CriticalDance Forum

Martha Graham Repertoire crisis
Page 1 of 2

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Apr 09, 2000 1:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

Image <P>Martha Graham<P><BR>Serious news from a week ago, which I have missed. Ron Protas, Martha Graham's partner at the end of her life, told us all at a seminar in London last year that he was going to step down as AD of the Martha Graham Company. I suspect tat in some quarters the cheers were deafeaning.<P>It now seems that he has changed his mind, despite the fact that his successor was appointed some time ago. The Board has voted 7-5 to stick with the existing plans and good old Ron, who owns the copyright to the entire Graham rep., will not confirm that he will make the works available to the Martha Graham Company beyond the current tour. It's difficult to believe that anyone could be so childish and have so little concern for the legacy with which he has been entrusted. <P>Martha Graham - wonderful choreographer, not so wonderful at choosing men.<P><BR> <A HREF="" TARGET=_blank></A> <BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited April 09, 2000).]

Author:  trina [ Mon Apr 10, 2000 1:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

Amen !!!

Author:  Azlan [ Wed Apr 12, 2000 8:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

You know, I'm glad I caught the company earlier this year in NYC and that I'll be seeing them again when they come to the SF Bay Area in a few weeks (this show sold out, by the way).

Author:  Dean Speer [ Fri Apr 14, 2000 8:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

I'm a former acolyte of Martha's and am one of the very small handful who teach Graham technique in the greater Seattle area. It greatly saddens and distresses me that a thorn-in-the-side like Ron Protas could get away with and the law being on his side, what he has since even before Martha passed.<P>I've long known and known of Mr. Protas. When the Company would come to Seattle, I'd be one of those host folk who'd drive the members around and included in this charming mix would be this guy (who HAD to sit in the front seat!). A dear friend who used to be a soloist in the Company recently reported to me that while even while Martha was around, sponsors of tours and performances would come up to company members and say, "We loved your performances but am sorry to say that we won't ever have you back - because of THAT man!" (Meaning Protas, of course.)<P>Here's another good Protas story. As you may know the Company has commissioned new works since Martha died. One of these was by Twyla Tharp. Observing a rehearsal one day, Mr. Protas dramatically stopped the proceedings and wildly waved his arms around saying, "Stop! Stop! That is not what Martha wanted/intended." Someone had to nudge him and say, "Uh, Ron this is not one of Martha's pieces; it's Twyla's!" (Mr. Protas had assumed the official role of rehearsal director...and this non-dancer director was clearly not doing a very good job!!)<P>While I think it is appropriate and okay for Joffrey to have given control of his ballet to Gerald Arpino for many reasons, what Martha should have done in this case is to have done what is done with the Balanchine canon. Have a Trust/Foundation that is the caretaker of the works, rather than any one individual.<P>I also think it was a big mistake for the Graham Board to have sold off the school and company property on East 63rd.<P>How Balanchine ballets have survived and indeed flourished is an interesting case study. (Being done by many companies.) If no one sees Martha's great works, then they are not going to get programmed, if they're not programmed then they don't get seen, etc., etc.! Yes, I agree that dancers need to be taught and coached in her technique and style in order for the ballets to be done well, but this is not impossible. Many, many more dance groups should be doing her pieces.<P>Another barrier, which I've talked briefly about in a post on the "" site regarding PNB's repertory is the often prohibiting cost of royalties and performance rights. At the last check done by me several years ago, the Graham Company (read Protas) was asking $10,000 per piece. I know this because my alma mater, Cornish College (where Graham is taught), was interested in doing a piece for the student performing company, and this is the price that was quoted. This information is clearly not accurate or current but I give it only to illustrate the point of the expense of acquiring new works in repertories.<P>Sadly, Protas has alienated so many people -- the very ones that should be then lending their collective support in teaching, re-staging Martha's work, and in community fundraising and preserving this important and unique American legacy.<P>It may be that Martha's work will not become more generally available until Protas himself passes and by then my hope is that it would not be too late for the proper dissemination of this technique and masterpieces that have had such a major impact on the dance and arts scene.<P>------------------<BR>Dean Speer<BR>

Author:  grace [ Fri Apr 14, 2000 2:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

dean - fascinating insights...great to see you here. i'd noticed your post(s) on another board.<P>we will be starting a technique/teachers/dancers forum here very soon (next week, i believe...), and i do hope that you will participate, since you have so much knowledge to offer?<P>i am -amongst other things- a ballet teacher who had the benefit of graham training and believes strongly in it's value. i have never had the opportunity to see the graham company live.<P>thanks again for this interesting post - i've certainly learned a few things! Image

Author:  trina [ Fri Apr 14, 2000 5:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

Dean-welcome to criticaldance!!! We are delighted to have a new member. I too live in Seattle permanently but have been working/teaching out of town for the past 8 months or so. I am ecstatic that there is someone teaching Graham technique. Where do you teach Graham technique in Seattle?-did you study at the Graham school? I studied at Juilliard with Helen McGehee, Ethel Winter and Kazuko Hirabayashi.<BR>Enjoyed your comments-everyone has their Ron Protas stories, shall we say!! It will be "interesting" to see how this whole legal/artistic "meltdown" plays out. <p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited April 14, 2000).]

Author:  Azlan [ Fri Apr 14, 2000 9:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

Dean, welcome to the board. Thank you for your insight. What can the dance community do now before it is too late? Before the Graham repertory is lost? How do we know it hasn't already been corrupted?<P>I saw the company at the Joyce in NYC last February and was so thrilled to have had a front row seat to works I had only seen on video before. Will these works be lost forever if Protas has his way?

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Apr 16, 2000 10:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

I'll be interested in Dean's comments on this, but my impression is that the rep is in pretty good shape despite Protas, due to the efforts of the Associate Directors who are dancers in the Company and are still doing 'recreation' of lost works. Graham took the trouble to get the rep onto video which is the main teaching tool for initial learning of the work, which will also help. In addition, some of the young dancers I saw in the Company in London were impressive and suggested to me that the heritage was being handed on. As long as Protas doesn't take his ball home. Doesn't he ask himself what Martha would say?<BR> <P><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited April 16, 2000).]

Author:  trina [ Sun Apr 16, 2000 1:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

Stuart-great that they have a film/video documentation, but from what I understand, none of that work can be performed without the permission of Protas. Also, if I'm not mistaken, Protas was a lawyer before he "discovered" modern dance, so I'm sure he knows all the ins and outs of the legalities of it.

Author:  Dean Speer [ Tue Apr 18, 2000 8:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

Very good comments, all. FYI: Learning parts from old films and now video, has always been the culture of the Graham mystique. When I first saw where and how these unique, archival films were being stored (in a small, old closet at the Graham studio on the ground floor), I was appalled. I am SO glad that in subsequent years, these have been transferred to video. I also think it's good that many of the Graham materials are now under the care of the Library of Congress.<P>Of the dances currently being done (listed for touring now), I note that while these are good pieces, such as "Appalachian Spring" and "Errand into the Maze," for the most part these are not large ensemble works taking small to very small casts to do. This tells us several things. For one, the company is not being hired out at its potential, full-strength. Secondly, many dances that could or should be done are not. And lastly, money is probably an issue (surprise!). What is being toured now is what I call "Graham lite." Stuff that's wonderful and fairly easily digested by la public, but doesn't really fully show the extent of her choreographic range or depth. Even if the powers that be wanted to keep the programs on the "lite" side, they should include Martha's last, completed work based on Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. But, as I noted this being a large ensemble work most likely does not fit within their current touring budget parameters. "Night Journey" should be included in this "wish" list of touring dances. Without my reference materials, I'm chagrined to have to report that I cannot recall off of the top of my head, the name of Martha's first, big ensemble piece that she did in about 1929 or 30. Martha was the central figure in white, while the ensemble was in black with long skirts -- ruffles being added by the time I actually saw this work in the mid-70s in NY @ the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. (You would not believe HOW controversial these ruffels were at the time!) Anyway, this is another important work, certainly worthy of being done!<P>Trina -- You've been very fortunate to have studied with among the best! I last saw Ethel Winter (who is considered a "dancer's dancer) when I was last at the Graham "source" in the summer of 1993. She was in the large, first-floor studio giving a class. I had to sigh because I wanted to be in there with them! Image (I did take a class, my first Graham class in almost exactly 10 years that day. Great fun. We all laughed when the instructor asked me if my knees were straight or not (I was wearing baggy pants.) and I had to reply, "I don't know...I can't tell!"<P>I presently teach mostly ballet but do modern once/week for a studio in the rural, diary community of Arlington, Washington.<P>On a lighter note, the photographer who did the portrait of Martha that is at the top of this post on this topic, also did a whole series of pix of Graham. Imogen Cunningham was a graduate of the University of Washington (class of 1909, I think) and became a very well-known and respected artist. When the UW did a showing of Cunningham's work as few years ago, I noted that there were many great shots of Martha, not a few in the nude... (Martha was still alive at the time of this retrospective, and I had to wonder out loud to myself and friends if she even recalled posing for these -- as she might have been annoyed (maybe amused), given that she was making the image of herself as the "grand dame" of modern dance and that as glamorous as possible.)<P>[This message has been edited by Dean Speer (edited April 18, 2000).]<p>[This message has been edited by Dean Speer (edited April 18, 2000).]

Author:  trina [ Tue Apr 18, 2000 1:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

Dean-the piece with the ruffles was "Primitive Mysteries", I believe! <BR>You and I need to get together when I get back to Seattle...after May 31; I have a teaching position which lasts until then...can we have coffee sometime after that?<BR>By the by..where do you teach ballet?

Author:  Azlan [ Wed Apr 19, 2000 10:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

Hey folks, see the review of the Martha Graham company's performance at Stanford, CA. The first part of the review refers to the troubles this company is going through:

<font size = -2><center>(Edited by salzberg to fix link)</center></font>

<small>[ 08-11-2002, 16:30: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>

Author:  Dean Speer [ Wed Apr 19, 2000 1:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

Thanks for posting the link to the Examiner's review. I most thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Of that cast, I only knew Chris Dakin from my NY days. It would have been interesting to see the newest batch of dancers, whom I sure are lovely -- but can they contract?! Image<P>Yes, Trina. Getting together when you return from Seattle would be great. Just let me know when you're back. E-mail me, which I've posted at the end. We should try to include my friend Sharon Tyers who teaches out of her home studio in Issaquah and was w/the Company in the mid-to-late 70s.<P>This case of someone holding rights to performing pieces that they don't necessarily best serve makes for an interesting case and perhaps for which somehow the laws need to be changed.<P>------------------<BR>Dean Speer<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Dean Speer (edited April 19, 2000).]

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Apr 20, 2000 3:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

It is interesting how similar last year's London programme was to the one described in the Exaiminer review, which suggests that there is a fairly sparce active rep at the moment. I share the reviewer's admiration for the dancing of Terese Capucilli and Miki Orihara. <P>Capucilli also recreated work with Martha Graham while she was alive, not the easiest exercise, and has continued the activity, since her death. All subject to the approval of Ron, of course, as he went out of his way to tell us in London. Here is the link to the article I wrote about the Martha Graham Study Day. It focusses on the morning sessions with the leading lights in the introduction of the genre to the UK. The afternoon sessions with Ron, Capucelli and Dakin was too tense to report comfortably.<BR> <A HREF="" TARGET=_blank></A> <p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited April 20, 2000).]

Author:  Azlan [ Thu Apr 20, 2000 10:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Martha Graham Repertoire crisis

I thought Terese Capucilli was just simply wonderful. She has those dark, intense eyes that brings a new element into Graham's pieces.<P>During their celebratory season (Feb 1999) in NYC, they performed several large scale works, drawing upon their school for dancers. That was truly a thrilling experience for me. I remember sitting next to an elderly woman who schooled with Graham. She described how difficult Graham was at times. Does anyone know anything about the school? What will happen to it? Will it keep going on even if the company folds?<p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited April 21, 2000).]

Page 1 of 2 All times are UTC - 7 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group