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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The Critics: firing Tobi Tobias


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Another letter sent to me for posting. This is a reply to Miller's form response:

 

Hello:

 

I am stunned not by the loss of dance coverage in your magazine, but rather that you would fire the finest voice in dance criticism today.

 

It seems to me that you have done the wrong thing, and I encourage you

to rehire Tobi Tobias.

 

Best,

Andrea Siegel

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Flash! Another new form response from Caroline Miller at New York Magazine:

 

It's true that we're not going to continue running Tobi's reviews,

but, believe me, we are not abandoning dance coverage. We'll continue to run previews, listings and features, and are committed to making sure dance gets the attention it deserves, in every way we can. As you have observed, every publication in America, like every arts organization, has had to make painful decisions on how to deploy limited resources to give readers what they value most. This is something we feel we have to do at this point; it doesn't mean that we're not serious about dance and other arts in the city. Like all organisms, magazines need to keep evolving, developing new voices and new approaches.

 

--------------------------------------

 

comment by A.T.:

 

So cutting reviews is a "new approach?" Surely that's been tried :) And if the links and previews are being written by writers already on staff -- and already doing the links and previews -- then how is that "developing new voices"? I can't resist this dig, that Tobias's voice was already quite developed when she went to NYMag, and there has been no indication that this move was to replace her -- quite the opposite. Eliminating Tobias was because they were eliminating dance reviews.

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I don't have any proof of this, but I can venture to guess that New York Magazine is feeling the heat from Time Out New York, which does listings much better than New York Mag and has pretty much taken over for Cue (the listing section of NYM). TONY does reviews of films, theater, and art, but not dance. It is possible that the people at NYM are thinking, well it works for TONY and that's how we'll snag their readers. In addition, I've seen more theme issues of NYM, like TONY. Well, I think that's way off. As I told them in a letter, New York magazine should value and further develop what makes them unique to readers -- their features on the city, columns and critics.

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Guest justafan

Time Out New York does fairly frequent features about ballet and dance. I recollect a recent interview with Helene Alexopoulos on her retirement, some backstage gossip about what it is like to dance in NYCB's Nutcracker, and other things like that. I don't subscribe, so I can't check, but I think it also gets some small amount of advertising from NYCB and possibly ABT.

 

And I think that's the point. I don't think there is any reason to doubt that the decision was made based on economics. This week's issue was very sparse in terms of ads -- a handful of display ads, an education advertorial supplement, and the classifieds and personals in the back.

 

Dance companies -- even ABT and NYCB -- don't do much advertising. When times are tough, the reality is that a magazine editor must make cuts in content areas that won't hurt readership OR the bottom line. In my letter, I noted that the world wouldn't miss New York magazine's film criticism -- there are plenty of outlets for movie reviews. But cutting back on film coverage could adversely impact advertising revenue. Among the meager advertising in this week's issue was an for the new Clint Eastwood movie.

 

Even though advertising is a reality, it is still sad that they cut the column. Although I have no idea of the costs involved, New York certainly wasn't running the column very often.

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Guest Jack Reed

Here's my email:

 

To Ms. Caroline Miller, Editor, New York Magazine:

 

If the report I've read that New York Magazine will soon discontinue Tobi Tobias's dance criticism proves to be true, I'll be disappointed, because her writing on the subject is of such directness and uncommon rigor (compared to most daily newspaper "critics", for example, except for the Wall Street Journal's) that regular reading of it helps prepare me to get more out of seeing not only something she's written about but even something she hasn't, as though regularly exercising that part of my mind prevents atrophy and helps keep it toned up. The appearance of one of her contributions is usually the main reason I buy an issue of the magazine, so please continue to publish them!

 

Yours truly,

 

Jack Reed

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Another email to be posted:

 

Dear Caroline Miller,

 

I am the artistic director and choreographer for New York City-based dance company SENSEDANCE. My press agent just informed me that the dance column in New York Magazine will be cut. I kindly ask you to refrain from taking such a misstep.

 

The multicolored dance scene of our city is an important component of what makes New York unique. New York without dance is unthinkable. New York Magazine without a dance column not worth picking up.

 

Sincerely,

Henning Rubsam

SENSEDANCE

1425 Third Avenue, #3c

NYC 10028

Tel/Fax 212.717.6869

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Guest Jack Reed

Alexandra, FWIW, my favorite magazine and newspaper shop in D.C., One Stop, 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, (202) 872-1577, says they carry Time Out New York and currrently have the lst-8th August issue. They're open until 9 tonight, if you're in a hurry. (I thought I'd seen it there; leave it to the tourists to tell the locals where things are, eh? Just kidding, of course.)

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Guest katharine kanter

Dear Miss Miller,

>

> Please excuse the typos as I m writing on an Italian keyboard.

>

> I am a dance columnist in Europe, and have just learnt that the New York

>

> Magazine is to eliminate Miss Tobias column. I first met Miss Tobias at

> the

> Royal Theatre in Copenhagen many years ago, where she is a well-known

> figure

> respected for her competence and seriousness. If I m not mistaken, the

> Danish

> people have even decorated her with an Order for her Oral Record of the

> Royal

> Ballet there.

>

> It is a mistake to eliminate your dance column. First, many people have

> told

> me that they first became interested in dance by reading an unusual

> article

> about it. Audiences for classical ballet are dwindling just as newspapers

> and

> òmagazines "save" money by slashing coverage. I have noticed

that Clive

> Barnes

> seems to get about three lines for his reviews. In three lines, you

> cannot do

> anything worthwhile, except perhaps write an epitaph for a tombstone.

>

> Second, it is essential for the profession to have knowledgeable OUTSIDERS

> who

> have nothing to gain by propitiating the dancers or artistic directors,

> examining their work from another, more objective standpoint. If you get

> rid

> of people like Tobi Tobias, standards will slip. The art form will become

> a

> cocktail party peopled by luvvies.

>

> Lastly, classical dance is objectively important. It must be covered. It

>

> cannot be ignored unless one s objective is to promote ignorance.

>

> Yours truly,

>

> K.L. Kanter

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Guest Calliope

Time Out New York came out today.

 

An interview with Tobi Tobias.

 

Briefly;

 

she talked about she got into writing about dance. She met someone at a New Year's party who was an alumni of her school and asked her to write a piece on a fellow alum, turned out to be Twyla Tharp.

 

Seems the decision by Caroline Miller was "put off" by 3 months to either scale back considerably or eliminate the dance column (obviously they waited until after the Kirov coverage)

 

There's been a lot of support from people.

ANd her favorite moments,

Gillian Murphy doing Swan Lake with a child screaming. Mark Morri's L'ALLERGRO

and the first time she saw a Balanchine ballet, Swan Lake with Diana Adams. "she came out to the stage and took this arabeque, and as far as I'm concerned, I was hooked forever."

 

Gia Kourlas opening states that locally and internationally the dance world is in an uproar and that "while the news might reveal as much abou the effects of a distressed economy as it does about the relevance of the art form within popular culture, the sad irony-that a magazine named after the very city where contemporary dance came to life would have no space for dance criticism- is not lost on Tobias and her peers".

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Thanks, Calliope. I look forward to reading the article tonight, should my issue arrive on time.

 

In my letter to Ms. Miller, in addition to talking about NY as the center of dance and the need for continued critical coverage, I did bring up the issue of not always agreeing with Tobias' criticism. I stressed that as an additional reason I was so upset to lose her column. I talked about how I had learned a great deal from reading her reviews because she often saw things differently, offering me a different viewpoint, experience, and background... And, b/c she is such a strong writer, unlike those at another periodical, where the reviews are poorly written and barely critical (I cited the paper by name in the letter).

 

-amanda

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Guest Rachel Howard

I sent this last week:

 

Dear Ms. Miller,

 

I am mystified by New York Magazine's decision to cut dance criticism. Tobi Tobias' fine reviews draw new readers from coast to coast, many of whom would remain unaware of the magazine otherwise. I have been one of those many silent, uncounted readers, who look forward to accessing Tobias' latest review from your website. Since editorial decisions today are so driven by the bottom line, I'm prepared to vote with my dollar. Keep your dance coverage and count me among your new subscribers.

 

Respectfully,

 

Rachel Howard

Dance Critic

The San Francisco Examiner

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Oh, Rachel -- how clever! The Dollars for Dancing campaign is now officially launched :)

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Yes, of course!!!

I didn't suggest discontinuing my subscription when I wrote but I made it abundantly clear what I thought....

but what a clever notion!

 

I happen to think that the form letters we are receiving in response to our individual letters are insulting.

Budget cuts, baloney. Cut television coverage. Less about the Hilton sisters and Lizzie Grubman.....

 

Juliet

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Hey, inquiring minds want to know. I followed the Lizzie coverage quite closely, I fear. :)

 

Actually, the form letter is a form of compliment, if you look at it another way. If Miller's office responded to them all individually, it'd be a clear signal that she wasn't getting many.

 

John Leonard, who covers television for NY, is a critic of distinction. The point is not that dance is more worthy of coverage than television, or vice versa; it's finding room for both, and not eliminating such coverage in favor of more features on The Best Focaccia in New York, or whatever.

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I did say in my letter that since they discontinued Tobias's column I would discontinue my subscription. And I did.

Of course, I didn't even get a form letter in reply. Oh, well.

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