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.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Analysis, 8-27: Deaths and Entrances
Graham, Resuscitated Again
"Her repertory, however,
was not in reality hers alone to save or destroy; it represented
a joint fabrication involving the life effort and devotion of many
people. If the dancers had given her their youth, it was with the
understanding that she should be the immaculate guardian of their
dreams, and that she would be their warranty that they had not thrown
their lives away. She therefore had not the right to jettison all
at will, no matter how deeply she felt, and although it was born
of her inspiration and the product of her genius, bearing the hallmark
of her name, there was a moral obligation involved. Too many people
had also worked too long.... Martha's repertory was in great part
a communal achievement like a cathedral."
--Agnes de Mille, "Martha."
(New York: Random House, 1991.)
"The tools for Graham's
choreographic works were also provided by the defendants. The creation
of the dances was a collaborative process in which the Center's
employees played an indispensable role. Janet Eilber, a principal
dancer at the Dance Company, testified credibly that Graham 'choreographed
on' dancers employed by the Center. Linda Hodes testified credibly
that while she was a dancer with the Dance Company, her salary was
paid by the Center."
--Federal Judge Miriam
Goldman Cedarbaum, ruling for the Defendants Martha Graham Center
of Contemporary Dance, Inc., and Martha Graham School of Contemporary
Dance, in the suit brought against them by Ronald J. Protas, August
"I am very excited for
the Company's new beginning. And I am very proud that we stood for
what we believed in -- especially after the May performance, which
made me realize how much I love it and I that I have such a great
time dancing Martha's ballets. I am glad that I did not quit dancing.
Though it was close."
--Miki Orihara, Principal
Dancer, the Martha Graham Dance Company, August 26, 2002.
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider
One day in 1968, a young
man named Ronald Protas fetched an oxygen tank for a critically
ill Martha Graham in a gesture that simultaneously helped save the
life of the mother of Modern Dance, and planted the seeds for the
slow asphyxiation of her life's work. This past Friday, for the
second time in 34 years, Martha Graham was resuscitated -- this
time by a federal judge's ruling that her center and company, not Mr. Protas,
own most of the ballets she created on it, with it, because of it
and for it. By Monday, it was clear that the Martha Graham Dance
Company was starting to breathe freely again.
"I feel Elated and daunted,"
said former Graham principal Janet Eilber. "Elated because we finally
have the possibility of moving ahead without the destructive undertow
that has been slowly killing us for 25 years. Daunted because there
is so much ground to recover. He has done so much damage. For example,
here it is 11 years after Martha's death and we are only now able
to truly wrestle what our identity will be without her!"
But there is much to
remind the current dancers of the Graham company -- who will negotiate
a new contract in the next thirty days before returning to the studio
in October to rehearse for a Joyce season opening in January --
of who they, keepers of the Graham flame, are. It is there in the
bodies and minds and, yes, blood memories of Graham dancers past
and present of Graham's dances, of which the company will now be
able to perform all but one of the 70 still performable.
"...We know that through
the bodies of the dancers who have kept it alive and will continue
to keep it alive, Martha's vibrant repertory of work will continue
to live on the stage," said Terese Capucilli, principal dancer and,
along with Christine Dakin, the company's co-artistic coordinator.
"It would be wonderful
in the following years to bring back to the stage some of those
dances that have not been seen in a while," Capucilli told the Dance
Insider. Ballets that I had the opportunity to dance, with Martha's
coaching, that are large in scope and bring so many different elements
of Martha's theater into play:. 'Every Soul is a Circus' and 'The
Owl and the Pussycat' with their wonderful comedic wit, which so
few people realize Martha had; 'Cortege of Eagles,' with its unveiling
of decades of Greek drama in less than 40 minutes; 'Letter to the
World,' which incorporates the poetry of Emily Dickenson; 'Deaths
and Entrances,' about the mysterious Bronte sisters. The hope of
course would be to have live music for all."
"They all have deep
and affecting memories for us," said Eilber of the 45 dances to
which Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbum confirmed the Graham Center
owned copyrights, the 10 dances in the public domain and 9 other
dances possibly in the public domain which the company can also
perform without contest, and the five dances which belong to other
organizations friendly to the Graham Center. "From dancing the premiere
of 'Frescoes' within the ancient stones of the Temple of Dendur
at the Met, to -- well, you don't have space for my memoirs; I'll
keep it down to one.
"It was one of my first
performances of 'Embattled Garden.' I was playing Lilith. I have
a picture in my mind of Bertram Ross as Adam, the archetype alpha
male. The two of us were posed while others were dancing. He was
standing all the way across the stage staring at me, his back lifted,
chin lowered, eyes narrowed with an unwavering look that was literally
electric. I could feel it physically pushing against me, willing
me to react, to push back. That moment opened to me all the possibilities
of Martha's theater. It contained everything; artistry, energy,
control, self possession, and power. And he didn't move a muscle.
I was a different dancer after that performance."
For Capucilli, learning
the role of The Principal Sister in "Deaths and Entrances" -- a
role originated by Graham, with Jane Dudley and Sophie Maslow as
the other sisters -- stands out.
"I and everyone else
in the cast spent weeks and hours in the studio learning our roles
before the rehearsal period (and our salaries) began," Capucilli
recalls. "I remember being in studio 2 of Martha's building at 316
East 63rd Street until 10 p.m. every night writing down every step,
studying the ballet and getting all those steps into my body. The
ballet is 50 minutes long and my character leaves the stage only
once for less than two minutes, so there are al ot of steps to learn!
The amazing thing was that on the VERY first day of the rehearsal
period with Martha in studio 1, the music went on and we didn't
stop dancing until we had run through the entire dance. Usually
it would take weeks to get to that point. Martha sat through the
entire piece, her neck long and extended, her head darting back
and forth across the studio following all the action and sat there
in awe when we finished. Her eyes opened wide, 'Well.....!!!!!,'
was all she could say. Of course, after recovering, she had plenty
Stuart Hodes, Graham's
legendary partner and current dean of the Graham School, echoed
Capucilli in recalling Martha's unheralded comic side. Of a 1947
performance of "Every Soul is a Circus," in Atlanta, Hodes remembered:
"On Martha's first comic move, half the audience laughed, whereupon
the other half said 'Shhhhh!' Thereafter, not a giggle during one
of the funniest dances ever made!"
Hodes also expressed
hope that the "lyrically stunning" 1954 "Ardent Song" could be reconstructed,
as well as the 1950 "Eye of Anguish," of which he commented; "One
of Martha's 'failures,' and yet, could it be reconstructed, I believe
it would be a revelation."
One revelation in talking
to Graham dancers is the care she gave to making sure the dances
were passed down correctly, down to the bodies of every corps dancer.
"My first performance
of Martha Graham's work," recounts current principal Miki Orihara,
"was 'Primitive Mysteries,' when I was in the Martha Graham Ensemble,"
the second company."In the Ensemble, we performed many of Martha
Graham's works which the Company was dancing at the same time. Of
course, our dancing was not at the same level as the Company, but
we had a unity feeling in the group and I guess we were pretty good,
in that almost everybody from that time got into the Company.
"Martha Graham loved
to come to the Ensemble's rehearsals. Even though we were not in
the Company yet, she coached us individually. Also, we were involved
with the revival of old pieces -- 'Heretic,' 'Every Soul is a Circus,'
and 'Canticle for Innocent Comedians' especially. Martha Graham
herself was very involved in the revivals, with Yuriko."
Of course, the memories
of dancers past and the bodies of dancers present have always been
available to Martha Graham, for more than 75 years. What hasn't
always been there is the means to realize the dances in sustained
seasons. For Marvin Preston, the executive director who, with board
chair Francis Mason, has defended the center against the siege by
its former director, Friday's ruling not immediately opens up two
possibilities for much-needed income.
who were not inclined to consider donating to the center while its
future was in doubt will now be more open to funding a company with
some 69 dances available. Second, the 45 dances for which the center
is now confirmed as owning the copyrights present a potential new
stream of licensing revenue, Preston said. Historically, he explained,
"The Graham organization prior to Protas's licensing of things for
all practical purposes didn't license. Outside of the Graham organization,
Graham dances were not performed. Martha herself felt like she needed
ten years to create a Graham dancer sufficiently well-versed in
the technique to do the dances right....Over the organization's
entire life, it's never had an outside source of revenue deriving
from royalties pertaining to ownernship of the dances." While the
Graham board will carefully deliberate whether to pursue this additional
revenue stream, at least, said Preston, "That's possible now....
There's a long-term opportunity to create a piece of our revenue
from royalties. That possibility effectively didn't exist until
now. It broadens our range...."
For Protas, meanwhile,
the revenue streams may be headed South. In addition to the $241,000,
including interest, the Judge ruled he owes the Graham Center, Center
attorney Katherine Forrest, of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, told the
Dance Insider that she intends to exercise her right as the prevailing
party, under copyright law, to seek recovery of attorneys' fees
from Protas. The amount sought, she said, would be above six figures.
"We are extremely pleased
with the Court's decision," said Forrest. "It's a well-reasoned,
extremely thorough opinion, that we believe will be upheld on any
appeal. It confirms what the center has been saying, that Martha
Graham intended that the center and the dance company continue to
be able to dance and have the rights to dance her work into perpetuity.
We're thrilled that the January 2003 Joyce season can begin without
any cloud over our rights."
The Dance Insider has
made numerous attempts to contact Protas -- through his publicist,
assistant, attorney, and directly through e-mail -- to ascertain
whether he will appeal and to get his side of the story. In response
to these requests, Protas attorney Judd Burnstein responded Monday,
via e-mail to this reporter:
"I make it a practice
not to waste my time speaking to biased purported journalists. I
have instructed my client that his time is also too valuable to
spend talking to you. I will be happy to speak with you once you
affiliate yourself with a real publication, thereby perhaps binding
you to the norms of objectivity expected of legitimate journalists.
Frankly, as far as I can tell, you put your hand on a rock one day,
and stated: 'I am a journalist.' I think more is required."
After receiving Mr.
Burstein's reply, which included Mr. Protas's direct e-mail address,
we e-mailed him our questions directly Monday. By presstime, we
had not received a response. The floor remains open.
To read Judge Miriam
Goldman Cedarbaum's Opinion, please click here. You will need Acrobat Reader to be able to open
the document, which is in PDF format.
Go back to Flash Reviews