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Martha Graham Dance Company


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#16 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 10:38 AM

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.

#17 kfw

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 12:55 PM

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.

#18 papeetepatrick

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 01:48 PM


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.

#19 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:10 PM

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.

#20 kfw

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:34 PM

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.

#21 papeetepatrick

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 02:52 PM

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:

#22 Helene

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 03:00 PM

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.

#23 kfw

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 03:36 PM

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

#24 Helene

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 03:48 PM

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

#25 miliosr

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 06:06 PM

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.

#26 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 08:37 PM

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 ambitions

You're completely right about it, Patrick. It is not any worse...in fact, morally speaking, Alonso's political maneuvering-(Vaganova's own story come to mind here, BTW)- could rank in a lower level than those of Moffie or whoever got the idea to get her onstage, and I despise this strategy of her as well as I adore her Giselle. Still, Moffie should not had been allowed to be up there...no matter what.

#27 papeetepatrick

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 10:06 PM

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.


That second line ranks as one of the most profound in its simplicity I've ever heard. Everybody secretly knows it, and a lot of people don't want to admit it! You've really tickled me with that one :clapping:

#28 Simon G

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:37 AM

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



KFW,

I really have to take exception to this, Britney, forgotten??? Off the charts???? Passe???? And here I was thinking Balletalert was made up of a community of the most clued in aesthetically minded culture vultures. May I just point out Britney's recent discography, a veritable banquet of poptastic riches:

Albums:
Blackout (2007) Worldwide Sales 3,100,000. US 2 UK 2
Circus (2009) Worldwide Sales 4,000,000 US 1, UK 1
Femme Fatale (MARCH 15th 2011)

Singles:
Gimme More (2007) US 3, UK 3 (US Platinum)
Piece of Me (2007) US 18, UK 2 (US Platinum)
Womanizer (2008) US 1, UK 1
Circus (2009) US 3
If U Seek Amy (2009) US 3
3 (2009) US 1
Hold It Against Me (2010) US 1

Documentaries:
Britney For the Record (2009)

World Tours:
The Circus Starring Britney Spears 2009 - March 3 - Nov 29th 500,000 tickets sold grossing $131m

Currently the fifth biggest recording artiste in the World.


However, I do have to agree with Helene that Lady Gaga would be better suited to the Graham roles in the rep. I can see Britney's special qualities of lyricism and vulnerability would be better suited to the roles once inhabited by Ethel Winter, Helen McGhee & Yuriko.

For the granite magnitude of the roles originated and danced by the likes of May O'Donnell, Mary Hinkson & Jane Dudley who better than Beyonce to step into those (barefooted) shoes. Beyonce would surely smize it fierce in full-on Sasha Fierce mode.

And Justin Bieber for the Merce Cunningham roles? Jay Z for the Hawkins?

#29 Helene

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 11:24 AM

And Justin Bieber for the Merce Cunningham roles?

Oh, I need brain bleach for that thought :lol:

#30 miliosr

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 06:29 AM

Two negative reviews from Alastair Macaulay regarding the Graham company's current performances in New York:

http://www.nytimes.c....html?ref=dance
http://www.nytimes.c....html?ref=dance

The problems Macaulay mentions in the second review are the same ones I wrote about earlier in this thread: Graham dancers not truly believing in Graham's work (thereby rendering it ludicrous) and the works themselves being incomprehensible without the aid of a program.

In the first review, Macaulay states that, "It should go without saying that Martha Graham is one of the greatest of all American artists and one of the great choreographers of all time." If so, why are most reviews of the latter-day Graham company negative in tone? The easy, obvious answer would be to say that the Graham dancers are performing the works in a false way and this falsity obscures the greatness of the works.

A more honest rendering of events would be to ask whether or not the Graham repertory, as a whole, was ever as great as its most ardent propagandists told us it was. (Macaulay himself states that the works she made between 1960 and her death in 1991 aren't worth watching.) In other words, were critics of Martha Graham's day responding to her (and her forceful and magnetic stage personality) or were they responding to the works themselves, some of which (particularly Graham's Post-WWII "Greek phase" works) seem more like performance art than actual dances? Just wondering . . .


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