January 2013


Horrific news out of Moscow that Bolshoi Ballet Artistic Director Sergei Filin was attacked late Thursday evening by a masked assailant, who threw a bottle of acid in his face. Lots of speculation at this moment that the attackers were enemies of Filin’s from  the ballet. It’s hard for us to imagine that artistic jealousies could turn so brutal and internecine. As we certainly know all too well in this country, violence breaks out for many reasons, impossible to understand or justify.

Reports say Filin has third degree burns on his face and might lose his eyesight. According to the Arts Desk’s Ismene Brown, Filin has been flown to a special burn facility in Belgium for more advanced medical treatment. Reading various newspaper reports, it sounds as though the city is in an uproar over the attack, which hopefully will spur the police and officials to catch and round up all the perpetrators.  

In my Dec. 16 article for the Los Angeles Times wrapping up the year in dance, I expressed my disappointment with how heavy-hitter philanthropist Glorya Kaufman chose to lavish millions of dollars (exact amount undisclosed) on USC to start a new school for dance. I argued that donations are most urgently needed for daily operations to support the city’s myriad small, professional companies. I didn’t even mention that if Kaufman wanted to fund a building, a centrally located complex with studios and theater would have been brilliant. The New York Times published an interview with Kaufman two days ago, and asked her to respond directly to my criticism (on the second page. The NYT article also links to mine). Her answer is certainly unsatisfactory. She mentions that there are already plans afoot for collaborations with ABT and the Music Center once the school is up and running. Not surprisingly, one can’t help but see these efforts as moves to keep a singular donor happy and in their corner.

I haven’t even aired all of the questions I have. First and foremost is why is Robert Cutietta, dean of USC’s Thornton School of Music, spearheading the plans for the dance school? Why is this not being done by an outstanding dancer or choreographer? Is Cutietta the permanent dean? If a dance professional was running the USC school of music, and making decisions about curriculum, you can bet there would be howls of protest.

Ivan Sygoda, the longtime co-director of the arts management non-profit organization called Pentacle, will be stepping back from his duties this July, the New York-based organization announced this week. Sygoda will still be involved in some of Pentacle’s projects, but he is handing off the day-to-day running of the organization to a group of in-house leaders that has also been intimately involved in Pentacle’s good work: Mara Greenberg, the current co-director (since the group’s founding in 1976), Felicia Rosenfeld, director of programming, Sophie Myrtil-McCourty, director of booking services, and Doug Post, gallery representative/operations manager. Rosenfeld is based in L.A., and directs the Help Desk/LA program, pairing artists in need of administrative advice and help, with mentors who can guide them. There’s the significance: Pentacle provides behind-the-scenes support for small and mid-size dance groups, which have few places to go to get such expertise. Marketing, fundraising, board development — all that necessary business stuff can take artists away from making art. Sygoda thought up ground-breaking ways to make critical infrastructure available to dance artists, so they could bring their dancing to us. Good luck to the new leadership consortium; ruling by committee can be a challenge.