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 . . .
I really have to take exception with the notion that Graham's genius, contribution and repertory aren't great, nor the work of a true genius, that it was Graham's personality not choreographic genius that was the main draw. But yes, I do agree that the company is in an atrocious state.
Macauley unkindly suggests that her last three decades of achievement were worthless but in that time she choreographed "Acrobats of God", Phaedra, and many beautiful works such as Acts of Light, which demonstrated that while the main thrust of her creativity was spent, she still had it, she knew how to construct thrilling, beautiful, technically demanding dance that leaves many of the dancemakers today in the dust.
I last saw the company in 2003 and they were bad, the quality of dancers was mediocre to downright poor and it's sad that Janet Eilber seems to not trust the legacy of Graham enough to speak for itself, but trusts Richard Wilson, the egregious Richard Move etc to provide the main body of an evening while programming around them second rate Graham works.
Macauley also takes out of context De Mille's "Wagner Picasso" statement, in that the argument is that Picasso & Wagner created out of an existing art form, progressing it to the next level, whereas Graham literally remade the world in her image precisely because there was nothing there.
It's a tragedy that Graham's contribution to the world theatre is so underappreciated now, but the Graham technique which provided the cornerstone of contemporary dance training for decades trains dancers in matchless core strength. Also the main body of Graham's rep is just a catalogue of beautiful, riveting, awesome dance - it's just a pity that no one is dancing the works, or at the very least with no awareness of what they actually are.
Seeing old films of Heretic, Frontier, Appalachian Spring, Diversion of Angels, created on those matchless dance personalities her genius is irrefutable, the works speak for themselves, the tragedy is that now they're entrusted to dancers and a company so battered and flailing for identity they lose all meaning.
Someone asked why Graham's works aren't controlled by a trust, they are just as Balanchine's, the sad fact is that no one wants to dance them anymore, no ballet company wants to train its dancers to dance Appalachian Spring, Diversion those works which could be staged on ballet dancers (Paris Opera, ABT both once danced selected works). Because Graham technique is hard and ruthless but absolutely magical and beautiful.
Even in Graham's lifetime people complained that from about the mid to late 70s on, the ascension of Protas, that Graham dance and dancers were losing their identity, but if you look at the company then they're all virtuosos, albeit very balletic, as compared to that pale imitation of Graham we have now.
I don't disagree that the company is now a sad pale shadow, but I absolutely disagree with anyone who may suggest that Graham was anything less than one of the greatest dance geniuses who ever lived. Her contribution to what we have is beyond immense and her best work are masterpieces. However, seeing what they are now, makes me realise that Cunningham's decision is the best one, rather than have his company and work head down this same route.