[rumori] Fwd: NYTimes.com Article: Forum Asks, Who Owns a Dance?

Date: Thu Oct 10 2002 - 11:01:30 PDT

Hi - am not going to get into the habit of fwding long pieces of writing to
rumori but this is quite relevant to something or other.

> Forum Asks, Who Owns a Dance?
> October 10, 2002
> Authenticity was once the burning issue in American dance.
> When works from earlier eras were revived, how much of the
> original were dancers performing and audiences watching?
> And then, as the years passed and fashions changed, it
> became increasingly difficult even to see work by
> choreographers of the 1930's and 40's, many of them
> pioneers of American modern dance. Now the questions
> revolve around whether choreographers in fact own their own
> dances and even wanted those dances to be seen after their
> deaths, a central issue most recently in the contentious
> Martha Graham case.
> Erick Hawkins, whose life and work will be examined in
> "Erick Hawkins Legacy Forum" Thursday through Sunday at
> Hunter College in Manhattan, is another such artist. Though
> he did not achieve Graham's prominence, his work was
> original and influential, in ways that will be examined at
> the conference, together with what he might have wanted
> that legacy to be. Hawkins, who died in 1994, turned away
> from the highly dramatic psyche-probing modern dance of
> Graham, to whom he was married for six years. His
> distinctive style and technique emphasized clearly
> articulated, flowing and unstrained movement that allowed
> dancers to focus on their bodies rather than their
> characters and emotions.
> "Tight muscles don't feel" was one of Hawkins's core
> beliefs. The result was harmonious, poetic dances that had
> the near-abstraction of haiku and tended to be drawn from
> American myths and rituals and were influenced by Zen
> principles.
> Only one full Hawkins dance has been presented formally
> since his widow, Lucia Dlugoszewski, was found dead in her
> apartment on April 11, 2000. (The exception is "Early
> Floating," which is in the repertory of Mikhail
> Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project in a staging by
> Dlugoszewski.) Neither Dlugoszewski, a composer, nor
> Hawkins left a will, though Dlugoszewski had supervised the
> donation to the Library of Congress by the Erick Hawkins
> Foundation of important creative materials relating to his
> dances. Dlugoszewski inherited his dances and the company
> continued under her direction, even performing works she
> choreographed for it. But the company seemed to die with
> her, and the foundation that Hawkins had created focused on
> the business of settling estate problems.
> The situation is a good deal less fraught than that faced
> by the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. The
> Graham company has performed only once in the two years
> since the center suspended activity because of financial
> problems and was then sued by Graham's heir, Ronald Protas.
> Last month, a federal judge ruled that Graham actually
> owned only one dance in the vast body of work she was
> believed to have left to Mr. Protas, whose lawyer has said
> he will appeal the decision. The center will present a
> public forum on the legal issues next Thursday at the Dance
> N.Y.C. office at the JEHT Foundation, 120 Wooster Street.
> The forum is free for choreographers, but reservations are
> required; the number to call is (212) 966-1638.
> In the Hawkins case, the probate of the estate is in the
> final stages, said Katherine Duke, the director of the
> Hawkins foundation. Ms. Duke has been teaching intensive
> workshops in Hawkins technique and developing new dancers
> to bring into the company when it can be re-formed. Ms.
> Duke said she eventually expects the foundation to license
> performances of the dances. "All of this takes time," Ms.
> Duke said. "And people are anxious for Erick's work to
> continue."
> Jana Feinman, director of the dance program at Hunter
> College, sees some similarities to the Graham case. "It's a
> smaller version of the Graham issues," Ms. Feinman said.
> Hawkins said to many people that when he was gone, he would
> be gone. Dlugoszewski did want a legacy, for both of them.
> "Should they make such decisions?" Ms. Feinman said of the
> two artists who worked so closely together but had such
> different views about the future of their art. "Who should
> decide?"
> That issue came up this year in another of the college's
> "legacy" programs, Ms. Feinman said, this one concerning
> dance masterworks of the 20th century. "People were arguing
> like crazy," Ms. Feinman recalled. "It was wonderful,
> though I hope this will be a friendly, eager discussion
> rather than an argument."
> So far relations between the Wellspring group and the
> foundation and Ms. Duke have been described as cautious but
> more polite than in the Graham case. The Hunter program was
> suggested by Georgia Corner and Joy McEwen, two late-period
> Hawkins dancers who founded the Wellspring Project in 1997
> to offer exposure and a home base to choreographers,
> dancers and teachers trained in and inspired by Hawkins's
> distinctive technique and philosophy. The project is
> sponsoring the forum with Hunter. "Wellspring is a
> wonderful outlet for people who have been touched by Erick
> and Lucy," Ms. Duke said.
> "The Foundation granted permission to Wellspring to
> facilitate a workshop of Hawkins's `Classic Kite Tails' to
> be performed on Friday and Saturday," she said. Also on the
> program will be dances by Ms. Duke and by 10 other
> choreographers, among them Gloria McLean, Louis Kavouras
> and Kelly Holt. There will also be classes and panel
> discussions. Speakers include Vicky Risner, the dance
> specialist at the Library of Congress.
> "The classes are open to all levels and to nondancers," Ms.
> McEwen said. "Dance is the human body, and everyone has a
> body. I would love to get nondancers to come and move.
> They'd feel so much better about their stocks going down.
> And you don't have to be a dancer to sit down and hear
> someone talk."
> Like Ms. Corner and Ms. Duke, Ms. McEwen said her first
> encounter with Hawkins's dance, in 1990, was a near
> religious experience. She had gone to a building on East
> 19th Street to study with Murray Louis and Alwin Nikolais,
> not realizing that they had moved their studio. She rode
> the elevator up and down. Suddenly, the door opened onto a
> studio in which a Hawkins class was in progress.
> "I was mesmerized," she said. "The lovely voice of the
> teacher. The formality of the studio layout. The
> peacefulness. You felt as if you had stepped into something
> magical. And you really felt like you had to step up to the
> plate. I had never seen people move like this."
> Dance has become more and more homogenized in recent
> decades with crossover ballet and modern-dance techniques
> being taught regularly. Ms. McEwen said she recognized the
> purity of the Hawkins style and knew she needed to study a
> technique. "You need some kind of fundamental root to start
> from," she said. "A technique with principles, meaning and
> a whole philosophy behind it. It's not the same as just
> taking classes all over."
> Ms. Duke studied choreography with Dlugoszewski, who taught
> at the Hawkins studio and who, like Hawkins, insisted that
> the dances be performed to live music. "Lucy applied the
> structures of music to the dance," Ms. Duke said of
> Dlugoszewki's teaching. "It's not improvisation. Rather,
> it's a very conscious way of creating and working. I think
> that consciousness was a very big part of the way Erick and
> Lucy worked. They were after that immediacy in the
> performed dance and music. They really wanted to uplift the
> audience through the power of experiencing immediacy."
> Clearly the dances themselves must live on through
> performances by other companies or a reconstituted Hawkins
> troupe. But the spiritual content of Hawkins's
> choreography, a distinctive element in his work, is in the
> end as much a part of the legacy to be examined at Hunter
> this weekend as the dances themselves.
> For Ms. Feinman there is another lesson for her students.
> "What I've discovered as I'm getting older and the students
> are getting younger is that they know less and less about
> their dance legacy," she said. "They can read about it, but
> it's better to experience it in their bodies. They must
> understand where they came from to go ahead."

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