Tag Archives: The New Yorker


“Placing social value on concepts like authenticity is an invitation to manufacture them.” — Louis Menand*

The initial controversy over Lukas Dhont’s acclaimed debut feature GIRL—the story of a young, transgender ballet dancer in Belgium—focused on the casting of a then-14-year-old cisgender actor (Victor Polster, as Lara) in a transgender lead role.

Nora Monsecour—the woman Lara is based on—worked closely with the director and has enthusiastically endorsed Polster’s performance:

“In one of our first conversations, I said to Lukas that I didn’t care at all if the actor was male, female, transgender, lesbian, gay. For me, it was very important that Lara… be played by someone who had a lot of love and empathy for the character, [and] was also a very good dancer. When I saw pictures of Victor, I thought to myself, ‘this is it, he is it.’ ”

Since the film’s release in Europe, some but not all critics in the transgender community have gone further, dismissing the film as dangerous “trauma porn” and worse.

The film was a triumph this year at Un Certain Regard at Cannes, winning a Caméra d’Or for Dhont and best actor for Polster. The great Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui choreographed the dances for the film.

This week the American Cinematheque presents GIRL as part of its Golden Globe Foreign-Language Nominees series.


Tuesday, January 1, at 5 pm.

Aero Theatre

1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica.

GIRL streams on Netflix from January 18.

*Louis Menand, “Faking It,” The New Yorker, December 10, 2018, 69.

Victor Polster (3; foreground left in middle photo) in Girl. Image credit: Netflix.


Arnie Zane [and I] built this company out of the same troubled milieu that we’re all living through right now—racism, sexism—and we have been able to make an organization that expressed my belief that art could save us.” — Bill T. Jones

As an innovator of post-modern dance since the 1970s and survivor of the American cultural wars of the ’80s, choreographer Bill T. Jones has endured catastrophes both political and personal. He lived through the disgrace of the government’s non-response to the AIDS epidemic, and lost Zane to the disease in 1988.

With his company—the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company—Jones’ created Still/Here (1994), a mixed-media, performance-art dance piece incorporating videotaped footage of terminally ill patients speaking into the camera. In an infamous attack on a work she declined to see firsthand, the New Yorker dance critic Arlene Croce railed against what she dismissed as foundation-dependent “victim art”:

“By working dying people into his act, Jones is putting himself beyond the reach of criticism. I think of him as literally undiscussable… because he has taken sanctuary among the unwell. Victim art defies criticism not only because we feel sorry for the victim but because we are cowed by art.”*

An uproar immediately followed, with Tony Kushner, Camille Paglia, Hilton Kramer, and Joyce Carol Oates weighing in from both sides. The author and activist bell hooks wrote:

“To write so contemptuously about a work one has not seen is an awesome flaunting of privilege—a testimony to the reality that there is no marginalized group or individual powerful enough to silence or suppress reactionary voices. Ms. Croce’s article is not courageous or daring, precisely because it merely mirrors the ruling political mood of our time.”*

After the publication of “Discussing the Undiscussable,” Croce’s output decreased significantly, while Jones—who recently dropped “dance” from his company’s title: “We are a contemporary performance ensemble”—has moved from strength to strength.**

This weekend at Royce Hall, CAP UCLA will present two complete performances of Jones’ ANALOGY TRILOGY, a durational work “focusing on memory and the effect of powerful events on the actions of individuals and, more importantly, on their often unexpressed inner life.” During the performance, musical accompaniment will be provided by composer Nick Hallett, pianist Emily Manzo, baritone Matthew Gamble, and the dancers.***

The trilogy can be seen in one daylong event, or as separate afternoon and evening performances:

ANALOGY/DORA: TRAMONTANE is based on the World War II experiences of French Jewish nurse Dora Amelan, the mother of Jones’ partner and company creative director Bjorn Amelan.

ANALOGY/LANCE: PRETTY aka THE ESCAPE ARTIST takes as its subject Jones’ nephew Lance Briggs. Art, in this case, could not save a life of promise after Lance quit dancing and turned to drugs and hustling.

ANALOGY/AMBROS: THE EMIGRANT draws from the W.G. Sebald novel The Emigrant to show how “trauma can go underground in the psyche of an individual and direct—consciously and unconsciously—the course of that individual’s life.”



Saturday and Sunday, November 3 and 4.

ANALOGY/DORA and ANALOGY/LANCE begin at 2 pm, with an intermission between parts.

ANALOGY/AMBROS begins at 7 pm.

The event breaks for dinner from 5:30 pm to 7 pm.

Royce Hall, UCLA

10745 Dickson Court, Los Angeles.

*Arlene Croce, “Discussing the Undiscussable,” in Writing in the Dark, Dancing in The New Yorker (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000), 708–719.

Croce’s article was originally published in the December 26, 1994–January 2, 1995 issue of The New Yorker.

The responses by bell hooks and others ran under “Who’s the Victim? Dissenting Voices Answer Arlene Croce’s Critique of Victim Art” in the January 30, 1995 issue of the magazine.

**Gia Kourlas, “Bill T. Jones is Making Room in Dance for More Than Dance,” New York Times, September 18, 2018.

***Dancers performing during the Royce Hall engagement include Vinson Fraley, Jr., Barrington Hinds, Shane Larson, I-Ling Liu, Penda N’Diaye, Jenna Riegel, Christina Robson, Carlo Antonio Villanueva, and Huiwang Zhang.

Color photographs: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Analogy Trilogy, photographs by Paul B. Goode, image credit: CAP UCLA. Black and white photograph: Bill T. Jones (left) and Arnie Zane, image credit: New York Live Arts.



“I first met [Ahmet Ertegun] at a time when his hegemony in the music business had reached a climax. For some time after that, I tried to find the locus of his authority and could not. I was by turns infatuated and disappointed. In time, I learned that this was appropriate—that Ahmet was himself always infatuated and always disappointed, and that at the heart of his achievement there was no answer stated or question posed but, rather, only this: the rhythms of infatuation smartly expressed. Then I found that to notice the manifestations of infatuation (which I had perceived at the start as ephemeral) was instructive.

“At the moment when I met Ahmet, at the beginning of this decade, it was assumed that the style of the years to come would derive from the principal styles of the nineteen-sixties—and this expectation has not been disappointed entirely—but then as I saw Ahmet together with important custodians of the style of the nineteen-sixties and noted his greater power and presence, I began to understand that it would be his style (eclectic, reminiscent, amused, fickle, perverse) that would be the distinctive style of the first years of the new decade, that Ahmet would achieve this new importance as exemplar precisely because he lacked the inflexible center I had confusedly looked for, and that he would achieve it through his intuitive, obsessive mastery of the modes of infatuation, this mastery having made it possible for him to absorb into himself the power of several archetypal American styles that had fallen into disuse among Americans but still had great power when they were expressed in a manner that the contemporary public could accept, which is to say when they were expressed in a manner that divorced style from substance and had no reference to any authority that could be perceived as inhibiting.

“There was something moving about this—that so much was possible through restlessness… ” — George W. S. Trow

“Eclectic, Reminiscent, Amused, Fickle, Perverse,” The New Yorker, May 29, and June 5, 1978. Trow’s profile of Ahmet Ertegun was republished in the book George W. S. Trow, Within the Context of No Context (1981).


From left: Cy Twombly, Earl McGrath, and Ahmet Ertegun in 1976. Photograph by Camilla McGrath.

Image result for ahmet ertegun



“We’re staying together for the kids’ sake.

“That’s the first lie of the family. It’s never for the kids’ sake. Why has no mother, including Hamlet’s own, not admitted to her libidinal impulses, saying this crazy-ass dick or uncontrollable freak works for me, I could never do what he does in the world, be so out of control, terrible and boundaryless, I’m a woman, confined by my sex, prohibited from acting out because other lives, my children’s lives, depend on me, but still there’s my husband acting out for me, what a thrill as he crashes against the cage of my propriety.” – Hilton Als*

The great New Yorker critic and astringent profiler of Dorothy Dean and André Leon Talley will be in town this week for a wide-ranging public conversation with USC dramatic arts dean David Bridel and poet Mary-Alice Daniel.



JOYCE J. CAMMILLERI HALL, USC, 3620 McClintock Ave, Los Angeles.


* Hilton Als, “Tristes Tropiques,” in White Girls (San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2013), 23.

Hilton Als.



This past weekend the third installment of Frieze Art Fair in NYC took place on Randalls Island. Exhibitions and events sprung up all around the city in the wake of the fair. I wish I could have been there!

This past Friday David Remnick from The New Yorker interviewed Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina from the art collective Pussy Riot, at the fair. If you missed it, you can watch their entire conversation on The New Yorker website.