is at the Dance Center of Columbia College. Followed by a 90-minute showcase performance.