A press power house, Vivien Arnold is currently the director of Communications and Dramaturgy for the Stuttgart Ballett. We worked together when she held a similar position at Gauthier Dance. Over the years she has been a great source of inspiration and… the bright side. Her positive words have guided me through my professional career as well as fatherhood! She tells it like it is, but gives random mom-like hugs or words of encouragement. She is one of the women who inspired this series.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you always want to do what you’re doing now?
I wanted to be a time traveler and travel into the past. There are so many people I would have loved to have met. I wanted to see how they really lived, what they were really like: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Christ and Buddha, Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde, Serge Diaghilev, Vaslav Nijinsky and lots more… Actually, I would still like to do that!
I am afraid of…
Something happening to my husband or children: sickness or an accident.
A dance piece should…
Transport you out of the here and now and into a place where you are moved, disturbed, anguished, uplifted, awed, elated and inspired to laugh and to think. In short, it should be powerful.
Something you like to do other your current job?
Spend time with my family! Read for pleasure. Watch movies. Be outside in nature. Travel.
What makes press work for the arts, different than normal press work?
Compared to breaking news and world events, the arts are harder to sell to the media. One has to impart a sense of urgency and relevance. On the other hand: “a picture is worth a 1000 words” and in the dance world we have the huge advantage of often having spectacular images to work with.
with Jason Reilly, Lola Khurramova (Makeup) and Thomas Lemperzt (Costumes) at the photo shoot for our Super Heros campaign © Bernd Weissbrod
What are the qualities of a good press person?
Reliability! This includes an understanding of the time pressure most journalists work under. They usually need that photo or that interview or that quote yesterday! And an understanding that they don’t always have time to connect the dots or find the relevance of a story (see above). This is the job of the press person – to help them find a “story” which is worthwhile telling. That said: good verbal and writing skills are a must if you want to inspire anyone to report about something. Also helpful is the ability to “sell ice to eskimos”, ie. if one is convincing. I believe this only happens when you are passionate about what you are “selling”.
Who has been the most influential person/people in your life? or Career? and why?
My parents, two hard working immigrants who made so much possible for me and my sisters, most especially a stellar education. And of course Reid Anderson – the best boss I have ever had. He has given me trust and freedom and thereby ensured that I achieved more than I ever thought I was capable of. A true magician!
One of the hardest things about your job?
Time pressure. Everything I and my team do is on a deadline, nothing can be put off until tomorrow. Programs have to be printed on time for each premiere, all advertising materials must go to print in a timely fashion, the media has to be served instantly (see above), emails answered within hours, etc.
with Elisa Badenes at the photo shoot for our Super Heros campaign © Bernd Weissbrod
Do you notice any differences when compare a man and a woman in your position? would you say it’s harder to be one or the other?
Most probably the only difference is that the men still get paid more than the women!
Something you would change in the PRESS world?
I wish there were a greater appreciation of the journalists who have dedicated their lives to dance and to acquiring the knowledge necessary to write or report about it objectively and fairly. Increasingly, dance specialists are dying out and being replaced by “all rounders” whose job is, admittedly, very difficult and does not allow them time to gain expertise in any one field. Compounding this problem are the amateur dance bloggers whose enthusiasm is certainly commendable but whose glaring lack of knowledge becomes problematic when one considers that the casual internet browser can’t possibly tell the difference between a serious dance journalist who has 20 or more years of experience and a person who definitely has an opinion but, regrettably, an uneducated one.
Something you would change in the REAL world?
Violence, intolerance, the destruction of the natural world around us.
What inspires you?
Dancers! The most beautiful, hard-working, incredible creatures on the planet! And of course the choreographers who give them the steps, the content, the ideas and the inspiration for the most fabulous art form there is: Dance!
Do you have any goals you still wish to achieve?
Of course, but I am also incredibly grateful for the many things I have already had the opportunity of doing: Assisting Eric Gauthier to set up Gauthier Dance and get it running to the point that it was on solid feet and running fast; conceiving, planning and organizing the 50th Anniversary Festival of the Stuttgart Ballet; working with Demis Volpi as dramaturg and librettist on Krabat and currently Salome; just plain being able to work for a world class company such as the Stuttgart Ballet…
with eight living legends after moderating the talk show “50 Years John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet” © Stuttgart Ballet
A piece of advice for aspiring artists?
To paraphrase John F Kennedy: ask not what your company can do for you, but what you can do for the company you dance for. Don’t look at the roles you didn’t get but the ones you did. And do them better than anyone ever expected you to. And most especially: Self-promotion (on Facebook, Twitter etc) will never replace hard work in the studio and convincing and moving performances. That is what makes a great dancer, not how many “Friends” you have.
Main photo by Roman Novitzky