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Flash Letter, 8-20: Martha's Will
About that 'Work-for-Hire' Thing

A Letter from Christine Dakin & Terese Capucilli
Artistic Directors, Martha Graham Dance Company

(Editor's Note: A copy of the following letter, addressed to Martha Graham Center executive director Marvin Preston IV, was obtained by the Dance Insider following Wednesday's Appeals Court ruling on Graham v. Graham. The headline is ours, not the authors'. The letter has been edited for content.)


In the cold light of day, after a night of stunned euphoria and grateful relief, inexpressible thanks to Marvin and the lawyers and our staff, Annie, Nancy, and everyone who participated in this legal defense. Also following on the heels of a day spent hearing about our continuing financial disaster and the Company's part in it: reasons the Co. is not being booked as fast and frequently as desired, to become more profitable.....

There is agreement from all sides that for this and many reasons, the face of the Company needs to be always associated with its new management and artistic direction. Every opportunity to do so should be taken.

One of the most recurring and powerful spins (Ron) Protas puts on all of this fight is that the faceless corporate board is stealing the artist's, Martha's, work. He represents himself as protecting Martha and her work.... Protas has had success in promoting his story that we are using legal technicalities to thwart Martha's wishes. The very words that saved us, "work for hire," provoke a visceral reaction in people who understand only the surface of what this is about, and add strength to Protas's version. From our vantage point, we believe the emphasis on the decision's importance should not be on "work for hire," but on the specific implication, in first (the) case and (then) the appeal, that Martha deliberately set up the Center and willingly gave her dances to it, in return for advantages to her, to free her to focus entirely on creating her art and to safeguard it for the future. She did this to protect her art, (to) give it to artists to care for, and we are the artists in whose hands it now lies. It is very important that we advance understanding of our new life as an organization, and counter the spin of Protas by taking the opportunity to point out and always include the very significant fact that for the first time, 12 years, since Martha's death, her company is run by artists, who worked with her for her last decades.....

We are ecstatic about this affirmation of our rights to the dances Martha created, and inexpressibly grateful (for) the work of (Center lawyers) Katherine Forrest and Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Working with Martha for so many years, we knew her as an artistic genius, saw her create great dances; but we also know that she took care to protect her art. She made careful plans to give her work to the home she had created for that purpose, the Center, Company and School. She knew that the dancers who dance the work, the people concerned with producing her art, were the ones who should care for it. Winning this legal suit protects Martha's desires to house her art in the place she created for that very purpose. We will honor her art and her desires by keeping vital her great body of work.

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