My feelings ranged from gripping and comforting to disturbing as I witnessed closing night of the Annabella Gonzalez Dance Theater’s beautifully danced Primavera. With its eclectic mix of performance styles and moods I was amazed at the wide range of human emotions expressed so artistically.
Performing April 17 and 18 at the stunning new Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, a welcome addition to the cultural life of our city, the troupe’s spring series Primavera included two world premieres and four dances from the treasury of the company’s classics.
“Liebes Tanz” (Love Dance) was first performed in 1992. Lucia Campoy, Marcos Emmanuel de Jesus, Juan Ignacio Echazarreta, and Heather Panikkar danced beautifully in this Germanic, dynamic piece. It featured unexpected interactions, with humor – and high lifts.
The two solos premiered were “In Transit,” performed behind a translucent cloth set by sculptor James Cobb with piano music by Mexican composer Luis Montes Jauregui, and “Passages,” by guest choreographer Maxine Steinman to music composed and played by Matthew Ferry.
I chatted with Luis following the performance and was stuck by both his great perception and his modesty. I also enjoyed speaking with Juan who, apart from being an excellent dancer, holds a Masters degree from NYU in non-profit management.
“In Transit” was danced brilliantly by the company’s founder, Annabella Gonzalez. In this piece she reacted to the world with emotions that ranged from derision to despair.
I found the contortions expressed in the very modern “Passages” uncomfortable, as I looked deep into the mirror of my own frailty and immortality. The suffering expressed was riveting and superbly presented.
“Flecha” (Arrow), from 1997, was completely different. Smooth, soft, warm, mellow – and comforting. The dichotomy of human emotions, danced by Lucia, Juan and Marcos, was complete. This highly stylistic piece featured piano and cello music by the Spanish composer Elisenda de Fabregas.
The performance ended with “Red,” a passionate quartet with dancers in varied shades of red set to a quartet by Beethoven.
Now in its 33rd year, the Annabella Gonzalez Dance Theater has an original repertoire of more than 60 dances. AGDT is the leading modern dance company in New York City headed by a Mexican-born American.
Primavera is distinguished by its originality. There is an aesthetic feeling, a special freshness, and superb dancing. What struck me was the synthesis of classical dance and modern dance, with both serious and humorous elements.
Annabella is known for having an eye for movement that conveys the essence of emotional situations. This shines through in “Primavera,” with its sense of humor, a choreographic theater of the absurd.
Sometimes humorous, sometimes sensual, Primavera offered a feast of movement, color and sound which I found electrifying. Her work in Primavera intrigued the mind as well as the eye.
Distinguished guests in the packed audience included New York State Council Member Gayle Brewer and the composer Luis who graciously came from Mexico to see Primavera.
Past AGDT appearances have included the Joseph Papp’s Latin Festival, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors.
An excellent and informative orientation on the dance company may be viewed on YouTube.
The spring series was made possible in part with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and from the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts, and administered by The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
Additional support was provided by the Harkness Foundation for Dance and Mayab Happy Tacos.
I found the following article, in the industry journal Litigation Support Today (required reading!) extremely interesting. I have re-printed it here so those outside the industry see it:
August/October 2008 • Vol. 2 No. 3 • Litigation Support TODAY
By Hillary Easom
Most people know little about the genocide that occurred in Cambodia and Rwanda aside from what they’ve learned through watching films like The Killing Fields or Hotel Rwanda. While Hollywood helped educate people to some extent, westerners typically remain in the dark about the details of these horrors and about the United Nations tribunals that prosecute perpetrators of war crimes. A native Californian, Shannon Bales never imagined that he’d find himself on the front line, so to speak, at these trials. Because of his expertise with litigation support software, Bales was given the unique opportunity to provide pro bono assistance to two UN war crimes tribunals.
Three years ago, in the throes of the Rwandan war crime trials and needing software assistance, the UN contacted CaseSoft looking for someone with CaseMap expertise. CaseSoft recommended Bales. Beginning in late 2005, Bales provided support for the Rwandan tribunal. The work he did there was well received, and in 2007 he was asked to provide similar support in Cambodia. “It was an incredibly long and frustrating process to get approved to go to the UN,” Bales recalls. “But eventually I made it, and what was really interesting wasn’t so much that they needed this one specific application as much as they needed everything.” In addition to issues addressed by CaseMap, Bales provided support with transcripts and imaging, among other things. He put together a team equal to that of a litigation support department in the U.S. Bales lived in Tanzania, right next to Rwanda, for three months and later provided additional support via the Internet. Before his arrival, issues abounded. First of all, too many bad experiences with technology had led the UN to give up using any litigation support applications; no one was actively promoting the technology and its many potential benefits. Paperwork, procedures and workflow were burdensome—for example, what could be condensed into a one-page document was, in this case, thirty pages of text. Another huge obstacle was job turnover: after working on the trial for several months, departing employees took all their case knowledge along with them.
Documenting work and workflow was half the battle. Half the day, says Bales, was spent tracking down inefficient workflow: How do I find this document? Where is this transcript? Working with documents in word processing format required an extraordinary amount of time that could have been alleviated by using a trial presentation program. “It just doesn’t make sense to stop the process of justice to go fetch documents when you can call it up on your computer in ten seconds,” says Bales. “If they needed a document that was not there at the bench or at the table, they’d have to call a recess, go down two floors, go across the courtyard, go up four floors, find the paper and come back …They were losing a lot of time.” Great efficiencies would have been gained by using a document management system that would have literally placed documents at their fingertips.
Moreover, UN policies state that any system used cannot be too “Englishcentric.” Most UN locations work with three languages: English, French and the local language (Cambodian, for example, or Swahili). Many technological applications used in litigation support are English-based, not intended to support other languages, and therefore dissatisfied many UN officials. Convincing them to use English-language litigation technology applications rather than word processing software in the local language was difficult.
Language issues presented many hurdles. In Cambodia, optical character recognition (OCR) was being used for documents; however, at the time there was no OCR engine available for the various Cambodian languages. The vendor was using English and Russian OCR engines in an attempt to retrieve any usable OCR to no great success. This created further snags.
Still, the Cambodian tribunal presented an easier challenge than the Rwandan, as Bales was involved from the beginning of the trial; there was less mess to clean up, and processes could be streamlined from the start. In Tanzania, Bales had plenty of obstacles to overcome just to earn the trust of the UN litigation teams. “They looked at me as a vendor,” says Bales of his early days at the UN Everyone assumed he was “a paid consultant, a flash-in-the-pan kind of guy.” In actuality, all the time he spent working with the tribunals was entirely pro bono. He had to work hard, though, to gain credibility. In meetings, Bales stated his position upfront and invited participants to criticize the applications if they felt there were shortcomings. He identified individuals who were supportive of litigation technology—he called them “Tech Angels”—and who were in positions of authority to require others to use these applications.
In a particularly hierarchical organization like the UN, it is critical to earn the respect and support of high-level employees so that their subordinates will jump on board. This involved building relationships with judges, the chief prosecutor and the head of the investigation unit. It also required “massive technology demonstrations” to show firsthand how these applications would bring efficiency to the different departments.
Bales found government employees to be very protective of their positions and guarded about their knowledge. To gain trust, he trained people one-on-one and followed up with interested individuals to achieve buy-in. Technological skills could strengthen a resume, and he knew employees were eager to rise within the UN system. “Even if they didn’t recognize the local significance, it was going to have a big impact on their ability to move forward.” Bales strived to identify talent and train these individuals to teach and consult on the litigation support applications. One of his greatest successes, claims Bales, was getting the UN to adopt LiveNote as a transcript management utility. This was a huge improvement over word processing software, which was more burdensome in the courtroom. Beyond the litigation support applications, Bales also helped the tribunals document their legal process. Before the UN leaves a country at the close of a tribunal, it aims to establish processes and professions for the local people. The litigation support teams Bales built from the ground up consisted of some UN officials but mostly natives.
Bales felt strongly about helping locals understand the importance of documenting the heinous crimes and subsequent trials that occurred in their homelands. “There I was, trying to tell people, ‘It’s important for your culture, your cultural history to document what’s happened here.’” He emphasized that more efficient processes would assist them and the victims they were trying to help by documenting the horrors that occurred, and bringing people to justice. Through learning to assist via legal support, local people had the opportunity to get involved in the process of justice. Setting up a work flow and teaching people to document their work was critical. This enabled electronic information to move from investigation to prosecution and defense and ultimately to the judge. The work product would impact future generations. In addition, people would understand the story of what had happened in their country, what the perpetrators had done and the lasting effects. “That’s key to our process here in the States, and it’s key to any legal system.”
The hard work Bales performed for the UN did not go unnoticed. Shortly after he returned home from Tanzania, a UN senior trial attorney and a local Tanzanian whom he’d trained in litigation support visited his firm in the U.S. to learn more.
“It was about helping them become technology promoters. I wanted to keep them excited about technology and what it could do for the law firm environment,” says Bales. The benefits of their visit were two-fold: they acquired tools to better and more efficiently document what went on during the genocide and the ongoing tribunal in Tanzania, and they gained knowledge and skills that will help them further their career and help promote the litigation support field once their tribunal work is completed. The Rwandan tribunal is nearly over, and the majority of tried criminals have been prosecuted. After spending two weeks in Cambodia working on the tribunal there, and sending a colleague to provide an additional two weeks of support, Bales has continued to assist with the trials electronically. He hopes to return to Cambodia to provide additional live assistance. His firm, Los Angelesbased Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, continues to fully support his endeavors with the UN.
“[Shannon’s] efforts have been an inspiration to others here to seek out opportunities to use their own talents to advance worthy causes,” remarks Kim McKay, Director of Case Support Services. “It is always difficult to do without a valuable team member; however, we felt that the contribution Shannon could make to the UN efforts and the professional opportunity was worthy of our support.” Furthermore, she notes, Bales “kept us apprised of his activities on a constant basis and gave several presentations to the Firm when he returned. We also received letters of commendation from the UN thanking Shannon for his very valuable assistance with their complex efforts.”
When Bales talks about his experiences with the UN, his passion for the litigation support field is more than evident. “I helped design the trial presentation system for the United Nations,” he marvels. “Having direct contact with the judges has been an invaluable experience. It’s something that has given me more credibility within my firm.”
Anyone in this field understands the importance of gaining credibility. “Too often, support staff live in the shadow of the attorneys. No one is going to come in and say, ‘Wow, you won that trial for us with that database search you did. That was the coolest database search in the world,’” he laughs. Still, it’s not about recognition and accolades.
“I owe this profession everything,” says Bales, “everything I have.” Shannon Bales is currently an Automated Litigation Support Team Leader with Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP in Los Angeles, California.
About the Author: Hillary Easom is a freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared internationally in various print and online publications. She writes from Silicon Valley where she resides with her husband and two young children.
Jim’s Note: “LITIGATION SUPPORT TODAY©” is published quarterly, February, May, August and November, by Conexion International Media, Inc., 10632 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 249, Columbia, MD 21044-6206. Subscriptions: Subscriptions are free to qualified litigation support professionals and allied specialists in the United States and Canada. For delivery to qualified subscribers in other countries a handling and shipping charge of US$12 per year applies. Subscribe at www.litigationsupporttoday.com or by email, fax or postal mail. Interested parties not working in litigation support may also subscribe at $19.95 per year USA & Canada or US$34.95 for other countries
My First Month As A Managing Director
I have just finished my first month as a partner at Elite Group International. I have just received my first monthly paycheck. After not being paid for four years, volunteering since the Tsunami – which washed from Indonesia to Sri Lanka December 26, 2004 – it felt good to hold my own money once again. My life has gone full-circle over those four years, when I had quit the investment bank to help orphaned children, and now one month back in the corporate world.
The past month as managing director has been busy. Elite Group International began as a copy shop to the law firms and investment banks of New York City ten years ago – about the same time I founded Orphans International Worldwide. My new corporate partner, Messan Minyanou, grew the print business into imaging, and from imaging into software development and consulting.
It made sense when we spoke over the fall to transition Elite Imaging into the Elite Group International – with three divisions: printing, imaging, and new technologies. Only what to call the new technologies section? Messan immediately suggested “Lucetec,” to which I agreed.
Over the last month, we have changed our corporate structure, designed new logos, built a website for each division – linked through the main website www.elitegroupintl.com – and interviewed new staff and interns. I have tried to get my head around electronic discovery, blow-back, and software development coding.
How much different are the skills I needed to form a international development agency working in Africa, Asia, and the Americas to what I perceive I will need as managing partner of a multi-national document handling conglomerate? It all comes down to human relationships, it seems. There is always “us” and “them.” Our team – staff, Board, volunteers, and then the funders or clients. In both arenas, your success comes down to your ability to handle human relationships.
E-mail can help you, as well as your Blackberry. FaceBook and LinkedIn help you stay connected. With over 300 e-mails a day which need to be answered, it is sometimes daunting to keep abreast with developments – not to mention go to event after event where you meet ten new people to add to your dance card.
9,000 close friends in Outlook, 2,000 in FaceBook, another 1,000 in LinkedIn. Some overlap. Lawyers. Bankers. Doctors. Accountants. Professors. Public officials. Journalists. Blogging and Twitter are another good way to try to stay connected.
This enormous number of people who I am responsible for knowing is why I believe God invented interns. With Orphans International we run about 20-25 interns each semester, coordinating work-flow and connections through SalesForce and our in-house wiki site. I am now trying to recruit and integrate an intern team to help me manage at Elite.
I am sure Orphans International, at ten, will have a brilliant 2009 – committed to my vision of ending orphanages, globally, in place of family care. This was achieved in the U.S. and Canada, throughout all of Europe, Japan, Israel. It can be achieved in Guyana and Haiti, the Philippines and Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Tanzania, Togo and Ghana.
Orphans International America has a year-end champagne reception on Sutton Place next week, celebrating our survival in the midst of this new depression, sponsored by Elite Group International. My funders will meet my new partners, and the world of United Nations-associated NGOs and multi-national corporations will be bridged.
Life has an interesting irony in it, but one must swim with the river and trust the destination is in the direction of fulfilling ones potential and allowing one to meet his or her social responsibilities.
Happy New Year!