NYFA Hall of Fame — Wow!

April 26, 2011

I had a blowout fabulous time being inducted into NYFA’s Hall of Fame. Stephen Petronio gave a brilliant, funny, wonderful introduction to me as a dancer/choreographer/editor/writer. It was kind of overwhelming. After his intro, I felt I had the audiences’ attention. Here is my “acceptance speech”. It kind of sums up my transition from dancer/choreographer to editor.
Oh, the other two artists being “inducted” were filmmaker Todd Haynes and visual artist Andres Serrano.

As an artist in any discipline, you travel your own road. You’re always deciding what you like and what you don’t like. You push things away that don’t suit you in an effort to define yourself. You follow your own curiosity into endless spirals. And along the way, almost accidentally, you find your voice.

I choreographed for about 30 years. But then things changed for me, and, for a combination of reasons, I just couldn’t sustain it any more. After a while, I re-entered the dance world from a different perspective. As an editor at Dance Magazine, I opened up to all sorts of dance.  I had been a modern, or post-modern dancer, but I rekindled my long lost love of ballet, and added tap, and flamenco, hip hop, and all the strains of modern dance that I had fogotten about.

And opening up even more, it’s wonderful to come out of my alcove of dance and be honored by an organization that advocates for all the arts. I’ve found that my passion for dance extends to the other disciplines too. I can swoon over seeing an Anselm Kiefer or a play by Tony Kushner just as much as a performance by Pina Bausch or by Wendy Whelan or Paloma Herrera.

My own arena has changed from the performance space to the written space, whether in print or on the internet. Instead of going to bed at night with movement and music floating around my head, I have sentences and paragraphs to juggle. Instead of gathering dancers and musicians around me, I now gather different aspects of the dance world into each issue of Dance Magazine. So I’ve found my voice again, but a different voice.

[For this next bit, I took off my glasses and performed a careful, precise, hands-on-head-sequence while speaking.]

The year I got the NYFA grant, 1985, I couldn’t afford to pay dancers or rent studio space. So I sat in my little apartment making this phrase. My apartment was so small that if I extended my arms or legs, I would knock things over. This became part of a piece I titled,  And Me With My X-Ray Eyes, because…I had a boyfriend, a sculptor, who broke up with me…and I didn’t see it coming.

[I put my glasses back on.]

After I got the NYFA grant,

[at this point, for some reason unknown to me, the entire audience laughed heartily.]

I could rent space and stretch my arms and legs in all directions. I got to stretch in other ways too. With the NYFA grant, I was able to put on a concert at the Kitchen, which was a turning point in my career, and it’s also how I met my husband.

I thank NYFA for this great honor. I so admire the sheer guts of the NY artists, as exemplified by Todd Haynes and Andres Serrano—not to mention the sheer guts of Stephen Petronio walking down the side of the Whitney Museum—because Trisha Brown asked him to (with a little equipment). That was thrilling and scary.

But the truth is, I already feel honored to be in this position as editor of Dance Magazine. To work with amazing dancers-turned-writers like Allegra Kent, and to get to see the wildly different kinds of dance I see each week, I feel ridiculously blessed.

And talking of being blessed, I thank my husband Jim, who has helped me with every dance project and writing project since we met. And my son Nick, for teaching me that things are never what you think, and for being a comrade in the arts.

And I thank you all for coming out to celebrate the arts in New York, the place where artists are everywhere.