American Dance Festival
The American Dance Festival began my career in publicity. I was young and terrified, but overwhelmed with an excitement that blinded me to the long hours I worked and the amount of work demanded. Everything was a brand new experience, and loaded with disaster potential. I felt the weight of the dance world on my 24-year-old shoulders. I’d never thought my brain could cram in so much information, and my body withstand even more abuse than demanded by dancing. My coffee/cigarette diet lasted all summer, during which I’d assumed a number of unexpected tasks, including making the dorm bed for The New York Times critic at 11pm because housekeeping had forgotten.
The most career-guiding lesson I learned that summer came from choreographer Lucas Hoving, who vehemently claimed a disdain for critics and disinterest in reviews. “It’s what is on stage that matters,” he insisted. The morning after his company performed, I entered my office to discover Lucas Hoving, seated on the floor with his spider-long legs stretched out, his body hunched over The Hartford Currant’s review of his company’s performance the previous night. A big grin came across his face when he discovered me standing above him. I tried to swallow the bigger one that came across mine.
The trip to Guangzhou, China in 1990 for the world debut of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, founded in part by the ADF, made me feel like I’d enlisted in the CIA. The streets of Guangzhou buzzed with bicycles. Phone calls could only be made outdoors at large circular red constructions housing at least 10 phones with no separation between callers. No one was supposed to leave our hotel unaccompanied. The food dripped with grease. Located in Beijing, The New York Times bureau chief had to pretend he was travelling to an agriculture conference. We spoke in code over the phone. Since the AP bureau in Hong Kong was banned from sending a reporter into China, I had to phone him the information. Newsweek covered the opening. But it was an opening that almost didn’t happen. The night before the opening, the local minister of culture announced the show can’t go on; Not with the piece on an abortion. Charles Reinhart, the Festival’s intrepid director, went eyeball to eyeball with him. And the minister blinked.
Years: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Art form: Festival