Arts Beat – New York Times
What effect is the economy having on your life and work as an artist, writer, actor, or musician? Tell us your story by commenting below or by e-mailing us at The responses come from beyond the burroughs. Some artists say the downturn may be good for art in terms of quality and vision. Some are using the down time to spend more time with their art. Of course, losing the day job cuts back on other things if you’re not making a living from your art and especially if you have a family to support. But artists seem to have some practice in managing the bad times. But hopefully it doesn’t become habit.
Read responses at this link:
Quite a few artists say down-times may be good for art (mostly visual) in terms of quality.

Washington Post dance critic Sarah Kaufman is asking for a little more heft on the ballet stage from its choreographers.
“The art form is suffering through a dearth of daring and imagination. Critics and audiences alike have been complaining about a prolonged fallow period. Yet the artistic sclerosis din’t just happen. One inescapable reason for it is Balanchine’s dominance, overshadowing other avenues of creativity–for instance, the one-act short-story ballets that almost no one creates anymore.”

The economy of avant-garde applied to set, story, and body mass from the Balanchine aesthetic has apparently worn out its welcome as a standard with Kaufman and maybe others including audiences or new audiences to ballets. Story ballets are expensive to produce but what would Christmas be without “The Nutcracker”? No one’s hating on Balanchine, but apparently a shout out is going to the next generation — if the modern Mark Morris, Paul Taylor, and Bill T. Jones can tell stories, what’s up? What would a ballet dancer’s biography look like without a “Swan Lake,” “Giselle” or an Anthony Tudor on their CV?

Ironically, when Balanchine was alive, the argument was going the other way. Does ballet always have to be about dying pricesses and princes, and love stories?

In the 1977 film “The Turning Point,” real-life American Ballet Theatre principal Leslie Brown as the up-and-coming ballerina Amelia comes up against this “generational” argument when the “fresh, new choreographer” yells at her during a rehearsal of “his new work” demanding that she not show emotion. You are a body in space. No feeling. If the filmmakers had known better, they would’ve asked a real life “fresh, new choreographer” to create a new work for this part of the story. In real life on film, Brown was rehearsing Alvin Ailey’s “The River” set to the music of Edward Kennedy Duke Ellington. [It appears in the closing credits, but isn’t part of the script.] The symbolism of the river in African American culture and history does evoke emotion — listen to Sam Cooke. The river has a story. The Ailey company’s program note says as much: “A legendary collaboration between renowned choreographer Alvin Ailey and musical genius Duke Ellington, The River celebrates birth, life and rebirth. Ailey’s choreographic allegory combines modern dance, Classical ballet and Jazz to convey the mutability of water on its voyage to the sea — much like the journey of life.”

Brown walks out on the rehearsal as she’s been influenced more by the life of her mentor/Godmother played by Anne Bancroft who is now realizing she is way past her prime. Amelia was right though maybe her interpretation was coming from a different place. But I digress.

“Ballet has to get its humanity back,” Kaufman writes.” “Telling a story may be viewed as unhip in our postmodern age, but human cravings don’t subside just because artistic manifestos tell them to. We’ll always love stories, especially when they’re about us.”

It’s interesting for Kaufman to write this as Balanchine’s protegee, muse. and other musings Suzanne Farrell has a resident ballet company at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC – The Suzanne Farrell Ballet. Farrell makes no bones about her mission to restore Balanchine’s works and keep the technique and artistry in the ballet vocaulary.

I’m just realizing I rarely attend the ballet since the companies have cut back on story ballets. And I was blown away by my first Balanchine performance by New York City Ballet. For me Balanchine transformed music into a living, moving body. I was studying music at the time, so what I saw was music. And in music, there is some sense of story through the rise, tempo, and fall of the notes — I guess if you’re a musician. But Kaufman’s article is worthy of a debate on this topic.

It looks as if journalist Roxana Saberi is free, read released. She was originally sentenced to an 8-year jail term in Iran for spying. The court reduced it to a two-year suspended prison term. She worked as a freelance journalist for NPR and the BBC. I suppose Iran is more interested in being at the talk table than North Korea.

Book Addiction
Michael Dirda asks is book buying an addiction or compulsion? I suffer from a book something to the point that I have to bargain with myself: “For each book you buy, you give away one or two.” I’ve given away books I’ve ended up buying back from the used book store or purchasing a new copy because some where down the line, I needed it again. Addiction? Compulsion? I’ll buy a book before buying a pair of shoes. And guess what, the book lasts longer and takes me further.

I admit, I watched both President Obama and Wanda Sykes’ videos twice. But where are the journalists in this crowd? There are some enthusiastic locals I’ve heard of who crash this party. But for some reason I’m sure this year’s ticket was so hot, the old “put on a tux,” show up and look the part probably didn’t fly, especially with so many Hollywood party crashers at the door. Hopefully, the Lincoln bedroom will not see the designer foot traffic of the Clinton years. Hollywood really seem to be making an effort to stake their claim and make their mark on the coat tails of the Obama presidency. Celebrity with more purpose. As I’ve observed, there’s a love/envy thing between celebrity and political cultures. But this time we have a President who has topped them both. Ideas seem to turn his head, not necessarily glamour or fame. But I’m sure during the campaign his fundraisers’ heads were spinning.

HEALTH CARE – Don’t sit this one out!
Is the President asking the health care industry to change their evil ways or “if you don’t do something, I will”? It’s hard to say where this one will go. I don’t think Americans are totally opposed to paying a little something for healthcare. What people hate most are the hidden fees, multiple billings, the outrageous high costs, and the quality of care or refusal to treat people based on a person’s insurance type, ability to pay or a pre-existing condition. It’s enough to drive Harry and Louise over a cliff. All healthcare is not equal.