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Buzz, 6-1 (Headline corrected): Point of Crossing
Graham Debate: 'Inflammatory Writing' or Terminal Patient?
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider
Responding to a recent
in which I proposed dissolving the troubled Martha Graham Dance
Company to concentrate on preserving and promulgating Graham's dances,
Francis Mason, chairman of the Graham board, writes to complain
of "inflammatory writing at long distance about an American treasure."
I stand by my column,
and by its fidelity to the Dance Insider's mission of giving a voice
to dancers, building the dance audience, and telling stories not
I also take exception
to Mr. Mason's re-casting my well-intentioned proposal and any implied
criticism of the company's current administration -- in particular
Graham treasures Christine Dakin and Terese Capucilli, and replacing
them with a commuting director who apparently disdains the studio
and feels Graham's work needs to be explained -- as criticism of
the "American treasure" itself. The Graham Center's current troubles
-- its executive director LaRue Allen put the deficit at $4 million
at the end of 2005 -- have been widely reported on; we have published
Ms. Allen's view of them, and of the Capucilli-Dakin firings, in
its entirety.... That the company's New York season (to date) has
consisted of what was essentially a two-hour lecture-demonstration
has been previously reported on here,
as has been the fact that press kits handed out for the occasion
included an invitation to something called "Modern Dance on the
High Seas," a crossing on the Queen Mary 2 "with a voyage-long program
offering a truly unique look into the life and work of dance pioneer
Martha Graham and her acclaimed company." I invite Mr. Mason to
share with our readers any touring plans that go beyond elaborate
lec-dems and diversions for cruise ship passengers..... As well,
commuting director Janet Eilber's conviction that this archetypal
work must be explained and "contextualized" has been documented,
most recently by Joan Acocella in the New
Leaving aside the question
of why it's appropriate to direct a dance company while residing
mostly at a distance but not to criticize it, in the case of the
Martha Graham Dance Company, how it's perceived from a distance
is critical, if for no other reason than that dance companies rely
on touring for income.
Mr. Mason also knows
very well that the involvement of the Dance Insider in the Martha
Graham story has been anything but distant. The DI was the only
publication besides the New York Times -- which has far more resources
at its disposal -- to provide daily coverage of the Graham Center's
trials with former director Ron Protas, most of it by me, in New
York. We made the decision to exceed our resources because of the
conviction that if we had not done so, the perspective of the Graham
Center -- and Mr. Mason -- would not have been fairly represented.
I regret that Mr. Mason and his board betrayed the trust I and many
others placed in them, principally by firing Capucilli and Dakin.
I regret that his professed admiration of our publication is apparently
conditioned on our not contradicting him. I repeat my invitation,
already issued, to Ms. Allen to share with our readers what she
calls the company's "good plan for working our way out of this."
I repeat that my sole
motivation in my most recent column was to see the work of Martha
Graham -- her greatest legacy to the world -- preserved. It breaks
my heart to see the work offered as shipboard entertainment; that
work created to dance literature is now being reduced -- essentially
dumbed down -- by explanatory words; and that, absent a vigorous
plan to promulgate the work -- without diverting precious resources
to propping up a disabled dance troupe -- these masterpieces, this
technique, may be relegated to the archives. Martha Graham -- whose
work opens a vein into our collective blood memory -- deserves to
live, as we deserve the enlightenment and deliverance of her work.
Mr. Mason calls my diagnosis
and prescription 'inflammatory.' At this point, the maladies afflicting
the Martha Graham Dance Company have moved beyond inflammations.
In my opinion, the patient has terminal cancer; it's time to put
it out of its misery to save its soul -- the work. If Mr. Mason
and Ms. Allen have another solution -- one that doesn't involve
delegating the job of begging for money to dancers -- let's hear