Parting Shot

When Gerard Seguin resigned as executive director of the Chicago Dance Coalition earlier this month, he left behind a six-page, single-spaced assessment of the coalition and the Chicago dance community that was reportedly distributed to the entire board of directors. Asked about Seguin’s departure, board members made no mention of his lengthy document, and with good reason: for the most part, it paints an unflattering portrait of them, questioning their level of commitment, and characterizes the local dance community as self-centered and uncooperative. Seguin suggests that dance in Chicago “has always been marginalized, and because there has never been the public support needed to sustain a healthy and vibrant dance community, an (understandably) selfish attitude among dance artists has been bred.”

The coalition was created to foster a sense of community among the city’s diverse dance organizations, but Seguin argues that the CDC needs to develop a new mandate, asking “why an organization that is approaching 20 years of age has never managed to excel beyond its founding vision” and pointing out that the CDC still has roughly the same budget, staff, programs, and services it began with. He laments its inability to “take a stance,” finding the board more concerned with “equitability” than “creating truly beneficial programs and services.” He suggests that board members resign if they can’t be bothered to work on specific projects and that they lead any fund-raising efforts with personal donations to the CDC. He urges the coalition to disband so the dance community can reorganize itself organically–to “create a void and see what fills it”–or to suspend operations until it can find a new leader who is “unafraid to take a stance on issues and who can build the CDC’s resources to accomplish its new mandate.”

The board, along with past presidents and other guests, met last Thursday to discuss the future of the CDC in the wake of Seguin’s resignation. Susan Lipman, a CDC board member and executive director of Performing Arts Chicago, cited concerns over leadership, funding, and operational issues but said she hoped the coalition would continue. Gail Kalver, executive director of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, runs one of the city’s largest and most visible dance companies, yet she says she hasn’t been active in the coalition for the past couple years and remembers meeting Seguin only twice during his 12-month stint at the CDC. According to one source present at the meeting, Seguin’s document was not a hot topic of discussion, and the board decided little of substance. But Scott Silberstein, a former board member and an executive producer at HMS Media, Inc., was impressed by the outpouring of concern: “I saw a lot of people there who care passionately about dance, and they wouldn’t have been there if they didn’t care.”

Fractured Dance Fest

The groups involved in the annual Spring Festival of Dance are struggling to pull together a marketing campaign for this year’s rather disjointed lineup of events. In 1998 the Auditorium Theatre served as the principal venue, helping to prepare a slick brochure and offering rental fees that were significantly lower than those charged by comparable venues such as the Shubert Theatre. But now the Auditorium has rescinded its sweetheart deal, Music and Dance Theater Chicago has pulled out as the festival’s principal organizer and producer, and the participating dance companies are operating with very little money or manpower. This year the Sara Lee Foundation has come up with $10,000, and the Chicago Community Trust is kicking in another $15,000, enough to spring for some radio advertising and a simple black-and-white flyer to be mailed out a few weeks before the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago opens the festival at the Merle Reskin Theatre. Each of the festival participants has booked a different venue, ranging from the Auditorium to the Museum of Contemporary Art to Facets Multimedia Center. Concedes Gail Kalver, “We’re a little late in getting things organized this year.”

Graphic Art

The city will get a firsthand look at the homoerotic art of Tom of Finland (aka Touko Laaksonen) when a retrospective of more than 90 drawings opens tonight at TBA Exhibition Space. The drawings, many showing his trademark leather-clad men in suggestive poses, come from the archives of the Tom of Finland Foundation, established by the Finnish artist in 1984 to preserve his work and protect freedom of expression; they will not be offered for sale. Curator Thomas Hart says the exhibition traces the evolution of the artist’s style from the 1940s, when his earliest works were drawn, to the 60s and 70s, when his pictures became emblems of gay masculinity.

Organic Pulling Up Roots Again?

Organic Theater Company could be headed out of town. Sources say Ina Marlowe, artistic director for Organic, wants to move the company to a less expensive location than the old Steppenwolf Theatre space at 2851 N. Halsted, which reportedly rents for about $4,000 a month. Moving Organic to the north suburbs–probably Evanston–would signal a return to Marlowe’s roots; she founded Touchstone Theatre in Lake Forest before moving to the city and merging the company with Organic in 1996. At that time each company was said to be running a deficit of around $40,000. In late ’97, when Marlowe sold the Organic building at 3319 N. Clark, she may have netted as much as $750,000, but despite that windfall she’s apparently looking to cut costs. Organic’s expenses may have soared since the merger; it’s used higher-priced talent and boosted production values without necessarily increasing attendance. In March the company will stage Collected Stories by David Margulies, but its previously announced April production of The Old Settler has been scrapped. The empty slot will be filled by Red Hen Productions’ Safe Harbor.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Tom of Finland artowrk.