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The Buzz, 5-30: Fissures & Fusions, Romance & Cigarettes
Eilber Replaces Capucilli & Dakin as Graham Cuts Staff; Brouk & Co. Meet Turturro, Gandolfini & Co.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2005 The Dance Insider

Graham Cracks

As initially reported Friday by the Dance Insider to its e-mail list, the board of the New York-based Martha Graham Dance Company has inexplicably replaced artistic directors Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin with West Coast-based Janet Eilber, a Graham veteran who currently directs the Martha Graham Resources and who did not commit to moving full-time to New York nor to being at every rehearsal or performance. Acknowledging a cash flow deficit, it also eliminated eight full-time positions from its 36-person full-time administrative staff. (The company's web site lists 28 dance artists). Beyond insisting Capucilli and Dakin would remain with the company to "focus on and foster the classic Martha Graham works through performance and special projects," board chair Francis Mason declined to explain the board's decision.

At presstime, neither Capucilli nor Dakin had responded to an e-mailed request for comment. Asked if they would remain on salary, Eilber said details were still being worked out. "I hope Christine and Terese will continue to guide many of our artistic projects," she said. "We invited them to direct two projects at Jacob's Pillow and Bard. They do not feel comfortable taking on that role until our transition is better defined."

Mason credited Capucilli and Dakin, appointed co-directors in 2002, with "enabling the company to resume dancing on the heels of now past (sic) legal matters with unanticipated speed. They have brought the (Graham) works back to life with more impact and power than anyone could have imagined and we now have the daunting task of sustaining this success."

In a statement released Friday, the board said that the personnel changes "are being made in order to reduce fixed ongoing operating costs so that the organization can attain a positive cash flow without compromising artistic quality." The 'reorganization,' Eilber told the DI, is "a response to needing a better ratio between earned and contributed income and expenses." She declined to say whether the company is currently running a deficit, deferring the question to executive director Marvin Preston, but said it is making payroll. She also declined to say how long the dancers' current contract runs, deferring that question to the company's general manager.

In a letter to Preston obtained and published by the Dance Insider last summer, Capucilli and Dakin referred to the company's "continuing financial disaster."

While she will join the company for "most of the summer" and "a portion of each month" during the school year, Eilber told the dancers in a letter a copy of which she provided to the DI, she did not commit to moving to New York -- a reluctance which became an obstacle the last time she was appointed artistic director, to replace Ron Protas.

Earlier this month, the Graham Center returned to federal court to defend its rights to the Graham works "Embattled Garden," "Episodes: Part 1," "Phaedra," 'Secular Games," "Legend of Judith," and "Witch of Endor." The court had earlier awarded the center the rights to most of the Graham works over Graham legal heir Protas.

(Buzz disclosure: The Graham organization's recent shabby treatment of the Dance Insider makes it challenging to try to write objectively about its current travails. I have done my best.)

Say Hello to Hollywood

New York dancer Tricia Brouk, a veteran of the companies of Lucinda Childs, David Gordon, and Ben Munisteri (where I worked with her), makes her Hollywood choreographing and dancing debut in the upcoming "Romance & Cigarettes," directed by John Turturro with a cast headlined by James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Christopher Walken, and Steve Buscemi.

The film, a musical, "includes many dancers from the community," Brouk tells the DI. Roz Leblanc, Kate Johnson, Karen Graham, Elizabeth Parkinson, John Selya, Alexandra Bellar, Joao Carvalho, John Kelly, Gus Solomons jr, Lisa Tachick, Alexander Escalante, Rebecca Wender, Gelan Lambert Jr., Kelly Grigsby, Valerie Strair, Chris Morgan, Cady Huffman, and Adele Meyers are among those who will be dancing with La Brouk. The score of popular music ranges from Engelbert Humperdinck to Bruce Springsteen to Cyndi Lauper. Sometimes the actors sing "over the original songs, so you hear both voices," Brouk says. "Sometimes they are just lip-synching." The actors also dance. "I was able to work with each of them on the way their character would move," she explains. "Then the choreography or the 'organized emotionally driven physicalization' would happen."

The story concerns a blue-collar worker (Gandolfini) and his family. "Gandolfini's character has a affair with Kate Winslet's character and Susan Sarandon plays his wife," Brouk says. "John calls it a 'Savage Musical.' I choreographed the dances in the film. There are several -- it's a full-on musical. I even made a dance with Doris Humphrey in mind. I am a modern dancer, you know. There is also a dance with nine pregnant women that was inspired by MGM musicals and Kurasawa's "Seven Samurai."



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