The Wrecking Ball

Graham Company Embraces Change

Perhaps most importantly, he's negotiating the appointment of a new artistic director, Janet Eilber, to succeed Protas in July 2000. Eilber danced many of Graham's roles in the '70s and '80s and has guested with the company recently.

Protas, who'll devote his energies to the trust and other projects, sounds relieved. "In the past we were always dealing with crisis management," he says. "This is the first time in 20 years I've had someone to work with on the future."

At the Joyce, the troupe's focusing on the very old and very new. Twelve of the 14 Graham dances scheduled predate the company's arrival on East 63rd Street, as if to downplay its significance. The older pieces run from the frontier ritualism of Primitive Mysteries (1931) and Appalachian Spring (1944) to the sex-and-death allegories Errand Into the Maze and Night Journey (both 1947). Also scheduled is a suite by Wilson, Tharp, Maurice Béjart, and Lucinda Childs, called Duets for Martha, and Stroman's But Not for Me: Gershwin/Graham.

The company performs later this year in London and on the continent. Bookings for 2000 already include 25 cities. Things are picking up at the school, too. Sophie Maslow and Pearl Lang, who danced with Graham in the '30s and '40s, are back teaching and enrollment's inching upward.

Leaving the House of Pelvic Truth has been hard, but Protas and Dellinger plan to save the floorboards and barres and reinstall them in the new studios. The deal with M1 Properties would give the operation 55 percent more space than it has now, at well below market rate. If the city lets the developer build two floors higher, the troupe will end up with nearly twice as much space rent free. The favorable terms came about because Rose Caiola, the daughter of M1 Properties chief Bennedetto Caiola, used to take dance classes at the school and just joined the board.

The move raises questions about which parts of Graham's legacy are worth saving— and at what cost. At least one leading arts manager comes down on the side of Protas and Dellinger. "In the end it's about the ballets, not the space," says Michael Kaiser, who helped the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and American Ballet Theatre wipe out multimillion-dollar debts.

Protas puts it more grandly: "Martha is more than East 63rd Street. Martha is universal."

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