Commentary: What happens to Pina Bausch's dance company without Pina?

Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 12/7/11

A painting, according to Marcel Duchamp, dies after 50 years. Dances are rarely so lucky. The West Coast premiere of Pina Bausch's "Danzón," which Tanztheater Wuppertal brought to UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Auditorium over the weekend, was made in 1995. It felt marvelously alive Saturday. Yet "Danzón" lives on borrowed time. The company is now halfway through its third year without its founder. Unlike Merce Cunningham who decreed that his dance company would disband two seasons after his death, Bausch made no such plans for Tanztheater Wuppertal, which she began in 1973. She died unexpectedly at 68 in June 2009, five days after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Cunningham was 90 when he died the same summer as Bausch. Although he worked almost to the end, he had ample opportunity to come up with an endgame. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company's final performance is New Year's Eve at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, on the other hand, soldiers on. The dancers could not imagine doing anything else. (The Cunningham dancers might well have felt the same had the decision been left to them, which may be one reason why it wasn't.) Tanztheater has a current full season of several Bausch works in Wuppertal, Germany, and it continues to tour. It has ambitious plans for London next summer as part of the arts festival surrounding the Olympics. Not only that, but the company is getting major mass market attention thanks to Wim Wenders' "Pina," the German filmmaker's loving 3-D documentary on Bausch... a likely Oscar contender. This obviously can't go on forever, or even that much longer. Wenders' "Pina" will undoubtedly create significant new demands for a Tanztheater Wuppertal that has a glorious past but no real future.


Commentary: How not to handle an artistic director's succession

Kelly Kleiman, The Nonprofiteer blog, 11/17/11

There could be worse ways to handle succession planning than the one chosen by the Miami City Ballet, but it would be hard to think of one. The Board of Directors, concerned that the ballet company would collapse when its famous artistic director Edward Villella retired, decided to test its own theory by forcing him out before he was ready to leave. The Times article reaches for the classic suits-versus-artists narrative, saying that Villella's ouster reflected the Board's determination to place business stability above artistic product; but that's unfair. The Board is responsible for the continued health of the company, and a failure to consider new leadership when the current leader is 75 would be a dereliction of duty. But what we've got here is failure to communicate. As Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre Board learned back in 2000, you don't call in the company's artistic engine and hand him his walking papers -- or even the sort of broad hint contained in the gift of a book about succession planning. An artistic director who is compelled to retire -- and yes, indeed, some of them need to be -- has to be offered a form of compensation congruent with what he's been receiving up until now, something involving artistic control -- even if it's only the control inherent in leading the search for his own successor.


At Cape Town's oldest modern dance company, a 2-year artistic director transition

Penny Haw, Business Day newspaper, 11/10/11

Jazzart is considered the oldest contemporary dance company in the Cape. It was established in Cape Town in 1973 by Sonje Mayo and specialised in modern jazz dance. Significantly, the studio welcomed dancers of all races from its inception. The business changed hands in 1978 [and again in] 1982. By 1986, Alfred Hinkel, who was a freelance dancer-cum-teacher-cum-choreographer, raised enough money (after dancing at Sun City and landing a lucrative Coca-Cola advertisement) to buy the company. He changed its name to Jazzart Dance Theatre and took over its artistic directorship with Dawn Landown, John Linden and Jay Pather providing the dancing, teaching and choreographic backbone. Under Hinkel's direction, the company took on a more sociopolitical character. He was determined to provide dance training and performance opportunities to those who were denied them by apartheid. [Its] young-adult training programme took on Jacqueline Manyaapelo in 1999. [She] became a fully fledged and salaried member of the company in 2002. Performing success aside, in 2008, Manyaapelo was singled out to participate in Jazzart's mentorship programme. As part of his succession plan, Hinkel identified her as the artistic director-designate and, for about two years, he mentored her through the processes of managing and leading the company. Last year, Hinkel relinquished the reins and his seat on the Jazzart board to his young protege. Manyaapelo was undaunted by the transformation of dancer to director: "Change is constant and real. I am frustrated by people who resist change because it inhibits growth. We have to snap out of our comfort zones if we are to grow -- and that means accepting change."

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