Performers request refunds as festival postpones events
By Ronda Kaysen
The Tribeca Arts Festival has postponed most of its events until February, although many of the dancers have withdrawn from the festival and festival dates, locations and details about possible television coverage have yet to be announced.
The festival, described on its Web site as a not-for-profit graphic arts company, although it is not a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, was originally scheduled to run from Dec. 3 through Dec. 19 and include dance, theater, stand-up comedy, poetry, graphic arts and a runway fashion show. But on Nov. 7, the participating dance organizations received an e-mail from the festival alerting them to changes in the schedule.
The festivals Web site, www.tribecaartsfestival.com, has since removed all the dancers from the site and announces that the festival is changing its [sic] structural format! According to the site, Starting on Saturday, Dec. 4th, the Festival will begin TV previews, commercials and programs
the Festival has grown past the limitations of doing traditional live events and will include talent and artists throughout the New England region and across the US and Canada.
The e-mail sent to the dancers, however, painted a very different picture of the festivals success. One of the dancers forwarded the e-mail to Downtown Express and several others confirmed they had received a similar message. The inclusion of the out-of-state dance companies has proven too problematic to include in this years [sic] Tribeca Arts Festival in December, wrote Dale Evans, the festivals director. We cannot accommodate the requested changes and modifications for those dates.
Out-of-state participants were given the option of a refund or the choice to reschedule for the February dates. Of the seven dance companies Downtown Express spoke with for this article, all chose to withdraw from the festival. Only one dancer, who had withdrawn from the festival several weeks before the e-mail was circulated, had received a refund as of press time.
He said he would overnight a cancellation form and I still hadnt received it, said Josie Walsh, director and choreographer of Myo Dance in L.A. Walsh mailed Tribeca Arts Festival a $2,500 United States Postal Order in October for her 25-member dance troupe.
In August, when her partner, Ingrid Hoffman, inquired about the festivals refund policy, she received an email from the festival telling her that if she chose to withdraw from the festival she would receive a refund for her application fee. If the festival was cancelled or rescheduled for any reason, she would receive a refund and half of the agreed upon stipend. In the case of Myo Dance, that figure was $8,000.
With a refund policy in writing, Walsh sent Evans a $2,500 contract to sign, outlining the details of their agreement (the festival promised to pay all dancers for airfare, hotel costs and $16,000 for their performance). Evans mailed Walsh the contract back, signed with the initials, D.C., which is not a binding contract because it is not his signature. As of press time, she had received neither a cancellation form nor a refund.
Many of the dancers received e-mails and contracts signed by either D.C. or D. Courtney. Few of the participants ever spoke with a festival representative by phone since the companys Web site offers only a voicemail and fax number. When Hanh Nguyen, artistic director of Notoriety Dance, spoke with a representative from the festival, the person she spoke with did not correct her when she referred to him as D. Courtney. In a telephone interview with Evans, the director insisted he was the only public contact person for the festival. The event is funded, he said, by a group of friends who would like to support the arts without their name attached to anything. The Tribeca Trib reported in its November issue that Dale Evans also uses the name D. Courtney.
Evans attributes the structural revisions to negative press this paper wrote about performers questions about the festival on Oct. 29 and a bias against new artists from the established arts scene in New York. We are interested in presenting artists and new artistic talent and people [who] want to have a chance to be seen and recognized, he wrote in an e-mail. Now, we are going to do almost all of the smaller aspects on TV now, because of this clubhouse mindset with these little theaters and galleries around here.
Evans insists all participants who choose to withdraw from the festival at least two companies have been told they are no longer welcome to participate at all will receive refunds. There are as many dancers rescheduling as there are not and they will get the full benefit of a larger, more comprehensive festival, Evans wrote in an e-mail. Refunds are being sent now, but we are not going to report to you with an update.
Evans did, however, tell Downtown Express in an e-mail a few days later that two organizations, Notoriety Dance and Lineage Dance, had been mailed refunds.
Nguyen of Notoriety Dance received a $100 refund on Nov. 16, a month after she withdrew from the festival. There are other opportunities that are promising and legitimate. Im not going to waste my time, waste my energy on something that is not going to go anywhere, she said of her decision to withdraw. Even with her refund, she said she still lost money. She spent $2,000 on costumes for her dancers, she said. I thought this thing was for real, she said. It was our first repertoire.
A representative of one dance company said she paid $600 in application fees in part because she mistakenly assumed the festival was associated with the Tribeca Film Festival, the Robert De Niro-steered festival. De Niros group recently put on its first Tribeca Theater Festival. The film and theater festivals are not related to the Tribeca Arts Festival, which has no events planned in Tribeca. The dance company has asked to remain anonymous fearing it may not receive its refund from the festival.
The festival does have enthusiastic participants. Richard Metzger, a plus-size fashion designer, recently joined the festival and is looking forward to the fashion show, which has also been rescheduled for February. Im always looking for great ways to showcase my work and great ways to show how sexy plus sized women are, said Metzger, who has designed dresses for Queen Latifah, Star Jones and Aida Turtorro from the Sopranos.
The festivals philanthropic arm, Tribeca Arts Community Arts Program, has made contributions to non-profit organizations. On Nov. 1, Evans donated 20 art kits to the Bronx New Mommies Group, Inc. Theyre really, really nice, said Roxanne Taylor, the groups director of the donation.
According to Evans, Paul Nagle, a representative from City Councilmember Alan Gersons office, was planning to attend the Nov. 1 art kit donation. Nagle, however, disagrees. Thats completely false and he needs to stop, said Nagle, who reported the Tribeca Arts Festival in early October to state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer because Nagle said the group is misrepresenting itself as a non-profit. Im not going to talk to him
I tried to reach out to him, but he never returned my call.
The following week, Evans said he made a similar donation to Crossing Borders, a workshop for children and adults, according to the Festivals Web site. Crossing Borders did not return an e-mail for comment.