The Buzz, 12-18: Legacies
Long Live Martha; Frank Garcia, RIP; Mason Named Royal Director
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider
We used to have a saying
among the professional staff at a dance publication where I used
to work: "____ Magazine: The best kept secret in the dance world."
It was our way of trying to find a smile in the woeful reluctance
of ownership to promote the fine product we were producing. What
we -- the editorial and advertising team -- saw as information that
needed to be spread, ownership saw as individual copies of magazines
that were expensive to produce and thus could only be distributed
sparingly. The same expression, only slightly modified, might have
been applied to the works of Martha Graham during the decade that
Ronald Protas claimed to own them: They became the best kept dances
in the world, treated as a material possession to be hoarded rather
than a legacy to be shared. With the Federal
court decision that confirmed ownership of most of the
Graham dances by the Martha Graham Center, and the passing of the
artistic directorship from Protas to a team of dancers, it should
not be surprising that the attitude of the new directors to the
work has been one of expansion.
Most telling has been
the reaction of artistic directors Terese Capucilli and
Christine Dakin, as well as newly named artistic director, Martha
Graham Resources, Janet Eilber, to Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum's
ruling that ten of the works belong to the public domain. ("Appalachian
Spring," "Night Journey," "Chronicle/Steps in the Street," "Lamentation,"
"American Document," "Heretic," "Flute of Krishna," "Frontier,"
"Panorama," and "Celebration.") Rather than seeing this aspect of
the decision as a threat to the work or their control of it, they
see it, for the most part, as a potential opportunity to expand
the reach of the work, their main concern being that it is presented
It is partly to that
end that the Center has now created the department of Martha Graham
Resources, headed by Eilber, on whom Graham personally set and created
many lead roles in her ballets. "By adding Ms. Eilber, who worked
closely with Martha Graham as a principal dancer," the Center explained
earlier this week, "the Martha Graham Center broadens its mission
to include sharing the works of Graham with other arts organizations
and performers as well as preserving and making available the vast
76 years of archival assets: sets, costumes, audio and video recordings,
photographs and correspondence."
Even re-typing that
statement just now, I find the word 'sharing,' as applied to this
legacy so bitterly contested over the last two years, makes me tear
up. Under the previous directorship, the one word most often used
for a short-hand description of Graham's work -- 'contracting' --
took on a different, tragic meaning, as the director's vision contracted.
Under Capucilli, Dakin, executive director Marvin Preston, and now
Eilber, the operative word has become 'expanding.' I shared this
reflection earlier this week with Eilber, and she shared a reflection
from Albert Einstein: You cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness
that created it.
In announcing Eilber's
appointment, executive director Marvin Preston also spoke of sharing.
The new Martha Graham organization taking shape, Preston said, is
characterized as "collaborative, inclusive, sharing, driven by art
which itself is being served by business people with proven records
of achievement." The former principal dancer's achievements include
developing artistic content and interviewing early generations of
Graham artists for the Library of Congress Legacy Project.
Eilber, who will be
responsible for licensing and assisting other dance institutions
in mounting Graham's work, as well as building liaisons with other
Graham artists, explained to the DI: "We want to help with any production
of a Graham work, even those in the public domain. Our goal is to
become an extremely user-friendly resource for anyone interested
in Martha's work. The combination of licensing, archival resources,
and our most valuable resource, the artistry of generations of Graham
artists, will allow us to contribute to the quality and artistic
integrity of any Graham project -- performances, residencies, documentaries,
research, multimedia study guides, lectures, exhibits, articles,
University dance departments
are likely to be among the biggest beneficiaries of this new resource.
Earlier this year, I asked Eilber how the Center could help to ensure
that the dances now in the public domain are executed with integrity.
"This is an opportunity for the Center to forge relationships with
the major University dance departments," she responded in part.
"It has been a dream of mine to see more of the Graham repertoire
performed by students. And the Center will reap the benefits of
having a relationship with the newest generation of dancers, critics,
administrators, teachers, and funders."
.... Like the Martha Graham Center, the resources of the Murray
Louis and Nikolais Dance Company included a vast wardrobe.
The greatest human resource to that costume collection -- and just
an essential HUMAN resource to the company, period -- was Frank
Garcia, who for many years designed and constructed the costumes.
So the Louis and Nikolais dancers blessed to be able to work with
Garcia were devastated by his death Friday after a brief battle
"Frankie was one of
the most genuinely kind and funny people I ever knew," said Sara
Hook, the former Louis and Nikolais dancer, currently on the faculty
of the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. "He held the company
together sometimes by calmly listening to our whines and complaints,
nodding and laughing, of course having heard it all before and knowing
that it would be over the next day.... His work was uncompromisingly
original and beautiful. In my opinion he never got enough creative
credit for the designs he did. Yes Nik dreamed and schemed them
up but Frankie gave them form and put love in every stitch. And
it was Frankie's very brave and ultimatley creative act to believe
in Nik's vision from the very very beginning. And I mean BELIEVE
in capitals because there has never been a more loyal collaborator."
Added former Nik-Louis
dancer Pamela Levy-Arauz: "Frankie was the quiet backbone and steady
support to all that knew him. As a dancer in a difficult and emotionally
demanding field, he always made me feel good about myself on 'those
days,' offering wise advice and gentle encouragement, along with
a little sweet (usually a honey-candy!) to help patch it all up
and move on."
"We will all miss him
....This just in: Monica Mason, acting director of the Royal Ballet
since Ross Stretton stepped down in September amidst complaints
and defections from dancers, was today named director of the company
by Royal Opera House Chairman Sir Colin Southgate. Mason, a longtime
assistant to former director Sir Anthony Dowell, joined the company
in 1958 at the age of 16, making her its youngest member at the
time. After a brief period in the corps, she was selected by Kenneth
MacMillan to create the demanding role of the Chosen Maiden in his
1962 "Rite of Spring." She was made principal in 1968. Her appointment
as director runs through 2007.
Said Sir Colin: "The
Board is delighted that Monica Mason has agreed to take up the reins
as director of the Royal Ballet. She has already impressed us with
the swiftness with which she restored calm to the company and the
changes that she has introduced to the repertory this season. I
personally look forward to her exciting plans for the future." ROH
executive director Tony Hall said Mason has "made an enormous contribution
to the company as a dancer, a coach and in particular through her
work as custodian of the Kenneth MacMillan repertory."