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[Nettime-bold] Martha Graham is still in danger
Yukihiko Yoshida on Sun, 1 Jul 2001 08:55:47 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Martha Graham is still in danger

Hi list and networks.

I had recieved this petition last year.
In fact,I wrote japanese webpage for this petition.
(The page is in japanese
But this trouble has not finished yet.

At that time,I did not know this list.
Then I could not send this to the list.
But I send this to the list now.

You can see what happens and the processes of trouble in

Martha Graham is one of important dance company in modern dance.
If we lost their works and their company, it will be big damage
to whole art world.There exists traditon and wisdom from many fields 
in 20th century.

If you can support them,please send any message and support them.

Best Wishes from TOKYO

Yukihiko YOSHIDA

Their websites:
http://www.marthagrahamcenter.com Old Page
http://www.marthadancers.org      NewPage
You can see some infomation and the processes of trouble

===== the text which released one year ago =======
Dear Friends and Colleagues

The future of Martha Graham's body of work, universal in its scope is in
grave danger, and faces the very real prospect of extinction.  We, the
dancers of the Martha Graham Dance Company and many of the dancers who
preceded us, believe this tragedy is avoidable and that immediate,
action by the international artistic community is essential.  Martha's
has been our life - and her Company our livelihood.  We now ask for your
support in our struggle to revive the Company and to rescue the precious
legacy of Martha Graham.  For that to happen, we believe certain issues
be understood and candidly addressed.

On May 25, 2000 the Board of Trustees of the Martha Graham Center for
Contemporary Dance voted to suspend operations of the Martha Graham
Company, the Martha Graham School and its Ensemble.  Since the death of
Martha Graham in 1991 a gulf has grown between The Center whose function
is to perform and teach the Graham works and Mr. Ron Protas who recently
established the Martha Graham Trust to administer his rights to the
works of
Martha Graham.  The May 25th decision was a direct consequence of the
Board's inability to raise funds because of the intractable,
conflict over artistic issues and finances between the Center and Mr.
Protas.  This and the failure of Mr. Protas to honor an agreement to
down as artistic director of the Company are at the core of the tragic
situation imperiling the survival of the entire Center.

Mr. Protas inherited Martha Graham's works and it is apparent to us that
exploitation of this position has alienated presenters, sponsors and
of the philanthropic community thus preventing the Center from receiving
grants and funds necessary to ensure its survival.  He also has a
history of
adversarial, contentious relationships with past and present dancers and
staff that has produced a destructive working environment.  In addition,
has now announced that he has withdrawn permission for the Martha Graham
Dance Company to perform all the ballets she created on the Company ?
at the same time continuing to license those works to other companies.
These actions and his egregious behavior have created the untenable
situation that undermines the Company and threatens the legacy of Martha
Graham.  We believe that renewed negotiations between the Trust and the
Center to restructure the relationship between them are necessary.  Such
restructuring must ensure a respectful, constructive, artistically
working environment with complete autonomy for the Center and allow
invaluable contributions of past and present artists of the Graham
and School to be respected and utilized.

If other companies are to license the ballets from the Trust WITHOUT the
Company existing to set the standard for Martha Graham's works, the
aesthetic values she devoted her life to will be gravely and forever
diminished.  Throughout the Company's existence and its many generations
dancers, runs the deep commitment to the Martha Graham technique and
necessary to the mastery of her work.  This continuity and commitment
the Martha Graham Dance Company the repository of the vast knowledge
embodied in her work. It is imperative that the entire dance community,
including Mr. Protas, realize that should this Company and School close,
world would be deprived of the home Martha Graham created nearly 75
ago uniquely dedicated to the creation and continued performance of her

To preserve the integrity of Martha Graham's work until the Martha
Center can be revived, we ask all other dance companies and institutions
refrain from licensing and performing any Graham work.  We ask all
to refrain from participating in the mounting of any Graham work.  We
all dancers to refrain from accepting engagements to perform any Graham

All of us know the cost of acting on this statement.  We do so because
Company and its legacy face extinction.  It is our hope that this
tragedy wi
ll give birth to a new and sustainable future for the Company and School
uniquely dedicated to presenting the genius of Martha Graham.  We
acknowledge that Mr. Protas devoted a significant part of his life to
Graham and ask that he honor his commitment to Martha's work by
a new licensing agreement with the Center to ensure the life of the
and School.

Prominent individuals and organizations in the arts and cultural world
come forward to offer their support to the Company in this emergency.
American Guild of Musical Artists, representing 5,000 dance and operatic
artists worldwide, the Martha Graham Center's professional staff and the
Board of Trustees, support our efforts.  We now call upon the
artistic community to stand with us to bring about these changes to
some of the most profound dance art created in the modern world.


Bitter Standoff Imperils a Cherished Dance Legacy

 Things looked bleak for the Martha Graham dance company six weeks ago
it canceled its scheduled performances for the year, suspended
operations of
its school and acknowledged that it was virtually bankrupt.

  Now they look even bleaker.

 The company board has changed the locks on the warehouse where it keeps
its costumes and scenery out of fear that its former artistic director
take them. That artistic director, Ron Protas, whom Graham herself chose
carry on her work, operates by cell phone from a location he refuses to
reveal and is working to prevent the company from performing any of

  Many of the troupe's 17 members have been discussing whether to
organize a
boycott of the modern dances they have worked so hard to master and
to choke off Mr. Protas's ability to license them to other companies.

 And Mr. Protas is talking of establishing a new company to supplant the
one that Martha Graham left him in charge of.

 The undancerly wrestling match at times takes on aspects of an op駻a
bouffe, but for many in the dance world too much is at stake for any
 Hanging in the balance, they say, is the legacy of America's great
of modern dance, which, without a school to teach her particular
or a permanent company to display her oeuvre, could become the stuff of
textbooks for dance history courses.

  "It is an end of an era," said Chrystelle Bond, a dance historian at
Goucher College in Maryland. "It's a very sad commentary when people
the art in the process of trying to save it. Dance is a living
and once you kill the school, there's a danger that the repertory could
lost in just a few years." The school has 500 students.

 In her autobiography, published at the end of her long life, Graham
no doubt about whom she would place in control of her choreography, her
company and her extraordinary legacy, which spanned most of the 20th

 It would be Mr. Protas, she wrote, the untiring acolyte who for nearly
years shadowed her on rehearsals and tours with a yellow legal pad and
oversize glasses, scribbling down her dance commentary and absorbing her
technique. He was the devoted aide who nursed her back from serious
and bouts of alcohol-induced isolation and depression, enabling her to
create and produce more dances when the prospects for this seemed dim.
was this man, she wrote, to whom she "entrusted the future of the compan

 Now, nearly 10 years later, the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary
Dance, encompassing the Graham dance company, school and junior troupe,
struggling to survive the internecine warfare.

  Mr. Protas, who was ousted as artistic director and as a board member,
still owns the rights to Graham's works and controls the Martha Graham
Trust, which licenses the Graham dances. both to the center and to

  All of this puts Mr. Protasat the center of the storm. His scornful
critics say that his mercurial personality makes him the most reviled
man in
dance. That is a tough label for a person with the charm to joke that he
doesn't dance a
step except for the merengue he mastered decades ago at a Fred Astaire

 "I'm not a saint, but they seem to blame everything but the Crucifixion
me," he observed dryly. At 59 he is zealous and sometimes prickly in
to guard Graham's image and the more than 180 dances that established
her as
a revolutionary modern dancer and choreographer. Graham, who died at 96
1991, started what is now the nation's oldest dance
company in 1926 and created stark dances and highly dramatic ones that
her movement vocabulary, the Graham technique.

 Mr. Protas, a restless man with tight tousled curls and a voice that
into a slow whisper to punctuate points, took over full control as
director of the company after Graham's death. That meant he made
decisions about casting, selection of the season's ballets and
of the rehearsal directors who coach dancers. The company long had an
international artistic reputation, but it also had a checkered financial
history and a touring schedule that was declining in the last years of
Graham's life.

  The son of a New York businessman and a housewife with a passion for
theater, Mr. Protas met Graham in the late 60's when he was a freelance
photographer and was intermittently attending law school, which he never

  The relationship, he said, grew as he tended her while she was
hospitalized in her 70's for diverticulitis. It was a dark period in her
life when, she wrote, she stopped dancing and started brooding alone,
drinking too much and eating too little.

 Today even Mr. Protas's fiercest critics give him credit for helping to
revive Graham's interest in her career. But Mr. Protas said he knew that
company members mocked the relationship by calling him and Graham the
and Maude of dance.

  "Her act of choosing me created jealousy and animosity because all the
other dancers felt that they should have been chosen by her, and that is
big part of it," Mr. Protas said.

  His opponents portray the dispute in other ways. "Ron thinks that
Martha was treated as an icon that he would get the same treatment as
heir," said Judith G. Schlosser, a Graham Center board member for more
20 years. "It took us several years to figure out how to pass on the
She said that the board's goal was to make the company more businesslike
appeal to previously reluctant donors.

 Encoded in the word "businesslike" is a sharp critique, by Ms.
and many others, of Mr. Protas's perceived way of doing business and
with dancers. He has alienated some potential contributors and theater
presenters, who complain that in his zealousness to preserve the Graham
legacy he became erratic and difficult and constantly sought to
matters that had already been decided.

 "I cannot work with Ron Protas again," said Ken Fischer, president of
University Musical Society at the University of Michigan, which
organized a
Martha Graham festival in 1994. "I have another major project that I
want to
do with a Martha Graham dance in 2001. I've got the space reserved and
support identified. But I don't feel I can do it if I have to work with
It's just too much dealing with him. He's always changing his mind."

 Mr. Protas has also faced an undercurrent of derision because he does
dance himself. Critics say that resentment increased because of his
treatment of dancers, who were frequently reduced to tears by his

 "How can he be coaching about movement if he has never done it?" said
Camille Brown, who quit the company in 1994. "It's like talking about
ocean if you have never seen it."

 Ms. Brown quit the company soon after filing a complaint with the
Guild of Musical Artists, the dancers' union, in connection with a
incident involving Mr. Protas. She did not pursue the complaint after

 She said she was preparing for a role when Mr. Protas tied her hands
loosely with rope because, he told her, the piece was about being bound
trapped. And, she said, he added that he would be back with duct tape.

 "It was so humiliating," Ms. Brown said. "And there was no one in the
building who would say, 'You can't do these things.' "

  Mr. Protas said that this rehearsal method was used by Graham herself
the piece, "Errand Into the Maze," as a way to connect with the
of being restrained, which he said he told Ms. Brown.

  Critics say as many as 30 dancers, administrators and support staff
left over the years because of Mr. Protas's management style. Mr. Protas
maintains that turnover is natural in any arts organization and that it
been heightened by the company's financial turmoil. Those who have left
include a former managing director, Todd Dellinger.

  He left this year and broke into choking sobs recently when he
recalled a
"sick environment" in which "a bunch of addictive, high-strung
were living in a very dysfunctional office." At the top of the heap, he
said, was Mr. Protas.

 By all accounts, the strains between Mr. Protas and the board created
warring camps and an atmosphere of deep suspicion, with differing
about who was responsible for the growing budgetary problems.

  Mr. Protas maintained that in the last two years he had disengaged
from the administrative management of the company to concentrate on
matters. "They kept saying if you would just go away, everything will be
fine," he said. "And I turn over management to them, and look what

  But Mr. Dellinger said that Mr. Protas had a hand in major
and decisions as small as selecting the company's postcards.

  The feuding ranges beyond the deficit that brought the suspension of
operations in May, to issues as serious as Mr. Protas's maneuvers to
the board's chairman and as small as his irritation with a consultant's
penchant for open-toed sandals and napping on the office floor.

  ("He was a very good organizer and helped the board like never
Francis Mason, the acting chairman, said of the consultant. But, he
conceded, "Maybe he was sleeping under the desk.")

In the end, the board feared that donations would dry up if Mr. Protas
continued in any management role. The Harkness Foundation for Dance had
already withdrawn its support.

 And so, last month, with the school and company shut down, another
showdown was set over what is perhaps Mr. Protas's most powerful hold on
 The board tried to negotiate a new agreement that would allow the
to perform the dances for 10 years with minimal involvement from Mr.
in return for an annual fee about equal to his $100,000 salary as
director. But when his lawyer insisted that Mr. Protas keep some form of
artistic control, the trustees countered with his removal from the

After that vote, four of Mr. Protas's supporters on the board resigned.
don't know why they make Ron the b黎e noire, the scapegoat. I have no
said one of them, Princess Moune Souvanna Phouma of Laos. She added that
every meeting she attended it appeared the board was more intent on
destroying Mr. Protas than on confronting its own financial

 Some Graham dancers and teachers appealed to Mr. Protas to renegotiate
despite the turmoil. When they got no response, they said, the dancers
to discuss the plan to boycott Graham's dances by other companies as
long as
they were licensed through Mr. Protas.

 New battles may be brewing. No one is quite sure what will happen to
Joffrey Ballet's plans to rent costumes for a scheduled performance of
Graham's "Appalachian Spring" in October. Mr. Protas said the costumes
his to rent, but the Martha Graham Center pays for storage in a
that it has outfitted with new locks. Mr. Protas does not have the keys.

 In the meantime the company does not have enough money to move into its
planned quarters in the vast basement of a new building rising on East
Street on the former site of the company's school, which was sold to

 The center began trying to organize classes at an alternative studio
plans for classes at the 92nd Street Y fell through for lack of money.

 "You can't open a school without a dollar for teachers or the
accompanist," said Pearl Lang, a former company dancer and noted
choreographer. "It just makes me sick. If I work with one group, it
seems as
if I'm at war with the other."

 From his office, Mr. Protas holds out the possibility that he might
open a
new school.

 For those who have watched the warfare and sometimes been caught up in
there is nothing less at stake than a language of dance.

 Janet Eilber, whom the company hopes -- money permitting -- to name as
Protas's successor, contends that the mess has to be fixed before the
technique becomes a memory. "Martha could be consigned to a history
class in
10 years unless there are new talent and new disciples," she said. "It
happen incredibly fast. In fact, it's already been happening."

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