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Downtown Dancer » Blog Archive » Dance Europe’s Policy of Bias and Censorship

Dance Europe’s Policy of Bias and Censorship

(via Allison Kaplan-Sommer)

Stephanie Freid reports on Dance Europe’s disturbing policy of bias and censorship against Israeli dance companies.

I’m so revolted by the whole thing that I’m physically shaking.

Okay so here’s what happened:

A very hip, Tel Aviv-based modern dance company (pictured above) I recently profiled returned from Manhattan’s Alvin Ailey Theater last week and they’re off to performances in Cuba and North America this Spring. I figure they’re on the up & up. So I pick up the phone to the aforementioned London dance magazine editor to pitch the story.

The head of advertising answers and immediately launches into a quiet yet resolute political diatribe upon hearing where the company is based. I’m thinking: WTF? Why is a dance magazine guy talking politics to me? And never mind my interjections on artistic director Sally-Anne’s behalf…that she broke away from apartheid South Africa, that her most recent creation Borders expresses boundary breakdowns both personal and political ….

He tells me that because of the occupation the magazine doesn’t run stories on dance companies based in Israel. He also assures that he is in no way, shape or form racist because he’s a Sikh from Northern India. Gee, I feel better.

He recommends I speak with the magazine editor so I do. She backs his stance. Even further. We don’t allow advertisements or stories from Israel but if we are going to run something, it’s with a statement from the source denouncing the occupation she replies.

So what do you need? I ask. A disclaimer from the artistic director?

I want to know where they get their funding she tells me. If it’s from Israel or from the Israeli government then I can’t run anything on them.

Let me think for a minute. A dance company (i.e. NO MONEY) traveling internationally without government or affiliate sponsorship…It was over before it started.

So I quietly ask this uber fair unbiased person protesting occupation from the comfort of her cushy office suite while simultaneously shutting out artistic attempts at bridging gaps whether she’s been here before.

I’m fully aware of the situation she answers.

But have you been here? …And you know, as did I, what her answer was. I hung up.

I’m against the occupation too, for the record, and want a resolution to the HLC (Holy Land Central) mess more than does the London Dance Lady because I have more at stake.

But we’re talking dance here, folks. And blatant anti-semitism. And ignorance and a dangerous policy that mirrors the very policy its creators wish to abolish.

Allison Kaplan-Sommer then points out:

The crowning touch: if you read the “About Us” section, check out how the magazine describes its editorial policy:

The editorial policy aims to provide an unbiased platform for dance throughout Europe and beyond, Many of the contributors are professional dancers or ex-dancers.

I’m just calm enough to add this link to their contact page.

How to Contact Us

Post:
Dance Europe
P.O. Box 12661
London E5 9TZ
England

e-mail:
EDIT@DANCEEUROPE.NET
Telephone:
+44 (0)20 8985 7767/8533 7815
Fax:
+44 (0)20 8525 0462

Editor
Emma Manning
London: +44 (0)20 8533 7815
Paris: +33 (0)1 44 53 90 21
e-mail: EDIT@DANCEEUROPE.NET

Advertising Manager
Naresh Kaul
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7682 1733 (direct line)
or (0)20 8985 7767
mobile: +44 (0)7981 94 53 20

e-mail: ADS@DANCEEUROPE.NET

Write to them and tell them what you feel. Advertisers let them know as well. Dance journalists, you should be up-in-arms and let your colleagues know what you think.

Another thought:
Does this mean to tell me that Dance Europe has completely ignored Ohad Naharin and Batsheva Dance Company? Do they review his work when its set on other dance companies?
If not, the let me provide some background on what they’re missing:

The piece, Naharin’s Virus, is a gripping, beautiful, at times alarming merging of dance and words. Virus treads the line between art and politics as the dancers’ movement intertwines tortured moves, pedestrian gestures, and contemporary dance vocabularies. Its score was created by Habib Alla Jamal, a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, in collaboration with Sharma Khader, an Arab-Israeli, and Israeli Karni Postel.

Joseph Melillo, executive producer of BAM, said that seeing the piece performed in Israel was “a transformative moment. You understood completely where tolerance of various cultures could come together through art [and] divergent belief systems can find commonality.”

One would imagine you could understand that.

Feel free to comment.

March 8, 2006 |

Comments

21 Responses to “Dance Europe’s Policy of Bias and Censorship”

  1. Christopher Pelham Says:

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    Totally naive and counterproductive! Unbelievable.
    And this comes on the heels of another act of artistic censorship relating to the occupation:

    As you may or may not know, New York Theatre Workshop recently suspended a production of a play called MY NAME IS
    RACHEL CORRIE;
    info is available here
    http://arts.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1719693,00.html

    and here
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/28/theater/newsandfeatures/28thea.html?_r=1&oref=slogin.

    There is a petition at
    http://www.petitiononline.com/nytw/petition.html
    to James C. Nicola, Artistic Director of New York Theatre Workshop, politely urging him to resume production on the play. And to forward this to anyone else you think might be interested.

    I can’t always tell whether these kinds of actions are motivated by one form of nationalism or another, but at the root they seem to be motivated by fear, fear that supporting dialogue or artistic expression about a “controversial” topic will either makes things worse rather than better–or will lead to a backlash by sponsors and loss of revenue– or both. If only people would honestly confess their reasons rather than concocting some confusing mumbo-jumbo excuse to hide their cowardice or alterior motives.

    Everyone has to make their own decisions, but personally I think that we should be really really really reluctant to censor dialogue or artistic expression that is motivated by an honest desire to seek the truth and to raise consciousness. In other words, when we notice ourselves reacting to fear, we should come back to what should be our guiding principle of acting out of love. When other people act out of fear, I think we have to not only try to correct their behavior but try to correct their thinking, so that they can see past their fear and correct their own behavior. With all the internet political rapid-response lobbying we have now, it is much easier to speak up about what we think is wrong or right but it all happens in so few clicks that I wonder if we are really doing much more educating and thining than before. Sometimes, I worry that someday I will in my haste mistakenly sign an online petition with which I disagree!

  2. Leigh Witchel Says:

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    I went to Dance Europe’s site to see if there was any commentary on this issue. What I did find was a list of companies

    http://www.danceeurope.net/site/lists/companies.shtml

    That does not include Israel. Geography has nothing to do with it; Argentina, Australia and Palestine are included.

    I’d like to hear from Dance Europe itself what its position is; I hope it issues a statement.

  3. Marge Says:

    I also went to Dance Europe’s website and, ironically, on the contact page I found the following statement: “The editorial policy aims to provide an UNBIASED PLATFORM [emphasis added] for dance throughout Europe and beyond,” I urge everyone, both in the dance community and outside the dance commuity who is disturbed, frightened and disgusted by this magazine’s obvious bias to call them to task for failing to fulfill their own clearly stated mission.

  4. katharine kanter Says:

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    REPLY TO MISS STEPHANIE FREID OF « DOWNTOWN DANCER »
    ON NAHARIN’S VIRUS

    Dear Miss Freid,

    I write further to your editorial dated March 7th 2006, entitled « Dance Europe’s policy of Bias and Censorship ».

    I am a Paris-based journalist, and I also happen to be a Jew.

    On occasion, I have contributed to Dance Europe - in a strictly unpaid capacity, just to make it clear that I am not pleading for my bread and butter.

    For some years now, I have been reading Dance Europe’s Editorials with interest, and indeed, admiration, as few in the so-called « art » world, have the guts to denounce a wrong, no matter how great. A wrong as great as the destruction of Iraq, or the threatened destruction of Iran, great peoples, whose culture and monuments have stood for thousands of years. Until our time.

    As a Jew, my own view is that the stand taken by that magazine’s Editors is political, full stop. It is neither racial nor religious, and indeed, should you take to reading the magazine regularly, you will note that a number of artists, who happen to be Jews, are often featured in its pages.

    So perhaps we might all wish to climb down from our high horse, sheathe our swords, and bear in mind that if the editors of a privately-owned magazine wish to express political, I repeat, political views – and even express some form of political, I repeat political, censorship - then it’s their business.

    Were I the Editor of Dance Europe, I am not all certain that I should adopt that particular form of « censorhip », but, Miss Freid, Naharin’s Virus would be no better off, because I should probably « censor » it as modern dance. I loathe modern dance!

    Levity aside, Miss Freid, and in a nutshell - see no slur, where none is meant.

    One final note: before we bandy about the word « anti-semitism », let us recall that the Arabs are Semites too, and that precisely the invective aimed at the Jews in the 1930s (dirty, dark and dangerous) is now deployed against our Semitic brothers, the Arabs. Now, as then, the purpose is murder, mayhem and War. I venture to suggest that we might be well-advised to focus our concern there.

    Thank you for your kind attention.

    Paris, March 9th 2006

    K.L. Kanter
    Editor
    http://auguste.vestris.free.fr

  5. Canonist » Blog Archive » Prestigious Dance Magazine Digs in Deeper Says:

    [...] Of course, yesterday’s news of Dance Europe’s Israel boycott wouldn’t be the end of it (btw: for response from dance professionals/critics, check out the comments at Rachel’s). Stephanie Fried, the journalist whose pitch was turned down, e-mailed the magazine a rather angry letter, and the magazine responded…by having a writer of theirs in Ramallah contact him directly. Get the strategy here? Anyway, a sense of the writer’s attitudes towards Israeli artists can be found here; don’t worry, you don’t have to read the entire article, since he provides a handy list. It’s interesting that there’s no introspection about the possibility that he’s denying moral agency to the people he’s supposedly helping with his personal policies, which seem, by extension, to be Dance Europe’s policies, since he is apparently their appointed spokesperson on this issue. Full exchange, after the jump. [...]

  6. Maggie Foyer Says:

    I would like to correct some of the inaccuracies posted above. I am a contributor to Dance Europe.

    I interviewed Ohad Naharin when the Batsheva Company were in town with Naharin’s Virus. I am a great admirer of his work and I have also reviewed performances of his works by other companies. The interview was published in DE in June 2004 . Miss Manning has also published my reviews from the Jewish Theatre in Stockholm and my recent review of Yasmeen Godder’s show at the Place.

    Maggie Foyer

  7. Rachel Feinerman Says:

    Maggie-
    How do you explain the conversation above? Did your piece run “with a statement from the source denouncing the occupation” as it seems is necessary?

  8. Anony-mous Says:

    Dance Europe has been excersizing censorship for several years - it’s not new. The editor’s political agenda has long ago spilled out of the editorial page. Writers have been banned as punishment for the foreign policies of their governments. The editor has pressured this writer to ask political questions when interviewing dance artists.

    The magazine may be privately owned and therefore available for the use of the editor to forward her political agenda, but that doesn’t make it the correct and appropriate thing to do. Political censorship is never the correct answer.

    Reverse the situation……suppose a publication refused to use writers or interview artists, or review or write about dance organizations because they were pro-Palestinian or pro war in Iraq. Would that make the censorship more palatable?

    Not to me. If it is the policy of a publication to present information covering a particular area - such as dance - then everyone within the art form should have a chance at the table regardless of the foreign policy of their government.

    If an editor wants a magazine to be political - well, then, publish a political magazine.

  9. Barry D Bayer Says:

    To Katherine Kanter:

    You are correct! Absent special laws, the editor of a magazine can include or not include whatever editorial content the editor (and publisher) wish. And readers and advertisers can choose to read, or advertise, in the magazine or not, based upon such political views. Were I a regular reader or advertiser of the magazine (and I am not) I would immediately cease that level of support, based upon what I consider poor judgement of the editor. For I have the same rights as the editor. If this puts the magazine out of business, sobeit. If this is the only magazine in the field, another will rise up. And perhaps a Dance Web site, covering the same material, and maintaining the same lists of dance comapnies and so forth can do as well.
    And the editor can excercise the bigotry of choice talking only to other such bigots.

    Whatever the result, it is good that the magazine’s policy is now in the open. Let the editor state it proudly: “Of all of the countries in the world, I will not mention or deal with Israeli Dance companies, and only Israeli Dance Companies.” Then potential readers and advertisers can react to the policy if they wish.

    You see, Katherine. SUch freedoms work both ways.

  10. katharine kanter Says:

    Dear Mr. Bayer,

    A significant fraction of the Western world’s “élite”, if that is the word, seems to much given to “Arab bashing” and “Muslim bashing”. This may lead to a major war involving the whole of South East Asia, spreading to Asia proper, and even to the use of nuclear weapons against Third World nations.

    I find that trend within the Western Governments far more disturbing than the editorial policy of a dance magazine in London, that few have even heard of, and with which you are perfectly at liberty to disagree.

    it is rather easier to get all het up and indignant against a policy adopted by some tiny “force” - such as a dance magazine - than to get all het up and indignant and DO SOMETHING about the evil-doing perpetrated by someone strong, like one’s own Government.

    In my case, the Government of Blair. In yours, the Government of Mr. Cheney.

    Might one suggest that we all direct our efforts to the bigger picture, and give the dance magazines a break ?

    Thank you.

  11. Anony-mous Says:

    Give this dance magazine a break? Censorship is acceptable because the magazine is unimportant? The magazine is indeed unimportant, but the issue of censorship is very important.

    It is by “a tiny force” that large forces are composed.

    So, by Kantor’s reasoning, until the larger issues are solved we shouldn’t try to correct smaller issues.

    By that reasoning until world hunger is adressed (and solved) I shouldn’t bother to feed the hungry person on my street corner.

    Protesting against censorhip on whatever scale it occurs is a good thing - not a bad thing.

    I don’t see censorship as something to celebrate. I don’t see it as “brave.”

    Censorship is cowardly. It’s afraid of something.

  12. lisoosh Says:

    Ms. Kanter, it is a bit disengenuous to now talk about the attention received by a “dance magazine”. It was a dance magazine, now it is a “dance and politics” magazine, by banning dancers based on the political situation in their countries the editors themselves have defined it as such. That is fine, but there is no use complaining afterwards about receiving negative attention regarding the very selective political content within.

  13. angua Says:

    Dear Ms Kanter,

    1. The word “anti-Semitism” has a dictionary meaning, which has nothing to do with what it’s constituent parts might mean to you. Do you dismiss homophobic insults because they are not based on an irrational fear (i.e., “phobia”)? More ridiculously, do you insist on receiving your salary in salt? That was certainly the original source of the word. You cannot make a word mean what you’d like it to mean, just because you don’t like the original meaning. Saying, “this is not anti-Semitic because Arabs are Semites also” is an old trope of Jew-haters. Inventing words and meanings, instead of dealing with realities, is not a productive way to deal with either Jew-hatred (my preferred term) or bias against Arabs.

    2. “Dance Europe” has a full right to be as biased against Israel as they’d like. However, they do not have a right to lie about it. They are welcome to an editorial policy that reads, “The editorial policy aims to provide an unbiased platform for dance throughout Europe and beyond, except where it comes to the Zionist entity.” If they feel strongly that Israeli dancers do not belong in the world community of dancers, they should say it loud and proud, not hide their biases underneath verbal nonsense.

    3. There is no such thing as actions without consequences. If I make a choice, at work or in life, I know that my choice will have a result. If you choose to turn your dance magazine into a political magazine, then people with opposing political views can choose to speak out. Don’t want politics to interfere with your magazine? Don’t use it for political means. This seems simple enough to me.

    4. Politics are complex. Just as an example, in the last few years, 10 times more Chechens have been killed by the Russian army than all the Palestinians *and* Israelis killed since 1948. There are dozens of conflicts going on right now, where the deaths and mistreatment dwarf the unfair treatment of the Palestinians. Does “Dance Europe” denounce or boycott Russia? No, of course not. Its editor cannot appoint herself an arbiter of every conflict on the planet — she would have no time left for dance. Each conflict has complexities and history that would need to be considered. But, when it comes to Israel, there are no complexities or subtleties. None of the 5,000 year old history of the region matters, and neither do any moves (such as withdrawing from Gaza) that Israel is doing now to resolve the conflict. The editor can easily declare that whichever side has the Jews on it must be wrong. You may feel free to believe that this is because the Israeli-Arab conflict is just a much simpler one than Chechnya or Darfur. I reserve the right to call it “special criteria as applied to Jews which are not applied to other people in similar circumstances.” In other words, anti-Semitism.

    5. I am sure that the editor thinks it’s not anti-Semitism, because she has nothing against “good” obedient Jews with “good” politics, such as yourself. My question is, when it comes to British dance companies, American dance companies, or Russian dance companies, does she also expect them to take a stand on their countries’ politics before deciding if they deserve to be covered? I would be happy to be proved wrong, but somehow I presume that nobody else has to be identified as “ideologically correct” before she will deal with them. This is what we call “special criteria as applied to Jews which are not applied to other people in similar circumstances.” I believe there is, in fact, some word in the dictionary that describes just this situation. Any idea what it could be?

  14. Diane Says:

    Dear Ms. Kanter:

    Among the holes in your arguments that have not been addressed above by our other colleagues is your statement of “admiration” for Dance Europe’s unique “guts to denounce a wrong, no matter how great. A wrong as great as the destruction of Iraq, or the the threatened destruction of Iran, great peoples, whose culture and monuments have stood for thousands of years. Until our time.”

    Wait a sec, I thought we were talking about the censorship of writing about Israeli dancers. Last I checked, the aggressions you cite here are being carried almost entirely by the U.S. administration and that of Dance Europe’s very own U.K. And last I checked, those countries are not being censored…

    You then wrote that it is”rather easier to get all het up and indignant against a policy adopted by some tiny “force”-such as a dance magazine-than to get all het up and indignant and DO SOMETHING about the evil-doing perpetrated by someone strong, like one’s own Government. In my case, the Government of Blair. In yours, the Government of Mr. Cheney.” So, if that’s your stance, how is it that you support Dance Europe’s censoring a (relatively) tiny force like Israel instead of someone strong like the Government of Blair or Mr. Cheney?

  15. Yehudit Says:

    “A wrong as great as the destruction of Iraq, or the the threatened destruction of Iran, great peoples, whose culture and monuments have stood for thousands of years. Until our time.â€?

    The Wahabist jihadists are trying to destroy Iraq and Iran. They blew up the Buddhists statues and several mosques. They blow up their fellow Muslims. They have destroyed historic buildings in Saudi Arabia. The Iranian mullahs have massacred Zoroastrians and Bahais. They force their people into an extremist Islam which the people don’t want. For centuries Muslim Arabs in general have massacred Christians and Jews and other Muslims whose version of Islam they don’t like. They enslaved Africans way before the West came to Africa and continue to this day. They organize a campaign of global violent intimidation to cow anyone who publishes some innocuous cartoons (including jailing their own journalists), and murder and rape women and disfigure them with acid to preserve “family honor.”

    Name me one monument or cultural artifact destroyed by the Coalition which liberated Iraqis from Saddam Hussein. I find that the kind of persons willing to excuse real tyrants are the first to condemn Israel for mostly imaginary crimes (like the “massacre” of Jenin). They throw around the words “Nazi” and “genocide” and “torture” without daring to face real genocides and torture. You pick on Israel because you are terrified of real tyrants and mass murderers and you don’t dare stand up to them. But you like to think of yourself as a defiant radical “speaking truth to power,” so you posture about Israel. Academia and the arts have been thoroughly poisoned by people like you.

  16. Hannah Says:

    In my capacity as a university lecturer, I always warn my students never to take at face value anything they read on the web. Much of what I read above enforces this view.
    I would suggest wouldbe contributers engage in a bit of research, primary research, like reading DE and then engaging with the facts.

  17. Rachel Feinerman Says:

    Hannah-
    Which facts about Dance Europe are you talking about? The editors have gone on record several times now about their policy against covering Israeli dance companies unless they make a statement denouncing the occupation. The overarching question here isn’t Middle Eastern politics. Its censorship of artists.

  18. Anony-mous Says:

    If you read editorials (and other articles) in past issues of the magazine you will see that Emma Manning is virulently anti-United States as a whole and against our foreign policy in particular. She has descriminated against American writers who do not openly applaud her political views.

    So - are American artists the next to be descriminated against in her magazine?

    Is such a magazine truly newsworthy if it chooses not to report on artists from certain countries solely because the editor disagrees with the foreign policy of the government?

    Is a magazine that purports to be about dance, but is really about politics worthy of being an important source for dance news?

    Not to me.

  19. oron Says:

    hello to you all first of all as a israeli i feel vary hurt by this thing
    dance is a thing thet we are vary good in here in Israel.
    arebs people all over the world whant’s to kill us and now even europe whants now to kill us. so thets way we got an army so thet arebs people dont touch us becaus they know thet if they do something to us we will kill them IDF is one of the most powerfull army’s in the world
    israel is a vary powerfull contry and agreat contry we love life we dont need this stuped war we got life the areb people have started this war a long time ago and now they paying for this so dont tell me thet my conrty kill’s areb people just for fun.
    20-30 years from now you will see thet the u.k will become a muslime contry and then you will see what will be (july teror).

  20. Martin Says:

    I’m not sure if Oron is genuine (something about the grammar/structure/spelling) and is a deliberate attempt to turn people agains Israel, but I object strongly to that last sentence on several grounds. It implies that British muslims would condone terrorism and is as poisonous as Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood..’ speech. The majority of muslims in the UK are from Pakistan/Bangladesh not the Middle East and are more into cricket, cooking and cars rather than fatois and fanaticism. Indeed I’ve just met a dancer friend who from her name I gather is a Muslim. I won’t enter into the questions of the IDF’s effectiveness and purpose or the historical causes of conflict in the Middle East.

  21. Gene Says:

    Martin from scottland (above) wrote: “The majority of muslims in the UK are from Pakistan/Bangladesh not the Middle East and are more into cricket, cooking and cars rather than fatois and fanaticism.”

    Well?

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    Weekly @ Dance New Amsterdam
    Sundays (Intermediate/Advanced): 4:00pm-6:00pm
    Mondays (Beginner): 6:15pm-7:45pm
    Thursdays (Intermediate): 6:30pm-8:30pm

    Dancing While Pregnant - 33 weeks (8 Months)

    Third in the series.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRyx5Kyv_vg