By Ivan Sygoda, Founding Director
I remember viscerally the first time my mother took my wee sentient self into New York City on the Long Island Rail Road. I sensed more than heard the tremor of the approaching train. The platform seemed three feet wide, and I pressed myself fearfully against the wall while holding my mother’s hand for dear life.
That’s exactly how I felt when I attended my first booking conference, except that my mother wasn’t there to protect me. It was the 1976 ACUCAA (Association of College, University and Community Arts Administrators) conference held in December at the old Americana on Seventh Avenue. It was huge—all the circles of hell laid out in rectangles. It was only years later that I learned to tame the beast by calling it “pipe and drape.” It wasn’t the “sponsors” (we call them presenters now) who intimidated me. I didn’t know any of them and hardly knew what they were. It was the other agents who cowed me—elegant gents (I thought), such as the imposingly named Maxim Gershunoff, sporting better tailored suits than I would ever own. (There were ladies there as well, such as the formidable Sara Tornay, but if memory serves, and sorry to say, not so well tailored.) They moved in charmed circles and represented world renowned artists whose mere names had talismanic qualities. Who was I representing? Dance artists I had come to revere but who had little name value compared to theirs. I felt so vulnerable.
But, I stuck it out. Some wonderful colleagues like John Gingrich and the much missed Harry Rubenstein offered hands to hold. Years later, I was able to return the favor for others. Together, we managed.