New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click
here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance
at its best.
back to Flash Reviews
Flash News and Analysis, 2-26: GRAHAM
COMPANY RETURNS TO STAGE
May 9 City Center Gig First Performance in Two Years
By Paul Ben-Itzak with Darrah Carr
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider
NEW YORK -- After nearly a two-year
absence spent wrangling over ballet ownership and other issues with its previous
artistic director and getting the Martha Graham School back on its feet, the Martha
Graham Dance Company will return to the stage May 9 at City Center, the Dance
Insider has learned.
The one-night only performance, "Indisputably
Martha Graham," will include Graham classics "Seraphic Dialogue," "Lamentation,"
"Embattled Garden," and "Night Journey," as well as the previously reconstructed
Steps in the Street section from the 1936 "Chronicle," according to a source who
spoke on condition of anonymity.
The performance will come just after
the scheduled April 22 resumption of the company's Federal District Court trial
in Manhattan, where it is defending itself against former artistic director Ronald
Protas. Last summer, Protas was dealt a heavy blow when Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum
ruled he could not prevent the Martha Graham Center and the Martha Graham School
of Contemporary Dance from using the name "Martha Graham," or advertising that
it teaches "Martha Graham technique." In her ruling, Cedarbaum also found that
Protas was not a credible witness, and that he had breached his fiduciary duty
of loyalty to the Center and School, by registering "Martha Graham" and "Martha
Graham technique" in his own name while he was a member of both organizations'
boards of directors.
The next phase of the trial will
decide who owns the rights to Martha Graham's ballets. Protas has contended that
Graham left the ballets to him in her will, while the company has contended that
the core issue is not who owns Graham's dances, but over royalties.
Between "Chorale" in 1926 and "Maple
Leaf Rag" in 1990, Martha Graham created 191 dances. Applicable copyright laws
changed twice over the course of her lifetime, Graham center executive director
Marvin Preston IV told the Dance Insider in August, and some of Graham's dances,
he contends, would be considered in the public domain. It is unlikely, Preston
said, that either Protas or the company would be ruled to own all the ballets.
Whether Protas will raise objections
to the May 9 performance is unclear; an e-mail to his office Friday requesting
comment went unanswered. His side had previously agreed not to object to a 76th
anniversary gala for the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance planned for
April 18 -- 76 years to the day after the premiere of Graham's first dance, "Chorale."
The Graham company has not performed
since May of 2000, when its board suspended company operations, cancelling seasons
planned that summer for the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC and the Kennedy
Center, citing an accumulated deficit of $300,000. A the time, the recently ousted
Protas blamed the board for the deficit, while a board leader insisted that Protas's
reluctance to fully relinquish control made it difficult to attract new donors.
The dancers initially announced, through their union the American Guild of Musical
Artists, that they would file an unfair labor practice complaint over the company's
suspension, but eventually sided with the board. At last Spring's trial, reaction
from Graham dancers in the courtroom ranged from audible gasps of indignation
at some of Protas's testimony, to relief that they finally had their day in court.
The center recently received grants
from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation.
The May 9 evening promises a trove
of Graham riches, for those who have already seen its brilliance and the uninitiated
as well. A side effect of the absence of the Graham company from performing stages
for the last two years is that, even as the company's board of directors fights
valiantly to save Martha's legacy, the public conception of Graham's dances has
eroded by virtue of being seen only in satirists' one-dimensional versions.
(In France, where, as recounted by
Agnes de Mille, Martha Graham was once feted on the Paris Opera Stage, her hand
held by Rudolf Nureyev as the French Minister of Culture hung the Chevalier de
la Legion of d'Honneur around her neck and kissed her cheek, her work is hardly
taught any longer.)
The impression of Graham dance abroad
in the general public is often of exaggerated psycho-drama, whereas, in reality,
Graham technique draws from nature -- Human and Mother.
Not that the work doesn't occasionally
reach for, and attain, the divine.
"Seraphic Dialogue" was first presented
as "The Triumph of St. Joan" in 1951, before being re-worked four years later
with its current title. The 'dialogue' of the title refers to one which takes
place between Joan of Arc and Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret
at her moment of exaltation. The work, Agnes de Mille commented in her 1992 biography
"Martha," "owed much to Miss Ruth (St. Denis, in whose company Graham started
her dance career). But Martha went way beyond Miss Ruth. Martha achieved a knife
edge, a black thrust; she gave a live vibrancy to martyrdom and sainthood. She
knew through, she valued, she evaluated pain. She was at the root of intensity.
"Verily, Martha did the impossible:
she produced onstage a sense of beatitude. Berrtram Ross's performance as Saint
Michael approached holiness."
To read more about the Martha Graham
case dubbed "Graham v. Graham" by federal court clerks, please go back to our
Home page and enter "Graham" in the search engine window on the left. To read
Graham's will in its entirety, please enter "Graham & Will" or "By Martha Graham"
in the search engine window.
back to Flash Reviews