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Flash Views, 9-19: Public Domain
Eilber, Capucilli, Dakin and Hodes on Free Graham

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider

Among the 69 Martha Graham works freed from the clutches of Ron Protas last month by federal Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum were ten dances the judge decreed as belonging to the public domain: "Appalachian Spring," "Night Journey," "Chronicle/Steps in the Street," "Lamentation," "American Document," "Heretic," "Flute of Krishna," "Frontier," "Panorama," and "Celebration."

Public domain means that technically speaking, anyone can now perform the dances. Well, not actually -- legally, anyone can perform these masterpieces, but technically, it takes some schooling to do justice to the work of Martha Graham.

Mindful of the great concern of all in the Graham community that this work be done right -- so thin is the line between it coming across as authentically from the heart and mind and as just so much modern melodrama -- I posed the following question to four legendary Graham dancers:

The biggest news to many other dance companies (let alone universities and more) is going to be that ten of the dances can now, theoretically, be performed by anyone. Rather, anyone has the right to perform them because they are in public domain. How can we ensure that these dances are done right?

Answering the question were longtime Graham dancer and former artistic director designate Janet Eilber; current co-artistic coordinators Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin; and Stuart Hodes, dean of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.

Janet Eilber: "This is an opportunity for the Center to forge relationships with the major university dance departments. The works should be the basis of intensive Graham residencies which send our teachers into the universities to teach the technique and allow the students to realize its depth by experiencing it onstage. Only then can they truly understand the relevance of the technique and of Martha's inimitable contribution. 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, funders."

Terese Capucilli: "Clearly one has to realize that there is an extraordinary technique and a beautiful philosophy that surrounds Martha's work. There are generations of dancers who have experienced Martha's theater in a very certain way that would make their expertise invaluable to anyone wanting to perform those works that are in the public domain. It is the utter responsibility of the directors of these companies and universities to make certain that Martha's work is presented in the best light. Although nothing could replace the years of dedication and training in this technique and theater that allows one the freedom to perform Martha's work with the integrity it deserves, training of some clear and thought out way in the technique prior to and during the learning of the piece is essential. With these ballets in the public domain, licensing fees that won't need to be paid could be put into assuring that the integrity of the work is upheld by bringing in the proper source of teaching and coaching. We, the dance communtiy, are ALL responsible for Martha's work now."

Christine Dakin: "We hope that whoever thinks to do those of Martha's works that are in the public domain will call upon us to help them do so. The Company will of course continue to perform them as we have for the history of the Company. Since we began our struggle back to existence it has been important to do it with the contribution of as many of the generations before us as possible. Making use of this, glorying in our deep and rich past, we have the knowledge, experience and resources to help keep the works true to her vision. We will share this with those who want to see that artistic integritymaintained."

Stuart Hodes: "I celebrate the ten dances in the public domain, inevitably to be danced one day by dancers not deemed 'qualified,' for I have enough faith in Martha's choreography not to worry about that, although Martha herself never lost that worry. Nor can her dances ever be diminished by 'over exposure' anymore than 'Nutcracker' is diminished."

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