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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
 http://www.sfc.keio.ac.jp/~yukihiko/graham.html)
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
http://www.danceinsider.com/

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
http://www.danceinsider.com/
You can see some infomation and the processes of trouble
http://www.danceinsider.com/

===== 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,
concerted
action by the international artistic community is essential.  Martha's
work
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
must
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
Dance
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
it
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,
longstanding
conflict over artistic issues and finances between the Center and Mr.
Protas.  This and the failure of Mr. Protas to honor an agreement to
step
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
his
exploitation of this position has alienated presenters, sponsors and
members
of the philanthropic community thus preventing the Center from receiving
the
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,
he
has now announced that he has withdrawn permission for the Martha Graham
Dance Company to perform all the ballets she created on the Company ?
while
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
a
restructuring must ensure a respectful, constructive, artistically
driven
working environment with complete autonomy for the Center and allow
invaluable contributions of past and present artists of the Graham
Company
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
of
dancers, runs the deep commitment to the Martha Graham technique and
theater
necessary to the mastery of her work.  This continuity and commitment
makes
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,
the
world would be deprived of the home Martha Graham created nearly 75
years
ago uniquely dedicated to the creation and continued performance of her
work.

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

All of us know the cost of acting on this statement.  We do so because
our
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
Martha
Graham and ask that he honor his commitment to Martha's work by
negotiating
a new licensing agreement with the Center to ensure the life of the
Company
and School.

Prominent individuals and organizations in the arts and cultural world
have
come forward to offer their support to the Company in this emergency.
The
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
international
artistic community to stand with us to bring about these changes to
preserve
some of the most profound dance art created in the modern world.


NewYorkTimes/0707/2000

Bitter Standoff Imperils a Cherished Dance Legacy
By DOREEN CARVAJAL

 Things looked bleak for the Martha Graham dance company six weeks ago
when
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
would
take them. That artistic director, Ron Protas, whom Graham herself chose
to
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
Graham's
dances.

  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
perform,
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
laughter.
 Hanging in the balance, they say, is the legacy of America's great
master
of modern dance, which, without a school to teach her particular
technique
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
destroy
the art in the process of trying to save it. Dance is a living
tradition,
and once you kill the school, there's a danger that the repertory could
be
lost in just a few years." The school has 500 students.

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

 It would be Mr. Protas, she wrote, the untiring acolyte who for nearly
25
years shadowed her on rehearsals and tours with a yellow legal pad and
dark,
oversize glasses, scribbling down her dance commentary and absorbing her
technique. He was the devoted aide who nursed her back from serious
illness
and bouts of alcohol-induced isolation and depression, enabling her to
create and produce more dances when the prospects for this seemed dim.
It
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,
is
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
others.


  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
school.

 "I'm not a saint, but they seem to blame everything but the Crucifixion
on
me," he observed dryly. At 59 he is zealous and sometimes prickly in
seeking
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
in
1991, started what is now the nation's oldest dance
company in 1926 and created stark dances and highly dramatic ones that
used
her movement vocabulary, the Graham technique.


 Mr. Protas, a restless man with tight tousled curls and a voice that
dips
into a slow whisper to punctuate points, took over full control as
artistic
director of the company after Graham's death. That meant he made
critical
decisions about casting, selection of the season's ballets and
appointment
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
finished.


  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
Harold
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
a
big part of it," Mr. Protas said.


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

 Encoded in the word "businesslike" is a sharp critique, by Ms.
Schlosser
and many others, of Mr. Protas's perceived way of doing business and
dealing
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
renegotiate
matters that had already been decided.

 "I cannot work with Ron Protas again," said Ken Fischer, president of
the
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
the
support identified. But I don't feel I can do it if I have to work with
Ron.
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
not
dance himself. Critics say that resentment increased because of his
brusque
treatment of dancers, who were frequently reduced to tears by his
critiques.

 "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
the
ocean if you have never seen it."

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

 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
and
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
for
the piece, "Errand Into the Maze," as a way to connect with the
experience
of being restrained, which he said he told Ms. Brown.

  Critics say as many as 30 dancers, administrators and support staff
have
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
had
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
personalities
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
accounts
about who was responsible for the growing budgetary problems.

  Mr. Protas maintained that in the last two years he had disengaged
himself
from the administrative management of the company to concentrate on
artistic
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
happens."

  But Mr. Dellinger said that Mr. Protas had a hand in major
transactions
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
replace
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
before,"
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
crucial
showdown was set over what is perhaps Mr. Protas's most powerful hold on
the
Gr
 The board tried to negotiate a new agreement that would allow the
company
to perform the dances for 10 years with minimal involvement from Mr.
Protas
in return for an annual fee about equal to his $100,000 salary as
artistic
director. But when his lawyer insisted that Mr. Protas keep some form of
artistic control, the trustees countered with his removal from the
board.

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

 Some Graham dancers and teachers appealed to Mr. Protas to renegotiate
despite the turmoil. When they got no response, they said, the dancers
began
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
the
Joffrey Ballet's plans to rent costumes for a scheduled performance of
Graham's "Appalachian Spring" in October. Mr. Protas said the costumes
were
his to rent, but the Martha Graham Center pays for storage in a
warehouse
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
63rd
Street on the former site of the company's school, which was sold to
reduce
debt.

 The center began trying to organize classes at an alternative studio
after
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
it,
there is nothing less at stake than a language of dance.

 Janet Eilber, whom the company hopes -- money permitting -- to name as
Mr.
Protas's successor, contends that the mess has to be fixed before the
Graham
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
will
happen incredibly fast. In fact, it's already been happening."


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