Deja Vu – The New Dance Stamp

28 Jul

July 28, 2012 The United States Postal Service issues a new series of dance stamps, featuring an artist’s rendition of Isadora Duncan, Jose Limon, Katherine Dunham and Bob Fosse.  The four deceased dancers represent four diverse expressions of dance artistry.

The images have been promoted by the Dizzy Feet Foundation, [DFF] whose prime mover is Noel Lythgoe, executive producer and judge for television’s So You Think You Can Dance.  With the enabling of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, a National Dance Day resolution was introduced in Congress, specifying the last Saturday in July as National Dance Day.  The emphasis is to promote dance education and physical fitness across the United States.

This year’s National Dance Day is Saturday, July 28, which will be observed, in part, by a Gala at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in Los Angeles.  The Website for DFF gives no particulars about who will dance beyond the date and an invitation to purchase tickets, including the $400 VIP category.

DFF lists three goals.  One: To provide scholarships to talented students studying at accredited dance schools,  institutions or studios.  Its  Angelina Ballerina scholarship has been awarded to a student at the American Ballet Theatre in 2012 and San Francisco Ballet Schools 2011.

There is nothing  posted regarding the criteria which qualifies said instruction.  With such a diversity of styles requiring expertise in instruction and training to achieve a professional level, the standards and those qualified to pass judgment may provide a major challenge towards those admirable goals.

Two: To establish national standards for dance education and an accreditation program to dance schools in all of the major styles of dance. It poses the question of  whether the instruction in non-Western dance forms will be included, and who are the proper evaluators of these forms. Will the styles be limited to  those which promise livelihoods for the student?

Three: To develop, provide, and/or support dance education programs for disadvantaged children through and with local community organizations.

A dazzling list of television connections follows the listing of the executive board: all appear to be  Southern California based.  Among the advisors I recognized the names of Kate Lydon and Rachel Moore, both with strong American Ballet Theatre  connections.

Puzzling, however, is the apparent lack of recognition of National Dance Week or International Dance Day, April 29, celebrating the birth of Jean Georges Noverre, considered the father of modern classical ballet. Is this another manifestation of the proliferation of dance events like the growth of ballets competitions, nationally and internationally.  Certainly, if funding is available, any number can and does play.

I use the term deja vu because of the late Ben Sommers, President of Capezio-BalletMakers, 1940-1976, and President of the Capezio Foundation until his death in 1985. Back in the days of the Regional Ballet Association, Ben promoted the idea of a dance stamp.  His was pretty nearly a two decade campaign before his idea materialized in four idealized images which included modern, ballet, tap and what looked like early hip-hop. While admiring his tenacity, the then small dance community was amused by Ben’s efforts.  Ben persisted, and the dance stamps became a reality.  E-Bay advertises the four,  first class stamps at $.13.

In the late ‘Thirties and early ‘Forties, Ben also was discussing physical fitness through dance with the American Association of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

On reflection, I think Ben would be pleased that his vision is being re-energized.  Ben would also be assiduous in giving credit to  forerunners in dance organizing.  Let’s see if DFF will emulate Ben’s
admirable quality of crediting predecessors and influences.

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