- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2004

On Jan. 1, 1996 Charles and Stephanie Reinhart were hired by the Kennedy Center to be artistic advisers for dance. It was an inspired choice and the dance scene here has been enriched by the passion and wide range of knowledge they brought to their work.

Stephanie Reinhart died in the fall of 2002. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Reinhart was informed the center was terminating his contract. It officially ended this week.

“It’s exactly eight years,” Mr. Reinhart says. “Two terms — that’s a pretty good run.”

With his departure, the ballet program is being determined by Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser, with the assistance of Kristen Brogdon and Jason Palmquist. Modern dance events will be chosen by Alicia Adams, newly appointed vice president for dance and international programming. It remains to be seen if the modern dance program will keep to the same high standards as in the Reinhart years.

While the Reinharts regularly presented ballet from here and abroad through the Kennedy Center’s Ballet Series, most of their innovations centered on modern dance.

They brought unparalleled experience to that effort. Mr. Reinhart, 73, managed several major modern dance groups in the ‘60s, was director of the National Endowment for the Arts’ successful dance touring program and, since 1968, has been director of the American Dance Festival. In 1993, Mrs. Reinhart joined him as co-director of ADF.

Yet with all their enthusiasm for modern dance, the couple made their biggest splash with the Balanchine Festival of 2000, the most successful dance festival in the center’s more than three decades of programing.

The high profile project brought six companies from here and abroad — including the Bolshoi, San Francisco and Miami City Ballets — that was a concentrated lesson in the master’s style and a fascinating glimpse of his choreography as performed by groups with different backgrounds and aesthetics. The logistics of it were daunting— to bring six far-flung companies together and plan balanced programs.

“It was huge, it certainly was our most ambitious project,” Mr. Reinhart says.

Right from the beginning, the Reinharts plunged into innovative programming. They commissioned new works and brought in virtually unknown companies from abroad, including many they had nurtured in their dynamic summer sessions at the American Dance Festival.

ADF has been instrumental in the growth of virtually every important dance group in the country, going as far back as Martha Graham. And though the Reinharts had been warned that Washington was not a risk-taking audience, they developed an audience intrigued by what they brought here. They drew on their ADF record where they had given significant support to some of the most important names in dance including Paul Taylor, Bill T. Jones, Martha Clark, Eiko and Koma, and emerging artists such as Shen Wei and Ron K. Brown.

Right off the bat the Reinharts developed a solo program that featured some of the earliest dances created by Martha Graham, Helen Tamiris and Mary Wigman.

“We started by trying to give the underpinnings of modern dance, showing how the solo was the foundation of the art form,” Mr. Reinhart says.

Their efforts gave modern dance a more central and respected place at the Kennedy Center. They used the smaller Terrace Theater less and programmed more into the Eisenhower Theater, finding the audiences to fill the larger house.

Another highlight of the Reinharts’ years here was a millennium commissioning project, pairing the two indigenous American art forms — jazz and modern dance — in new collaborations between jazz musicians and such choreographers as Tricia Brown, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Jones and Pilobolus.

Drawing on their ADF work, the Reinharts also arranged a Kennedy Center-ADF production celebrating the contribution of black artists. “Free to Dance: The African-American Presence in Modern Dance” featured stunning works by Donald Mc-Kayle (“Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder” and “Games”) and others — Talley Beatty’s “Mourner’s Bench” and Ulysses Dove’s “Vespers.” The project aired on PBS in 2001 and won an Emmy.

The Reinharts’ support for and interest in dance around the world enriched the programs we saw here — from Maguy Marin’s “Cinderella” by the Lyon Opera Ballet, to a first look at Butoh-influenced dance in the work of the Japanese company, Dairakudakan, to last spring’s breathtakingly original appearance by Tania Bagdonavich.

Closer to home were the three magnificent, sold-out performances of Mark Morris’ transcendent “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.”

Mr. Reinhart leaves with some trenchant thoughts about the Kennedy Center’s role.

“I think it’s important for a national institution to present the most important companies of the world and also to commission the choreographers it believes in, as the center does. It’s surprising how little of that is done in major performing arts centers around the world.

“It would also be wonderful if the Kennedy Center would create a national repertory company for modern dance because we’re in danger of losing so much of our heritage,” Mr. Reinhart says. “Most of our modern dance companies are single-choreographer companies. Many choreographers don’t have their own companies — and some choreographers only did one or two great works.

“All those works need to be saved, or we’re going to lose a precious heritage — and time is working against us. A lot of those works would show up very well against each and it would heighten their appeal if programmed correctly.”

Even though he’s leaving, programs that the Reinharts worked on will still be seen this spring. Mr. Reinhart particularly mentioned William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt, which will appear here this June.

“That was Stephanie’s special wish,” Mr. Reinhart says. “It’s a different kind of company and it’s never appeared at the Kennedy Center, so I’m really pleased about that.”

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