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APAP is the auto show of the arts,” snorts Downtown dancer Aaron Landsman, describing the marathon event sponsored by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Thousands of presenters from colleges and civic auditoriums around the country converged on the Hilton last week; performers who want to work the provinces set up 300 showcases so buyers could check them out. APAP’s “resource room” held the displays, videos, and ardent sales staff of nearly 500 arts entrepreneurs, many of them solo operations struggling against the increasing commercialization of the field.

“The infrastructure is dissolving,” moans local arts manager Richard Biles, whose Circum-Arts reps talent like Dennis O’Connor and the American Jewish Ballet. “Barely 15 presenters nationwide are concentrating on dance, with the result that the techies don’t know what to do anymore. The presenters are moving toward Broadway attractions. The business is not healthy, unless you’re involved with opera.” Like golf, opera attracts newly affluent professionals in their forties who are “moving to the suburbs, looking for social approval.”

David R. White, whose Dance Theater Workshop continues innovating 34 years into its run, touts DTW’s Carnival series, which presents nine productions in repertory over two months, starting January 26 with Wally Cardona’s Open House 01. Carnival, says White, “has an eclectic roster that we’re trying to keep in front of the public. People know what dance is, but they can’t put a finger on particular artists because they just aren’t out there. The core audience for artists like Pat Hall and Pam Patrick, even Cydney Wilkes, is in formation. Artists present work which has the life span of a june bug; we’ve learned that the most important element in getting people to the theater is word of mouth. If we want to put a face on dance, we have to keep that face out there.”