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Buzz, 5-30: Deaths & Entrances
For Martha to Live, her Company must be Dissolved
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider
It's time to face an
uncomfortable reality: The Martha Graham Dance Company -- at 80
the oldest modern dance troupe in the world -- has more or less
been cursed since its founder died 15 years ago. Instead of being
able to devote 100 percent of their efforts, talent, and money to
simply preserving Graham's work, the dancers, funders, and administrators
that guard her legacy have seen their energies dissipated and distracted
by legal battles, fratricidal struggles for control, and more. Under
its current leadership, the company has been reduced to lecture
demonstrations -- if we have to explain the work of Martha Graham,
God help the rest of modern dance -- and, soon to come, the cruise
ship circuit. Its artistic director cannot even be bothered to live
on the same coast as her dancers, and disdains rehearsing them.
The company stands on the brink of extinction and -- let's be honest
-- there are people, including dancers, who have no idea who Martha
Graham is. This is the reality.
We should take a hint
from federal judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, who in 2002 awarded
10 of Graham's works to the public domain and, instead of trying
to preserve the crippled entity known as the Martha Graham Dance
Company, dissolve it. Efforts could then be concentrated on saving
the Graham school (and on the concomitant mission of perpetuating
the Graham technique in other studios, universities, and high schools)
and on preserving and fortifying the Graham repertoire itself --
through its performance at dance companies that are more financially
sound and by (capable) university dance departments.
Funders -- private and
public -- who are now afraid to give any more money to an enterprise
that could crumble at any moment could instead be approached to
fund retraining (where necessary) of the current members of the
Graham troupe as teachers, stagers, and notators; licensing fees
for staging the work at other dance companies and universities;
reinforcing the Graham School; a Graham archive; and, most important,
a robust Graham Trust charged with notating, licensing and staging
the work -- similar to the Balanchine Trust which has seen the Balanchine
repertoire propagated around the world, independent of its mixed
fate at the New York City Ballet. Legendary Graham dancers Terese
Capucilli and Christine Dakin, ignobly fired
by the Graham board last year, could be approached to direct this
trust. In recognition of their long devotion (and suffering, while
others debated their fate), funds could also be set to pay for transitional
training for the current Graham dancers.
As for the Graham company's
current artistic director, Janet Eilber, perhaps as part of her
severance package the Graham board could send her on a long cruise
where she can 'contextualize'
Martha Graham to her heart's content, calling when needed on Richard
Move for comic relief.