Last Dance at MoMing

The MoMing Dance & Arts Center is calling it quits as of December 31–“a blow to the national profile of Chicago dance,” according to dancer Timothy O’Slynne, a founding member of the XSight! Performance Group, which just completed a successful MoMing engagement. The final dance performance at MoMing on December 9 will be a fitting example of its artistic mission–a choreographic sampler featuring the work of Mary Johnston Coursey, the Fluid Measure Performance Company, Lisa Brawley and Elena Vassalo, the Sock Monkeys, and Lauri Macklin/Red Moon. A farewell party and tribute to MoMing will follow the performance.

At a meeting last Saturday, MoMing’s small board of directors reluctantly chose to close the center rather than try to overcome the seemingly insurmountable hurdles confronting it. Said board president Catherine Pines: “It is painful to let go of something that has meant so much to so many people, but the money just wasn’t there. So it seemed the responsible and honorable thing to do was close the doors.” In the end, management problems seem to have done in the center. MoMing was saddled with approximately $80,000 in debt, according to Pines, much of it money owed to banks and vendors and back pay. The organization also lost out to a developer in its effort to buy its longtime home at 1034 W. Barry, and it faced the challenge of finding another artistic director to replace Peter Tumbelston, who announced he was leaving to pursue projects within the gay and lesbian community.

During its 16-year history, MoMing presented some of the best dancers on the cutting edge of the art form–including Mark Morris, who returned to the Arie Crown Theatre this week with a program of works starring Mikhail Baryshnikov–but the organization had struggled since going into debt in the mid-1980s. MoMing had its ardent supporters, but neither they nor their money ever seemed to be there in sufficiently large quantities. Pines said the center consistently lost money on dance companies it brought in from other places, because of the high cost of presenting such groups and the small audiences they often attracted. The center fared better presenting local dance companies such as the popular XSight!, because audiences were familiar with them and they cost less to book. Though many in the philanthropic community apparently recognized the important role MoMing served, few were willing to come through with substantial underwriting so long as any whiff of deficit hung over the institution. “Foundations take a dim view of deficits,” said Pines; “they view it as bad management.”

As for the future, both Pines and Tumbelston expressed hope that something new would rise from the ashes of MoMing that would not be burdened with the problems that ultimately killed off their organization. Last week sources in the dance community seemed unsure how they would fill the vacuum left by MoMing’s demise, but whatever might emerge certainly will require solid financial backing, strong management, and a workable game plan for audience development if it is to have even a chance of surviving.

Psycho Sellers, qu’est-ce que c’est?

Booksellers are still bracing for the arrival of brat pack author Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. After Simon & Schuster’s sudden announcement last week that it would not publish the book, originally scheduled to hit stores the first week of January, Vintage Books, a division of Random House, quickly snapped up the rights to the gruesome work and said it would be released in early March. Official reports say the move by Simon & Schuster came after CEO Richard Snyder read the book, about a psychopathic killer, and deemed it inappropriate for the S&S imprint. But others suspect that pressure from Snyder’s boss, Paramount Communications chairman Martin Davis, prompted the cancellation. S&S Chicago sales rep Vicki Warthen said she was surprised by her company’s abrupt decision, which she learned about only when the official announcement was made, but added that she objected to Ellis’s subsequent charges of censorship. “We didn’t prevent him from taking the book to another publisher,” said Warthen. Chicago book dealers, meanwhile, expect that the brouhaha win stir even greater interest in the book. Sources at Unabridged Books and Kroch’s & Brentano’s said they might increase their orders, depending on the media attention the book gets in the weeks ahead. But the cantankerous Stuart Brent, who takes great pride in his efforts to uphold literary standards, says he’s inclined to ban American Psycho from his store. He won’t make a firm decision, however, until he’s had a chance to read it: “I don’t want to be accused of an underdeveloped intellect,” he says.

For Those Who Drink Dangerously

Steve Edelson’s latest nightclub creation, the Tough Club, is set to open at the end of the month at 1531 N. Wells. But as of late last week Edelson and managing partner Russ Brunelli were still picking and choosing from among all the possible things they hope to stuff into the place. Edelson claims to be considering live sumo wrestlers, a temporary tattoo parlor, a room lined with antique guns (to be called the Shot Room), a dragster, a voodoo display, and tanks of piranhas, among other things. Sebastian Taylor, a flashy record spinner who used to work at the now-defunct Garage in New York City, may wind up in the booth at the Tough Club, but a source said Edelson wants to test him out first at Union, his North Sheffield club. “Sebastian had a dream,” says Edelson, “and he thinks he’s a musical Jesus.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jon Randolph.