ART DEFEATS TERRORISM

by ROBERT G. HOFFMAN

of the United States of America


“ART DEFEATS TERRORISM” became very real for me. But what does this mean? This will become clearer to you when I describe below certain events that took place in my new-found life in art.

But first consider - can there be any relationship at all between art and terrorism? Has such a concept ever arisen in the minds of people in art? Bringing this up here may appear unusual, perhaps even odd. In spite of the outstanding educational institutions I’ve attended, I admit to having had little understanding of art until well into my 50’s. But considering the background from which I came, I respectfully ask to be excused for this significant failing in my life.

This failing began to change in February 1985 with the first notes I made for the Blue Book toward the creation of the classical story ballet Pater Olympian. Everything began to become clearer to me with a new and unfamiliar but beautiful dimension of life entering my heart in the form of art. But there was no way I could express it outwardly – rather, I kept silent due to fear to let on about it.

Permit me now to describe certain events that occurred in my new-found life in art…these will provide support for how and why I have concluded that “Art Defeats Terrorism.”

This new dimension went on silently within me from February 1985 until February 2000 when I met Madame Phyllis Latin, the former American prima ballerina. Madame Latin made me feel comfortable expressing myself in my new-found treasure in art. By “art” here I mean expressed in the medium of the Classical Ballet form. Madame agreed to become Choreographer and Artistic Director of Pater Olympian.

Slightly earlier in June 1999, I was on a long airline flight from San Francisco to New York. Sitting next to me was a young woman, Evguenia (Zhenya) Krivosheeva (now Romanova), a 16-year old Russian exchange student from Bryansk a city in Russia about five hours south of Moscow. Zhenya was on her way home from the State of Oregon where she was living with a host family and where she had just completed her junior year in high school. From her conversation it was clear that she was knowledgeable in matters of art. I informed Zhenya about Pater Olympian and the Blue Book that housed the Story and Scenario. About half-way through the flight Zhenya asked: “Mr. Hoffman, may I ask you a personal question?” I said: “Of course, Zhenya.” She went on: “Would you please give me a copy of the Blue Book – I would like to translate the Ballet Story into Russian and use it for my senior year high school project in Bryansk.” I said: “Yes Zhenya…of course I will” and the rest is history.

In late August 2000, Zhenya moved from Bryansk to Moscow to attend Russian State University for the Humanities. In October 2000 with the approval of and expectations planned with Madame Latin, I traveled to Moscow and St. Petersburg to investigate opportunities - with Zhenya as Artistic Consultant - to produce and stage Pater Olympian in Moscow or St. Petersburg. And as you know, two years later, the World Premiere of Pater Olympian did take place at the Russian State Academic Youth Theatre in Theatre Square in the very center of Moscow on December 6, 2002.

On November 1, 2000, near the end of my first trip to Moscow, I met Elena (Helen) Rudneva, an experienced tourist guide, who also possessed cultural and artistic inclinations. I arranged for Helen and Zhenya to meet – they did and they became good friends. The three of us decided to be a team to work toward the production and staging of Pater Olympian at the earliest possible time.

I ask you to please accept the fact that on my multiple trips to Russia that followed the three of us worked diligently toward our goal. Future updates of this website or Upcoming Projects may later provide the complete history of our project. But now it is time to relate to how and why “Art Defeats Terrorism.”

I left New York on September 10, 2001 for my third trip to Russia. I landed at Sheremetyevo Airport outside of Moscow in the late morning of September 11, 2001. Zhenya met me at the airport. I checked into my hotel business suite in Hotel Marriott Tverskaya in the early afternoon. I was resting for a couple of hours in the bedroom section until my hotel room phone rang about 5:00 PM Moscow time (9:00 AM New York time). It was my wife, Linda, calling from New York to inform me of the horrific event at the World Trade Center in New York City. Zhenya was studying in the office section of the suite. I shouted to Zhenya to turn on the television set. Over and over again, the TV film repeated the horrific scene. It made us ill. Linda asked me to return to New York immediately. If I had agreed to return, I would not have been able to because all flights were grounded throughout most of the world for the next few days. Nevertheless, I declined to return but I promised Linda I would stay in close contact with her.

Still in the hotel room, I began to cry and Zhenya began to cry as well. After a few minutes, we went down to the Hotel lobby and found every person on the hotel staff to be in shock and close to tears. This was Moscow! Not New York City! The staff members – most of whom knew me pretty well – were silent and deeply sad. The lobby was silent. It was then that I realized what was happening – the Russian people were shocked and traumatized for the American people. On the street it was the same. Their sadness was real, not feigned. I felt I was among close friends who were sharing the tragedy with the American people and I began to experience an emotional and urgent love for Russia - especially for the Russian people.

Zhenya and I went back to the suite and continued to cry even more. It was clear that Zhenya was crying because I was crying. At about 6:00 PM, Helen arrived and joined us in crying.

We were devastated by the news. Time stood still. We felt ill – I felt that empty feeling in my stomach and we didn’t feel like eating or doing anything. After a few hours I began to feel better, more in control and yes even angry. I stood up and loudly declared, “I will not allow the terrorists to defeat us – that’s what they want – they want us to fail, to stop, to not do anything. The terrorists will win if we do nothing. We must not allow that to happen. We must defeat them. Helen, make a reservation for dinner at a great restaurant in the City. We are going out!”

And Helen made the reservation for dinner at the Central House of Writers. We would not allow anything to change our plans. We would not allow the terrorists to win.

On September 12, 2001, Helen, Zhenya and I had an important appointment scheduled for 3:00 PM at the offices of Baker & McKenzie, our Russian attorneys. It was to be an organizational planning meeting to map out how to proceed with the Ballet Project. Three or four attorneys of different legal specialties were to attend. At 3:00 PM we were escorted into a large internal conference room where the attorneys were already seated presumably waiting for us to arrive. But of course, they were really shocked to see us. They assumed we wouldn’t show up but they were waiting anyway. We sat down at the conference table and the first thing they asked was: “We assume you are cancelling the Project?” I immediately repeated to them the strong declaration I had made the evening before to Helen and Zhenya in the hotel suite. The attorneys seemed at first to be quite surprised, but a few minutes later, we were deep into the planning.

So Art Defeats Terrorism – it seems so far, but let us go on.

From September 2001 until October 2002, we continued to overcome every one of the never ending roadblocks that confronted us that threatened to derail the Project on so many fronts. The World Premiere of the Ballet was by then already committed financially and otherwise to take place December 6, 2002 as well as matinee and evening performances on each of December 7 and December 8, 2002.

Then it was late October 2002 and the terrifying Nord-Ost terrorist seizing of the Theatre in Dubrovka in Moscow - with several hundred hostages inside threatened with death if the demands of the terrorists were not met. Madame Latin, her assistant and I were scheduled to arrive in Moscow on November 12, 2002 for final theatre preparations and a final round of rehearsals prior to the performances. It wasn’t a question of “cancelling” or not – all financial and other commitments had been paid or made and the show would go on even if the seats in our Theatre would be empty. How could we even compare the importance of our planned performances with the horrible events taking place? We couldn’t, we wouldn’t and we didn’t. Nevertheless, the horror continued relentlessly until the battle finally came to an end with the “successful” police counterattack using a gas that turned out to be deadly (the gas killed about 130 hostages).

In mid-November 2002 we learned that a world-famous choreographer from Belgium, Maurice Bejart, was bringing his ballet troupe to Moscow to stage performances more or less coinciding with the dates of our performances. His performances were to take place in the huge 6000 seat auditorium, the Palace of Congresses, situated within the Kremlin walls, and where the important meetings of the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union used to take place. We were told and also could physically see and hear the enormous advertising campaign the Bejart troupe was running throughout all of Moscow – advertising we could not nearly match. But it didn’t help them at all. Nord-Ost had done its job on Bejart “Art” as well. We learned Bejart had great difficulty selling tickets and that they reduced ticket prices by 60% (had been as high as $100 for best seats). To this day, we couldn’t find out the attendance at the Bejart performances in the 6000 seat auditorium, but we believe the dancers had to have been very “lonesome.”

As far as the five performances of Robert G. Hoffman Productions were concerned, we had an artistic success but a financial failure. The Cultural Attache of the American Embassy together with his staff attended the World Premiere of Pater Olympian on December 6, 2002. He personally greeted me in an extremely complimentary manner for the great and moving performances we brought to the Moscow audiences. Our performances brought together American Dancers and Russian Dancers on the same stage in Moscow – perhaps a “first” in Russia (in the United States it is usual but in Russia, it is not). All of our Principal Dancers were Russian and I believe we did our best in bringing together at least in a small way the peoples of our two great nations - the Russian Federation and the United States of America.

Now you see that neither September 11th nor Nord-Ost could defeat us – and what we have learned from this is that ART DEFEATS TERRORISM every single time no matter what the odds.