abatt

Martha Graham Dance Company

44 posts in this topic

I can't see the problem, it's just for the gala, and not for a serious piece. Galas are supposed to be a little less 'serious art', aren't they? I've heard of a lot of sillier things for galas. The worst thing is they don't have enough money, and I never heard them with a live orchestra but once in the last years. Maybe the quality has gone down seriously in the last couple of years, but the 'socialites' have always been a big deal with Graham (from Bethsabee Rothschild to Jacqueline Onassis, although I guess they didn't 'dance'.)

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Of course, one of the socialites is named 'Muffie'! :) (see Official Preppy Handbook, ca 1980) I'm with papeeteep here, though. Hey, if it brings in much-needed ca$h and it's a one-time thing, bring it on!

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I don't know, but I've never been convinced about the ever popular "all for the much-needed cash" mantra. And yes, the few times I've said to welcome the idea I've just been totally sarcastic. When I read this post, Irina Baronova's autobiography came to mind right away, about when she said that by the time she showed little discrimination in the jobs she accepted-(those at the Roxy theater)- in lieu of ballet assignments due to a good cash influx, Igor Youskevitch crudely criticized her for “prostituting her art".

So I just hope I never get to see some Miami socialites wearing tutus at the Arsht Center...

Edited to add;

Just for the records of rich socialites as dancers, here's a glimpse of some of the most famous ones down here...so just imagine them up onstage...

I mean..."MUFFIE"?!...Really...?!

Ah...Disgraceful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqqVNvTPDsg

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Cristian--it's only for one night, and it's not even the only piece on the program. I'd as lief see it as the 45-50 minute piece by Peter Martins and Paul McCartney for their gala--and I don't mean just the Martins either. That's far more depressing to me, and they never have to worry about having recorded music at NYCB. Not that I might not be at least as happy with it, with their often poor orchestral-playing level, and the dreadful acoustics at Koch Theater (I'd much rather see RDB at the Met so as to hear the music properly as well as see this beautiful company, but I can't imagine they'd sell enough, it's too rarefied, not flashy enough.) McCartney's 'Liverpool Oratorio' was no better than okay, and made worth listening to only because of Hadley and TeKanawa and that beautiful church deserved something special (I've been in it, and it's quite awesome). And if $$$$$ don't matter that much, then in that case, NYCB should do without all its improvements that David H. Koch's $$$$$$$$$$ made (and didn't made.) Martha Graham having to use recorded music? It's ridiculous. I don't care how they get the money, frankly, since NYCB has certainly proved they don't care who they get it from (and that's not because I blame them either, I don't, but they're stuck with a not entirely pristine record, in this case, IF you know what I mean...) Admittedly, the combo of McCartney/Martins makes it sound doubly bad, and with Koch's money they didn't even have to do it either (but they think it's WONDERFUL, you know.)

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Here's a tidbit that made my stomach turn. How far the Graham Company has fallen:

http://cityroom.blog...-the-socialites

I agree, abatt. Sad.

Rich women donating money and time is one thing, and often a good one. This is quite another. You'd think they'd be embarrassed, but dancing onstage is a fantasy for many women, and these just happen to have the deep pockets to make it happen.

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I agree, abatt. Sad.

Rich women donating money and time is one thing, and often a good one. This is quite another. You'd think they'd be embarrassed, but dancing onstage is a fantasy for many women, and these just happen to have the deep pockets to make it happen.

Sad, yes, that the satisfaction of aiding the company (and having their names on the donors list in the program) isn't reward enough. But this is just a logical extension of the "naming opportunities" that give us the "Koch" Theater and the Your-Corporate-Name-Here sports stadium. Call it egotism, call it the fulfillment of a fantasy (funny, I never, ever dreamed of partnering Patrica McBride) it's really nothing new. What really fascinates me is the thought that a gala audience might countenance this display. I've heard of Dancing with the Stars. Dancing by My Upper East Side Neighbor? Will the $600 and up gala attendees really accept this? And what does it say about the company that their gala excludes people who can't or won't pony up 600 bucks?

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I remember when a Graham gala involved Nureyev and Fonteyn in a serious piece tailored for them, and people thought Martha was selling out! Now we've come to this.

Yes, it is tacky, and moreover, doesn't exactly sound like a brilliant fundraising gimmick. Who would want to see this, other than the women's family and friends? Let's hope there are enough of them to fill the theater. I fear it will drive away potential attendees,who will avoid having to sit through an embarrassing vanity piece.

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I agree, abatt. Sad.

Rich women donating money and time is one thing, and often a good one. This is quite another. You'd think they'd be embarrassed, but dancing onstage is a fantasy for many women, and these just happen to have the deep pockets to make it happen.

Sad, yes, that the satisfaction of aiding the company (and having their names on the donors list in the program) isn't reward enough. But this is just a logical extension of the "naming opportunities" that give us the "Koch" Theater and the Your-Corporate-Name-Here sports stadium. Call it egotism, call it the fulfillment of a fantasy (funny, I never, ever dreamed of partnering Patrica McBride) it's really nothing new. What really fascinates me is the thought that a gala audience might countenance this display. I've heard of Dancing with the Stars. Dancing by My Upper East Side Neighbor? Will the $600 and up gala attendees really accept this? And what does it say about the company that their gala excludes people who can't or won't pony up 600 bucks?

A gala is for one reason only -- to raise money. The job of the Gala Committee is to haul out its collective rolodex and 1) fill as many $3,500 $25,000* tables as possible, 2) pack the souvenir dinner program with paid ads, and 3) score loot for the swag bag. (Tickets to the actual performance are for the little people to buy and sell. $600 in the NYC benefit circuit is chump change.) The benefit circuit is crowded and competitive, and the performance itself isn't what's going to fill those tables. A good show is nice, but that's not why the donors are there. Many are there because their friends and business associates have persuaded them to pony up the requisite bucks - and they're there to network, too, of course. (Some of these folks do three events a night during the high season - drinks at one, dinner at another, dessert and dancing at a third. An actual performance challenges the evening's schedule.) Putting Somers Farkas, Cornelia Guest, Grace Hightower, Karen Lefrak, and Muffie Aston Potter on stage - now that might help fill some tables. (My guess is that these ladies haven't just donated money -- they're out working the phones or whatever socialites work these days to sell those tables. They know why they're on the program.) Patronage -- 'twere ever thus. Felix Rohatyn slammed the whole benefit gala hustle back in 1986 and was duly exiled from the social circuit for a while for his pains.

I'm with Papeetepatrick: it's harmless. It's for one night only, and then it will go away. And who knows, it might actually be charming.

*Edited to add: Just checked the gala details- a top table (for 10) goes for $25K. The $3.5K tables are for "young professionals 35 and under." And now I see the logic of putting a glitzy hotel with a big function room and a performance venue in the same building ...

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George Balanchine and various other choreographers had the benefit of very good legal advice. Their works cannot be performed in any public setting without the approval of a trust which oversees performance quality and standards of the copyrighted choreography. Apparently there is no such quality control over the performance of the Martha Graham works, since socialites with no dance experience or qualifications will be "performing." It is my understanding that the socialites will be performing in a public space - the Rose Theater at Jazz At Lincoln Center, where people have paid to see the performance. This is not being performed in someone's private living room or private estate. That's why this situation is so outrageous, in my opinion.

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George Balanchine and various other choreographers had the benefit of very good legal advice. Their works cannot be performed in any public setting without the approval of a trust which oversees performance quality and standards of the copyrighted choreography. Apparently there is no such quality control over the performance of the Martha Graham works, since socialites with no dance experience or qualifications will be "performing." It is my understanding that the socialites will be a performance in a public space - the Rose Theater at Jazz At Lincoln Center, where people have paid to see the performance. This is not being performed in someone's private living room or private estate. That's why this situation is so outrageous, in my opinion.

Perhaps "Maple Leaf Rag" is indestructible, but yes, if they're going to do actual violence to the work it might have been better to commission a nice little capriccio from a choreographer who was up for the challenge. Sad to say, it would probably cost less than the flowers for the tables.

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The job of the Gala Committee is to haul out its collective rolodex and 1) fill as many $3,500 $25,000* tables as possible, 2) pack the souvenir dinner program with paid ads, and 3) score loot for the swag bag. (Tickets to the actual performance are for the little people to buy and sell. $600 in the NYC benefit circuit is chump change.) The benefit circuit is crowded and competitive, and the performance itself isn't what's going to fill those tables. A good show is nice, but that's not why the donors are there. Many are there because their friends and business associates have persuaded them to pony up the requisite bucks - and they're there to network, too, of course. (Some of these folks do three events a night during the high season - drinks at one, dinner at another, dessert and dancing at a third. An actual performance challenges the evening's schedule.) Putting Somers Farkas, Cornelia Guest, Grace Hightower, Karen Lefrak, and Muffie Aston Potter on stage - now that might help fill some tables. (My guess is that these ladies haven't just donated money -- they're out working the phones or whatever socialites work these days to sell those tables. They know why they're on the program.) Patronage -- 'twere ever thus. Felix Rohatyn slammed the whole benefit gala hustle back in 1986 and was duly exiled from the social circuit for a while for his pains.

Wow...I wish I could "get" this...

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You make good points, Kathleen, but tickets to the actual performance run $600, effectively excluding the "little people" altogether. So the company's opening night becomes the private plaything, in more than one sense of the word, of the rich.

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George Balanchine and various other choreographers had the benefit of very good legal advice. Their works cannot be performed in any public setting without the approval of a trust which oversees performance quality and standards of the copyrighted choreography. Apparently there is no such quality control over the performance of the Martha Graham works, since socialites with no dance experience or qualifications will be "performing." It is my understanding that the socialites will be a performance in a public space - the Rose Theater at Jazz At Lincoln Center, where people have paid to see the performance. This is not being performed in someone's private living room or private estate. That's why this situation is so outrageous, in my opinion.

Perhaps "Maple Leaf Rag" is indestructible, but yes, if they're going to do actual violence to the work it might have been better to commission a nice little capriccio from a choreographer who was up for the challenge. Sad to say, it would probably cost less than the flowers for the tables.

An article in a local UES paper yesterday said that the piece is a parody. So, isn't this really fitting?

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The performance at the Rose Theater has tickets available at all price levels according to the website of Jazz at Lincoln Center, which runs/rents the Rose Theater. I just checked the website for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and ticket prices for the performance only on March 15 range from $73 to $133. Tickets for the performance can be purchased by the general public. It is only the gala dinner that costs $600. The socialites are performing at the Rose Theater. Apart from being an insult to Graham's legacy, this is tantamount to consumer fraud because the unsuspecting public believes they are buying tickets to see a dance performance by a professional dance company, when in fact they will be seeing the socialites "perform" Maple Leaf Rag.

What's next? David Koch as Apollo? Oh, wait, the Balanchine Trust would never allow it.

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You make good points, Kathleen, but tickets to the actual performance run $600, effectively excluding the "little people" altogether. So the company's opening night becomes the private plaything, in more than one sense of the word, of the rich.

Don't misunderstand me -- I'd prefer that it were otherwise. But if the company could fill every opening night gala seat at $600 per, should they forgo the opportunity to raise the extra money and let seats go for less?

I'd be interested to know how much they will actually net from the gala in any event.

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Don't misunderstand me -- I'd prefer that it were otherwise. But if the company could fill every opening night gala seat at $600 per, should they forgo the opportunity to raise the extra money and let seats go for less?

Perhaps they could find a bigger theater? :)

Thanks for the correction, abatt.

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You make good points, Kathleen, but tickets to the actual performance run $600, effectively excluding the "little people" altogether. So the company's opening night becomes the private plaything, in more than one sense of the word, of the rich.

Don't misunderstand me -- I'd prefer that it were otherwise. But if the company could fill every opening night gala seat at $600 per, should they forgo the opportunity to raise the extra money and let seats go for less?

I'd be interested to know how much they will actually net from the gala in any event.

I agree with Kathleen that they should get just as much money as they can, they are UNDERFUNDED. And why shouldn't the galas be just the 'plaything of the rich', since they're willing to pay and enjoy the social aspect of it, as being members of the charity ball circuit and all the rest--who else could enjoy it? nobody but these people are the insiders of that class; they're not worried about 'getting quality', at least for that gala night. Serious dancegoers all know that galas are more about the celebration than the art itself, which you can see better almost any other time. Why should 'the little people' even want to take on such things? I've never had even the slightest desire to go to a gala, although I don't think of myself exactly as a 'little people' just because I haven't the money for galas. As Leona might have said 'Galas, unlike taxes, are not for the little people'. That wise old sage.

kfw--it's always about the money at the fundraisers, that's what those are for--or really at any 'exclusive event'. When Barbra Streisand did her corny act at the Village Vanguard in Autumn, 2009, there were these fiercely-competitive competitions to win the few available seats for the non-V.I.P.'s, and so a few people got to go to the performance. However, they were NOT allowed to go to the after-performance party uptown; this was for the Clintons (all three) and the other 'important people'. Streisand has always done this kind of super-snobbery back with her big obscenely-priced concerts beginning about 1994, and she's even an artist. None of them are any different from the other, it's just that some are more needy than others. Peter Martins wouldn't even do a toast at that first event with Koch because of 'hard economic times' or some such rot (or he wouldn't provide vodka for the audience, as had been at the 100th Balanchine birthday; of course, he made sure to be smug to the audience anyway, as if that's expected, maybe it is as far as I know). Everything Kathleen says about the networking and the connections, the socialites are heavy into doing that kind of work, they love arm-twisting, breaking heads, and practically blackmailing people into paying for these expensive tickets and donations. I've heard choreographers do 'begging ads' on WQXR some 15 or 20 years ago--asking for a minimum of $300,000, it was one of the weirdest things I ever heard, and I don't know how it worked or not; and what's wrong with that if he got it?). Always the people that pay more get more social privileges, but that does not translate to artistic privileges, and it's totally democratic when it comes to performances with live orchestra of 'Appalachian Spring' and 'Letter to the World' and 'Cave of the Heart'. These 'vulgar galas' pay for those pristine, unforgettable performances, and I will never forget the difference in seeing the Graham in 2005 at CCenter with live orchestra: All the other times it was recorded music, and it made more the difference with the Graham company than any I've ever seen.

I think it quite extraordinary that people resent the Graham company, which has always been on hard times even when she was alive (or always had periods of it), for doing some 'down on all fours' stuff, when NYCB gets funding that hardly is within the liberal tradition of the Arts, then plans a mind-numbing gala with two self-congratulatory names working together for some blown-up thing that sounds somewhat better than Spider-Man, most likely. Both had been better at their original professions, one as dancer, the other as pop singer/composer, and are now advanced socially, so can do these silly projects.

also, Cristian, why is some little frivolity with silly women who can't dance but 'got money' any worse than a great legend of ballet, your own idol, working with the Castro regime because of her own ambitiions (I'm not saying she shouldn't have, just that she did the cozying up that some are not going to think was the most altruistic or tasteful thing they ever heard of). And it's all political when it comes to 'socialites', in the Graham case, and 'Tea Party donors' in someone else's case. You can talk about 'discussion not to be held on political matters', but these 'socialites' and their networking and fundraising is all political, although usually called 'social', since it's upper-class matters. In these matters, it's all a matter of 'which bad taste is the worst bad taste', because it's all bad taste, from Peter's galas of a few years ago with maybe THREE Ives pieces in it (who'd want to hear all that much Ives at a gala but some down-freak?) Artists can just talk a line about being non-political and non-mercenary, but that's all it ever is; they're as political and as economically-oriented as anybody else, maybe just not 'purists' when it come to hedge funds, because, you know, when you get right down to it, it's those greedy Wall Streeters who see the 'purity' in derivatives, hedge-funds, and are always interested, when push comes to shove, in bailouts that allow a return to unjust exec. bonuses. What artist can possibly aspire to such 'purism' when it comes to lucre?

In short, what really is the difference in 'where you get the money from' that Helene has pointed out many times is something artists just can't do? What is the difference in a few socialites getting out to one of Graham's least serious works and having a little fun with it, since it's hardly 'Acts of Light' we're seeing there anyway? What is the difference in 'taking their money' for something that disappears and having to 'sell the name' of a theater to a big right-wing donor? I don't think that's the worst thing in the world either, except that the results for the hall don't seem so much the better, but what Graham company is doing in terms of possibly 'pandering' (at least this time) doesn't hold a candle to what other artists have done. UNLESS people are ready to say that all that right-wing funding should make people now say 'I can't believe the New York City Ballet would ever fall so low'.

In any case, the 'really little people' are excluded from ALL ballet performances: They can't afford 5th Ring or Standing Room, and they never ever do see a real ballet either. So if the 'middle little people' are excluded from Martha Graham Co.'s much-needed fundraising gala, then I couldn't care less.

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Don't misunderstand me -- I'd prefer that it were otherwise. But if the company could fill every opening night gala seat at $600 per, should they forgo the opportunity to raise the extra money and let seats go for less?

Perhaps they could find a bigger theater? :)

Thanks for the correction, abatt.

Or, generous donors might actually subsidize some lower-priced gala tickets. Or -- and this was Rohatyn's point way back in the 80's -- wealthy donors could just make donations and forgo the black-tie folderol altogether. But access and philanthropy have gotten so inextricably linked in NYC that I'm not sure it could ever happen.

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And why shouldn't the galas be just the 'plaything of the rich', since they're willing to pay and enjoy the social aspect of it, as being members of the charity ball circuit and all the rest--who else could enjoy it? nobody but these people are the insiders of that class; they're not worried about 'getting quality', at least for that gala night. Serious dancegoers all know that galas are more about the celebration than the art itself, which you can see better almost any other time. Why should 'the little people' even want to take on such things? I've never had even the slightest desire to go to a gala, although I don't think of myself exactly as a 'little people' just because I haven't the money for galas.

I don't think of you as a little people either, patrick. :D And I agree with what you said earlier, that this will hardly be the ruin of the company or anything. And I don't have any real desire to go to a gala either, although it's fun to see famous people one admires. But it's the symbolism of the event that puts me off: the fact that opening night is a socialite's plaything, and that they're trivializing the art (although I can understand the argument that Maple Leaf Rag is all in fun anyhow). Of course you and Kathleen are quite right about the money aspect. But that doesn't mean I don't find vulgarity disheartening.

Always the people that pay more get more social privileges, but that does not translate to artistic privileges

Except this time.

I think it quite extraordinary that people resent the Graham company, which has always been on hard times even when she was alive (or always had periods of it), for doing some 'down on all fours' stuff, when NYCB gets funding that hardly is within the liberal tradition of the Arts, then plans a mind-numbing gala with two self-congratulatory names working together for some blown-up thing that sounds somewhat better than Spider-Man, most likely.

Well I don't "resent" them, although if I were a Graham aficionado I might just resent what they're doing here. I don't see the connection, though.

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Always the people that pay more get more social privileges, but that does not translate to artistic privileges

Except this time.

This is not artistic privileges, and those people who are doing it know that. Yes, David Koch did not demand the privilege of dancing in Darci's Farewell Performance, BUT... :P

By 'artistic privileges' I mean what you and I and other dance-lovers get without even paying very much. I'd call what these 'ballerinas' are getting is 'Provincial School of Ballet and Tap' privileges. And these people are anything but stupid. But there can be no mistake that 'Maple Leaf Rag' would have been one of the few options, and that's why it doesn't matter artistically. It's primarily distinguished because of being her last work, and the near-miraculous old creative age she lived to. Now, if I were to see them deciding to let Britney Spears do 'Lamentation' and insist on getting the stretchy garment made for her...yes, that would be different. As it is, this probably won't be as bad as Lee Radziwill in that horrible performance she did in Capote's teleplay of 'Laura'. I rather think the socialites themselves know not to ask to do 'Herodiade'. :yahoo:

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Aren't the fairy tale characters in "Sleeping Beauty" a representation of the aristocracy playing in costumes at one of their celebratory balls?

We wouldn't have ballet if the French aristocrats weren't dancing with each other.

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Now, if I were to see them deciding to let Britney Spears do 'Lamentation' and insist on getting the stretchy garment made for her...yes, that would be different.

Yes it would. But Britney Spears? Isn't she long off the charts? I can see you must be living right, since you have even less familiarity with that segment of commercial pop music than I do. On the other hand, I had almost managed to forget Spears before I read your post. No thanks to you for reminding me. :P

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If Lady Gaga did it, they could pay for the Martha Graham Dance Company for the remainder of the decade.

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Why is this travesty surprising people?

The Graham company doesn't know what it wants to be or even has much of a clue about Martha Graham. In 2006, I saw a company performance where the dancers gave prepared remarks between dances that actually made Graham an object of ridicule and even derision. In 2009, I saw them immolate themselves with an ill-advised revival of the incomprehensible Clytemnestra. More recently, they have been performing a program called Dance Is a Weapon, which makes the ahistorical claim that Graham, who was basically apolitical, was boldly fighting all along for economic, political and social justice. And now we have some slumming socialites performing with the company even though Graham was famously restrictive in her lifetime regarding who could perform in her dances and with her company.

It kills me to write this but maybe Merce Cunningham had the right idea. Better to kill it yourself than to watch your acolytes make such a hash of things.

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