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Other Views of the International Festival

September 10, 1988

Seldom do I write to editors in protest, but something must be said to clarify a review by Cathy Curtis of the International Music and Dance Festival held at the Performing Arts Center ("Heavy-Footed International Show at Arts Center Is Light on Content," Calendar, Aug. 30).

The 3,000 in attendance were warmly enthusiastic, often interrupting the dancers with applause. Congratulations poured in via phone and mail and we were asked to repeat the show early next year. The groups that participated were the best available, having been selected by committees of professional choreographers and producer Ruth Ding, who has done many festivals.

Ms. Curtis' review went beyond good taste in demeaning the performers in that they were not world class. We never intended they all be, although several were. Our intent was to honor ethnic groups and present their culture to the audience. There is no rule that every group that appears on the stage must be world class, or held up to severe criticism because they are not at that level.

Because of time constraints, we limited our show to 12 groups, giving them between 4 and 8 minutes (each). To get them all in, this was all (that was) allowable. This was distasteful to your reviewer. The Hollywood Bowl festival utilized 21 international groups giving them only one minute each. We felt we did considerably better.

There was an unprecedented second "review" the very next day ("Tone of Music and Dance Festival Was a Step Backward," Calendar, Aug. 31). No one from the Center could ever recall a double review of any kind by your paper. The terms "so-called International Festival . . .," "an embarrassment to anyone with a serious interest in ethnic music and dance," "retrograde attitudes," "dark ages of international relations" and "hackneyed . . . approach" clearly showed the intent of the second article.

It even went so far as to quote my script out of context, saying "deep, dark, mysterious" Africa was offensive. Those three words, taken out of a lengthy sentence, gave the exact opposite meaning to the message I was conveying, which was to discredit that old cliche (the passage is reprinted below).

A letter from a teacher who brought 20 children expressed the joy and pride one small girl from India felt in seeing the music, costumes and dance of her ethnic background. Without the use of canned music (which we likewise dislike, except as a last resort) she would not have had that opportunity.

Ruth Ding and I have individually produced over 125 concerts during the past 26 years. We have no quarrel with critics expressing their opinions even when diametrically opposed. After all, that is their job, and constructive criticism should always be welcomed.

(But) the people in attendance that night attested to the joy of the evening. It is sad your readers are led to believe it was a bomb. If a reporter is a purist and writes only from that perspective, that is their (sic) prerogative. Our evening, however, was billed as a festival and was intended as a night of entertainment and pageantry, not preparation for a final exam in Folk Dance 101.


Chairman, Directors Emeritus

of the Orange County Performing

Arts Center

The passage in Thomas N. Moon's script that, he asserts, was quoted out of context reads as follows: "Often we hear Africa referred to as deep, dark and mysterious. But the joyous music, rhythms and chants of its people, their infectious laughter and joy of life speak of something quite different and wonderful."

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