So now an arts blogger on the other side of the pond, Judith Flanders, has jumped into the fray.
I haven’t said much about the latest blog additions to the “conversation” about the hire of Alastair Macaulay to the head dance post at the New York Times–SF Chronicle dance critic Rachel Howard on her blog and now this–because I mainly don’t think they warrant response: It’s not fair play to erase all the nuances, all the points, really, in a person’s argument and then blast them for the new, simplified version you’ve come up with.
One thing Flanders discusses that is worth me clarifying: my saying it was a “slap in the face” to the New York writers that the Times went after a Londoner.
In my own remarks–as opposed to my friend Paul’s add-on–I said I thought it was only a matter of time before a non-New Yorker could pick up on what was going on here. And, unlike Paul, I don’t think that you need to know how the local organ of art-making operates to know what you’re seeing from your seat. On the other hand, I do think you come to understand–from your seat–a set of relationships between choreographers that enriches any particular show you see: the interconnections make the whole richer. The way a big name such as Mark Morris resembles those not normally grouped with him but who have grown up in the same climate (Neil Greenberg, Donna Uchizono, Susan Marshall, Tere O’Connor) is instructive on all sides.
What upsets me about the hire–and hey, you don’t have to put “dismay” in quotes, as if that were so outrageous. Yeah, it’s dismaying–is that if Macaulay had been run through the same ringer as the freelancers, he may well not have gotten the job either. That is, he didn’t have to fit into the Times mold–which is heavily bureaucratic and often diminishing to writers (just ask them). The three women freelancers did. The Times has a habit of hiring its chiefs over the heads of the existing staff. I think it’s a crummy practice, whoever’s involved–man, woman or monkey.
On the same note, Macaulay has not written on dance for a daily paper for–what is it? 10 years? I don’t think this disqualifies him for the job, but it does make him equivalent to all sorts of writers in New York–most of them, women– who were not seriously considered. They are not cookie cutter fits either. Why was this exception made for him and not them? I’m sure the Times has their reasons. I’m not sure what they are–or if I’d buy them if I knew.
In various posts, people talk about Macaulay as “the best” or “the most qualified.” What, do people really believe there is exactly one person who is “best”? Certainly more than one is “best”–because we are not the same. (You see what I mean, dear reader, about the level of the conversation?) When I said that a woman might not have Macaulay’s credentials, I did not mean she was less qualified and that the hire would be some sort of favor to her. I meant she didn’t have his credentials–that stuff on paper. And as John Rockwell’s account of Jennifer Dunning’s remark suggests (to be elaborated at some future date), affirmative action often works the other way–like tax breaks for corporations. The men are favored for their capacity to confer authority on the position. I would say the same for a Londoner. Compared to a homebody, a Londoner looks glamorous.
One last note for those who think it’s a ridiculous notion that you might have to live somewhere to understand how the place operates–journalistically, if not dance-wise. Journalists in San Francisco, Seattle and now London have all found my arguments flabbergasting. (I think there’s a certain amount of feigned disbelief, actually; have these people never heard of feminism? or at least of not swallowing the status quo hook, line and sinker?) Those in New York know exactly what I’m talking about. They have been regularly telling me so. For professional reasons, they haven’t wanted to go public.
They’ve had encounters with the Times or know piles of people who have–know how its inflated sense of importance has affected its interactions with writers and made it mediocre –and they’re happy I’m sticking my neck out.