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Legendary Dance Company Turns Adversity Into Art

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The legendary Martha Graham Dance Company is the oldest dance company in America. Sadly, Sandy flooded its storage space and much of its physical history was lost during Sandy. Six months later, the dance troupe continues to rebuild. NY1's Stephanie Simon filed the following report.

When performed on stage, "Errand into the Maze" typically looks a lot different with costumes and sets. But after Sandy the Martha Graham Dance Company is turning adversity into art.


"It gave us an opportunity actually to try a new version of one of Martha Graham's classic dances, 'Errand into the Maze.' And we decided to feature the choreography itself without the classic set and without the traditional costumes to give audiences a fresh look at it," says Martha Graham Dance Company Artistic Director Janet Eilber.

But many challenges remain. In the basement, black marks close to the ceiling show the water line.

"We had all of our 80 years of costumes and historic sets stored in the basement here at Westbeth and it was flooded and they were submerged for almost two weeks," says Eilber.

The force of the water broke through the wall before flooding the entire space.

"We had over 5,000 costumes in our basement and they needed to be pulled out essentially one by one," says Martha Graham Dance Company Executive Director LaRue Allen. "We immediately threw out about 1,000. The rest we sent for cleaning and laundering and then we threw out another thousand because they didn't survive the laundering process and we've been rebuilding since that time."

The late Martha Graham was the mother of modern dance. It is a huge piece of artistic history that is lost forever.

"Much of it is priceless. We threw away costumes that were actually worn by Martha Graham and there is no way that you can put a dollar amount on that," notes Allen.

The company estimates more than $6 million worth of theatrical and non theatrical property was lost.

But the dances and choreography survive. The company is continuing to tour as it rebuilds.

Martha Graham Dance company will perform for free in Central Park in July.

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