Posted by: trailerpilot | 04:13::2009


Virginia Johnson.

Virginia Johnson.

And the shakeups keep coming: The New York Times is reporting that founding company member Virginia Johnson will take over the directorship of Dance Theater of Harlem from the legendary Arthur Mitchell, who started DTH forty years ago.

What’s really interesting about this story—the succession was all but inevitable—is what it suggests about the sustainability of dance writing on a national level. The article gives the impression that Johnson may not even have been looking for a job were it not for the fact that Pointe magazine, where she was editor, had recently let her go. Now, Pointe doesn’t exactly drip with cred, but it is nearly as ubiquitous as the industry’s other ad-filled, mediocre journal-of-record-by-default, Dance Magazine. Its editor was fired despite this saturation? Johnson’s quoted in the article as saying her job at Pointe was “peripheral” to the business of dancemaking. Maybe looking at heading one of dance’s only nationally-read publications as some kind of non-essential hobby was part of the problem.



  1. Very good point. I also thought Mitchell’s quote in there about him taking 8 minutes to do what might take someone else 8 hours said a lot about the sustainability of our organizations. Makes me think about what a dangerous situation that is, with all of the institutional knowledge in one person.

  2. True, although what I’ve heard from DTH company members tells me to take Mitchell’s hyperbole with a grain of salt. He’s personally overseen the organization since its inception, but even similarly-integral people have been replaced with little turmoil (i.e. Ashley Wheater’s smooth-so-far, drama-free takeover at the Joffrey). In my experience it’s the unsung administrative staff that really make things happen at big dance NFP’s, and they tend to be even more-heavily leaned upon during such transitions.

  3. I think she’ll be much happier being more involved with the dancemaking process as opposed to putting out or overseeing 500 word blurbs (if that) of dumbed down drivel for the future prima ballerinas of the world hidden behind the massive advertising for ballet schools most of them will never get into. *shrug* I just wish the very best for DTH. Times are tough.

  4. Sure, Icey, I’m sure she will. My argument, though, is that there’s no reason why Pointe or DM need to be drivel. Low editorial standards for high-visibility dance writing don’t serve the field or anyone in it. Johnson served as editor for the magazine. If she’s going to be stating that it’s no more than peripheral to what “really” happens, isn’t that more or less the result of her approach to that role?

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