The Buzz, 8-24: All the
... And More Graham Scoops
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider
Blind Spot at the
There are none so blind
as those who will not see.
Last Wednesday at about
5 p.m. New York time, one of the best dance publicists in the business,
Martha Thomases of General Strategic Marketing, sent out a press
release via e-mail announcing the United States Court of Appeals
for the Second Circuit's ruling essentially affirming a 2002 District
Court decision awarding the rights to 45 of 70 extant ballets
by Martha Graham to the Center, School, and Company which bear her
name and whose valiant dancers had carried on her tradition despite
almost constant organizational turmoil or at least uncertainty since
Graham's death in 1991. As reported here Friday, the Appeals Court awarded one ballet, "Acrobats
of God," to Graham's legal heir Ron Protas, and threw the fate of
nine additional ballets into limbo for the moment, asking the District
Court judge, Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, to revisit ownership and
copyright issues surrounding them. We reported this news on Friday.
I don't brag about this, but I point it out by way of highlighting
that if the New York Times has not reported the news with equal
timeliness as of today, Tuesday, it's fair to say that the Gray
Lady dons a blindfold when it comes to Martha Graham, actively choosing
to suppress news it doesn't think is fit for its readers to see.
To understand why the
Times would prefer that news of the Appeals Court decision -- and
its ramifications -- not get out, one need only look at the crux
of its findings, as we analyzed them in our report last week: In
awarding 45 of Graham's ballets to the Graham Center, Cedarbaum
endorsed the Center's argument that ballets Graham created while
its full-time employee constituted work-for-hire and thus were owned
by the employer, and not Graham's to leave to Protas. (In asking
Cedarbaum to revisit the fate of seven dances created while Graham
was the Center's employee, the Appeals Court was not rejecting the
'work-for-hire' principle, just pointing out that when these ballets
were created, Graham was not a full-time employee of the Center
and her duties did not include choreographing.) Saddled with a client
who inspires little sympathy in the dance world, Protas's lawyer,
Judd Burstein, instead tried to appeal to dancers' self-interest,
shrieking that Cedarbaum's ruling set a dangerous precedent which
would imperil choreographers' rights to their work. In making this
argument, he found an ally in the New York Times (chiefly its chief
dance critic), which took every possible opportunity to spin the
Disctrict Court's ruling this way: It's not about Protas, choreographers,
it's about your right to your work.
The Appeals Court ruling
contradicts the Times spin, affirming that far from setting a dangerous
precedent, Cedarbaum's decision was in fact based on 100 years of
precedent. Protas's chief defender -- The New York Times -- is apparently
not reporting the Appeals Court decision for the simple reason that
it contradicts the New York Times's version of the truth.
Out of the Past
In a letter published on the DI Friday, Graham company artistic
directors Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin referred to the company's
"continuing financial disaster and the Company's part in it: reasons
the Co. is not being booked as fast and frequently as desired, to
become more profitable...." In the same letter, the artistic directors
attributed much of the blame for the company's "financial disaster"
to"the previous administration of the company." But Protas has not
been in charge of the company's fortunes for nigh on four years
now, and I would suggest that if the Graham company is not getting
the earned and contributed income its fine repertoire and dancers
deserve, at this point perhaps it should stop dragging the bogey
man out of the closet and look at whether its current marketing
and development team is on the right track.
Into the Future
Capucilli and Dakin
write again to tell us that the company's next show arrives September
9 at the Hollywood Bowl, when it performs "Appalachian Spring" with
the Los Angeles Philharmonic "on the occasion of the 60th anniversary
of the seminal Graham-Copland collaboration." The evening will also
include a film montage of Martha Graham and Aaron Copland.
Next up is Philadelphia's
Annenberg Center, where the company performs October 7-9 and also
gives a master class, followed by an October 22 show at the Mondavi
Center in Davis, California. The troupe touches down in Arcata in
the Golden State October 25, and closes out its fall season October
27 in Portland, Oregon.
January 28 in Princeton, followed by gigs in Washington, Houston,
Austin, Palm Desert, California, San Diego, Newark and Virginia.
The company's next New York season, April 6-17 at City Center, includes
a premiere from Martha Clarke, an acrobat of G-d if I ever saw one.