Archive for April, 2006

Let’s Dance

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

The International Dance Council (CID) designates April 29 as World Dance Day. Have you been dancing?

The day attempts to attract a “new public, people who do not follow dance events during the course of the year.”

So, what can you do at this moment to celebrate? If you click on dance here at KadmusArts you will find there are currently 1,332 dance related items on our site. By learning about what dance events are near you, you’ve contributed to World Dance Day. Even more, if you go to one of the events - near or far - you’ve contributed the most special gift: to be an audience member.

In the meantime, here is the “Official Message for Dance Day” 2006:

Dancers are notoriously reluctant to join collective organizations. They are probably afraid that organizing will restrict their freedom to express themselves. Or they think that the time spent and the membership fee are not worth the benefits gained.
Many associations or federations have only a few dozen members: a small fraction of the total in their area or field. Lacking in representativity they lack credibility, thus they cannot act as interlocutors of governments and other high-level bodies. They cannot inspire confidence in non-members.
This explains why the art of dance is lacking in legislation, in visibility, in financing, when compared to other arts.
Belonging to a wider structure does not limit the way one performs, or teaches, or researches, or makes choreographies. Without influencing one’s everyday work, it improves the framework, the environment of one’s action.
Collective bodies provide a wider spectrum of services to their members. Deprived of such services by acting in isolation, schools, companies, clubs, festivals will remain handicapped.
CID encourages the strengthening of regional, national or branch associations by enlarging their membership.
Let us combine our actions, let us orchestrate our music by escaping the cacophony of isolated sounds.

Dancers of the world, unite!

Prof. Alkis Raftis
President of the International Dance Council

If you would like to learn more about “dancers of the world, unite!” (isn’t there an old song people used to dance to with a slightly modified version of that phrase?), do check out CID’s site.

As long as you are in the mood to unite, check out Ana Maria’s view of New Orleans from her stay for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. One post is certainly a cause for a joyous dance; the other makes me think of Martha Graham’s Lamentation.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Brian Pulver

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Brian Pulver is the co-founder of FestAid, which is organizing volunteer opportunities around the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. FestAid has partnered with a host of organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Second Harvest, and Katrina Krewe to assist in the rebuilding of New Orleans. In this podcast we talk with Brian about how the idea of FestAid evolved, as well as the role of music and culture in rebuilding New Orleans. You can find out more about FestAid by visiting

 Interview: Brian Pulver [14:57m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Podcast: Listen to This!

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

You’ve seen the pictures, read the information, now get ready to listen: a KadmusArts podcast!

The next post contains Ana Maria’s interview with Brian Pulver, who has one of the coolest ideas for connecting a festival’s audience to the community. How cool is it? Well, listen and then you may just do what Ana Maria has done — she’s on her way to New Orleans.

- Bill Reichblum

Slice of da Vinci

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Is art ever neutral? No.

Can art ever be neutered? Yes - if you are Sony Pictures wondering how best to present Leonardo da Vinci.

The publicity campaign for the movie version of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (staring Tom Hanks and released by Sony Pictures) has been rolled out in Canada. Given the millions of copies of the book in print all over the world you would think that the campaign for the Hollywood movie would not need to do much: maybe just a cool image, something striking, something that sums up all the intrigue, mystery and artistry of da Vinci and the Catholic Church.

They’ve done it!

According to a story from the Toronto Star, the poster features da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man with one slight (or sliced) adjustment: they cut off his penis.

This is a perfect representation of our times, from our dominant art form, Hollywood.

If the Vitruvian Man renders the combination of our materialistic/violent nature (the square) and our divine beauty/soul (the circle), then what’s a little more violence to the drawing itself?

If da Vinci was portraying our place in the cosmos, then Hollywood is telling us it’s ok as long as we leave the sex out of it. (Isn’t that ironic? Hollywood getting rid of sex? What’s next? Sylvester Stallone as a revenge-seeking Mohel?)

Sales over beauty, violence over soul.

The main point, though, is the ease with which a decision is made to violate an artist’s work. A few people sitting around a conference table decide: yes, Leonardo is a great artist; yes, it would be great to use one of his signature images for the movie poster; no, it’s too controversial; let’s tame him, make the art better, more universal, more acceptable; let’s cut off his dick!

Today is Shakespeare’s birthday (though, that too, is somewhat controversial - but it’s another story), and all around the world there are productions of his plays. Some of these productions alter the text: change the order, delete scenes, choose a different setting, move the time period.

However, there is a fundamental difference between presenting an interpretation of a text, and a cutting-away of an art work. In the Shakespeare productions, there is a person of responsibility: an acknowledgment of a director saying this is my interpretation of Shakespeare. In Sony’s appropriation, there is no responsibility: the image is presented as though this is how Da Vinci wanted it to be presented.

So, in addition to being silly, it’s just plain dishonest. It’s wrong. We need to say so.

Then again, even Homer Simpson did not want to show too much…or too little.

- Bill Reichblum

Beckett Slides

Sunday, April 16th, 2006

April 13 was the 100th anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s birthday. (He died in 1989.) Surely, he was one of the titans of twentieth century art.

His influence extended beyond his own media of novels, theatre and poetry. Film, visual art, and dance also absorbed Beckett’s take on art and life.

What was so special? His sparseness of approach and his clarity about the human condition - our determination for significance, our fear of death, our finding humor in tragedy and melancholy in comedy, and our courage - or at least willingness - to keep going, to keep playing.

Beckett gave two plays to the Parisian actor and director, Roger Blin, to choose for a production in 1953. One was Eleutheria, a play with seventeen characters, a lot of props and needing complicated lighting. The other play was Waiting for Godot. Blin later said his choice was easy:

I thought I’d be better off with the Godot because there were only four actors and they were bums. They could wear their own clothes if it came to that, and I wouldn’t need anything but a spotlight and a bare branch for a tree.

Simple practicality was a pure Beckett characteristic worthy of a pure Beckett smile.

As you have noticed from the site, when festivals send us their photographs we put them into a slideshow on the festival’s page. (If you haven’t seen this, click here for an example.)

So, in the same vein, here is a beautiful slideshow from Slate, the online magazine, in honor of Beckett’s birthday. Photos include great shots of Beckett; of a rehearsal for the first American production of Godot with the director Allan Schneider (to the side wearing a hat); of a production of Godot from Prague; and of Jean-Louis Barrault in Godot.

How did you celebrate Beckett’s birthday?

- Bill Reichblum

Another Sign of the Art-less Apocalypse

Monday, April 10th, 2006, the technology news and product review site, carries a report this week of another sign of the apocalypse: the end of drawing. CNET - whose slogan is “bringing tech to life” - covers the death of art from a conference on the status of drawing in the electronic age held at the University of California, Berkeley.

Subtitled “Not A Pretty Picture”:

U.S. art students spend so much time toying with computer graphics these days that many wind up without needed drawing skills, university instructors say.
Students are more comfortable manipulating computer graphics than doodling, drafting and drawing with pen on paper, and this has created a sharp decline in drawing skills in recent years, teachers say.
Additionally, tech-savvy students simply lack the initiative and persistence developed by drawing, resulting in uninspired work-at least work on paper.
“I see an increasing passivity on the part of students,” says Marc Treib, a University of California, Berkeley architecture professor…

Students more comfortable “manipulating computer graphics than doodling”: the end of strange shapes next to lecture notes! “Tech-savvy students simply lack the initiative and persistence”: downhill since Leonardo, the world is coming to a lazy yawn-filled end!

To counter my diminished drawing colleagues, it is just as easy to acknowledge how this technology has, in fact, furthered our “old fashioned” artistic disciplines, and created new markets in the present, as well as the future.

Merce Cunningham, the choreographer who has been ahead of his time for the last forty years, was one of the first to use the graphic-representation qualities of the computer to be able to map and then record his dances with complete precision. Forty years from now, we will still be able to bring these dances to the stage for new generations to witness his creations, as he created them.

A similar kind of technology has transformed the creation and promotion of music. So much of new music today is being created by artists with small resources for recording and distribution.

In fact, the same week as CNET’s reporting on the academic lament, a musical milestone has been hit in the U.K.

For the first time a song hit the top of the UK pop singles chart without selling a single CD. Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” debuted at number one even though it has been only available as a digital download. Isn’t that amazing?

So, we are safe from the apocalypse and safe from the diminishment of our humanistic arts.

On the other hand, where are the technology financial resources going? Back to CNET for those necessary digital sunglasses when racing your yacht.

- Bill Reichblum

High/Low: On or Off Stage

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

You are probably wondering why the world needs another book on Shakespeare. (Amazon currently lists 17,906 results.) However, Dominic Dromgoole’s “Will & Me: How Shakespeare Took Over My Life” is worth as much, if not more than, each of the other 17,905.

Dromgoole is the new artistic director of the Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London. The book gives you a very personal — funny and profane — journey of Dromgoole’s career and Shakespeare’s plays. He brings the quality of Shakespeare’s works down from the peak of high art to the plains of low art - that is, where we all exist: everyday situations, base behavior, intimate issues, and language as dirty as it is rich.

This experience of Shakespeare might be easier for those of you who confront his works in another language than English. Too often, English speaking productions become entangled by words that come from a great distance of high poetry, rather than an immediacy of intent and action. (There are, of course, incredible exceptions: Go find Peter Brook’s production of “King Lear” and you will see what I mean, and what Shakespeare means.)

Dromgoole reminds us of how direct, transparent, and personal Shakespeare was - and is. The book’s key is in the mixture of high and low: both on stage and off stage.

Frankly, this is exactly why I love the festival experience: the juxtaposition of high and low; the combinations of on stage and off stage meetings.

Often, festivals program a range of events to capture these interesting juxtapositions. Even more, have you ever seen an amazing dance piece or heard a Beethoven quartet and then joined the artists an hour later at the local bar? Heard the stories? Laughed at the jokes? Maybe even sang along? It’s the chance to sit down with the very people who had attained such artistic accomplishment earlier in the evening: the opportunity to have a second real meeting.

Festivals can provide this kind of genuine experience - both on their stages and opportunities for immediacy with artists off the stage.

In fact, we are working on ways to help festivals facilitate these kinds of immediate and personal interactions with artists and audiences. (Always let us know if you have any ideas of what we can do for you!)

Years ago, I spent a significant amount of time working for Jerzy Grotowski, creator of incredibly intense, intimate, and significant theatre. After work sessions, one of my colleagues and I would on occasion end the night at the local bar singing show tunes from Broadway musicals - to do what we thought would be the farthest away from our self-defined peaks of high art we had accomplished in that night’s training.

When Grotowski found out about our very-late-at-night-show-stopping activities, he brought me in to see him for what I assumed to be a lecture with chastisement. Instead, he smiled and said, “You should now think very carefully about which of these two experiences is genuinely high art and which is actually low art.”

- Bill Reichblum