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
With Body Wrappers it's always performance
at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
This Spring's Dance Insider
coverage of Martha Graham is also sponsored by Nancy Reynolds, Doug
Frank, Nora Ambrosio and Slippery
Rock University, Karen
Bradley, Barry Fischer
and Frostburg State University, the
Arts Paper, Scott Killian, Sharon
Montella and Pine Manor College, Toba Singer, Esaias
Johnson, Alice Helpern, and several anonymous donors. And by Karen
Potter, Kelly Holt, and by the MFA students, faculty and Friends of Dance
at Case Western Reserve University, where dancers receive professional level training
in a conservatory setting, and who are are proud to support the Dance Insider's
coverage of the Martha Graham Dance Company. To find out about becoming a DI sponsor,
Flash News & Analysis, 4-25: Protas
Takes the Stand
Center: Protas "physically aggressive" with Graham
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider
NEW YORK -- The Martha Graham Center
has accused Martha Graham heir Ronald Protas of being "physically aggressive with
Graham," depriving the mother of Modern Dance of nurses for two days and leaving
her "unable to feed or clean herself" after he "learned that Graham had contacted
a lawyer in an attempt to change her will." It has also accused him of removing
"some of Graham's possessions from her home as she lay dying."
The sensational claims surfaced
in proposed findings of fact filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan by the
Center, which is being sued by Protas over who owns the rights to Graham's ballets.
Court papers filed by Protas lawyer
Judd Burstein vigorously contest the allegations, calling them "outrageous and
irrelevent." Regarding the accusation that he deprived Graham of food, Protas
told the New York Post Sunday: "That never happened. She was more than capable
of opening a refrigerator and getting into the cheesecake and feeding herself.
And she paid $900 a month for a monitor that connected her to emergency numbers.
All she'd have had to do was press the button."
The Center also charges that on
the Monday after her nurses had allegedly been taken away from her, "Graham called
a Center employee and stated, 'he has taken everything from me, I have nothing.'"
Exactly what Graham had when she
died on April 1, 1991 -- and what she was giving away when she willed Protas everything
"owned by me at the time of my death" -- is at the crux of the trial, in its second
phase this spring after Protas lost the first round last year, the judge saying
he could not prevent the center and the Graham school from using Graham's name
or advertising it taught her technique.
Much of Protas's testimony Tuesday
concerned material he claims is owned by him and in the possession of the center,
including costumes, sets
by Isamu Noguchi, personal clothes, an IBM typewriter, and three Chinese moon
"Is there only one ballet that has
Noguchi sets?" Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum asked Protas.
The judge then asked if all the
sets were in storage, Protas having testified that much of the possessions went
back and forth over the last ten years between warehouses in Yonkers and New Jersey.
"Except for one set," said Protas,
"which Martha and I lent to the Noguchi museum (in Queens). It's still there."
"How long did all those sets sit
in the warehouse?" asked Cedarbaum.
"When I started working with Martha
in 1972, they were there," said Protas, explaining that they were only removed
when the ballets involving them were performed. "Martha and I would decide what
ballets they (the Graham dancers) were performing," he claimed.
The Judge also pressed Protas on
the Chinese moon viewing chairs; he explained that during Graham's lifetime, they
were sent with her on tour because she liked to lecture from them.
Also among the possessions he is
seeking the return of, Protas said, are dance clothes by Danskin, outfits by the
designer Halston, low benches designed by Noguchi, photos of Graham's family,
and 800 copies of "Blood Memory," the biography attributed to Graham. Protas had
to read from a list to recall these objects because his own memory, he testified,
"is a disaster..."
Protas's case took a desperate,
if not disastrous turn Tuesday when Burstein tried to separate the Center from
the School for this phase of the trial, an apparent attempt not to have this stage
of the dispute, which centers on copyright, to be bound by the judge's logic in
ruling against his client in the last phase, which involved trademark. The judge
strongly urged him to reconsider this tact.
Earlier in the day, the judge also
had the opportunity to lecture to mock trial students from Dewitt Clinton High
School who were observing the day's events. Here's how she encapsulated the essence
of the case:
"Martha Graham left a will in which
she left everything she had to the plaintiff in the case," i.e. Protas. "She didn't
specify what she had. This is a dispute over what she had. She couldn't leave
what she didn't have....This is a dispute over whether before her death, Miss
Graham had transferred her copyrights to the center which supported her (and)
her work, (and) which paid her throughout her lifetime.
Not all the parties which could
have benefited from this explanation were in the courtroom at the time. The New
York Times, for one, has apparently already resolved the dispute, stating in its
report Tuesday, "Graham left the dances to Ronald Protas..."
The New York Post, meanwhile, while
not getting this fact wrong, could use some instruction in another area. Its news
report on the case Sunday was headlined: "Graham - Copyright Tussle Pirouettes
into Court." The pirouette, while not an unknown sighting in modern dance, is
more typically found in ballet.
back to Flash Reviews