Glorya Kaufman responds to my LAT article

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.

4 thoughts on “Glorya Kaufman responds to my LAT article

  1. Scott Duncan

    It’s nice to see the LAT do the heavy lifting for once to put an important cultural question out there, which allowed context for the NYT to follow and attempt to advance the discussion. (Not very well, unfortunately.) Usually the reverse is true in Los Angeles. It does seem the most important ‘dance’ here is the one between a big philanthropist and big institutions. I know it’s unfair, but I always think of Lincoln Kirstein and the New York City Ballet as an example of enlightened philanthropy, and how it can create something real that enriches generations of artists and audiences.

    1. Thanks Scott. You’re exactly right about Lincoln Kirstein and New York City Ballet. Kirstein was brilliant, but also knew he needed to allow the artists to do their own work and make decisions. Kaufman and Eli Broad, too, seem to believe that they know what’s best to advance culture in Los Angeles, so they impose their own wills on the city, heedless of whether it’s the right thing to do. One has to ask, too, where are the city’s artist leaders? They need to speak up and provide guidance to philanthropists, and tell them what they need.

  2. I am glad that the dance scene in LA is finally being noticed across the nation, we are doing some great work here. Despite the lack of funding and infrastructure.

    A meeting asking the local arts leaders that are on the ground (not in offices) what they need most to advance dance in LA would go along way to creating meaningful direction in Los Angeles dance.

    I fully agree with you that training is not missing in LA. Funding for the companies and a place to perform is holding us back. I have created BPStudios, so now we have a spot to make work ( but it too needs funding other than my check book).

    In my opinion LA dance needs: a place to perform, funding to keep dancers in the studio so we can make work, infrastructure support to develop our companies, touring support so we can start making a living on the road.Dance reviews in the LA Times

    The large majority of dancers I have trained over the years must leave LA to earn a living since local companies have such tight budgets.

    Deborah Brockus

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