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Martha Graham Dance Company - Phaedra, Lamentation, Diversion of Angels, Chronicle
-Onstage with the Dancers

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(www.marthagrahamdance.org)

Martha Graham: Founder, Dancer, Choreographer
Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin: Artistic Directors
Marvin Preston: Executive Director
Isamu Noguchi and Arch Lauterer: Scenery Design
Beverly Emmons, Jean Rosenthal, David Finley, Steven L. Shelley: Lighting Design
Aaron Sherber: Music Director/Conductor
Kate Elliott: General Manager
Michael Stewart: Production Stage Manager
Paul B. Ziemer: Production Manager
Beverly Emmons: Lighting Supervisor
Russell Vogler, Jeffrey Wirsing, Karen Young: Costumers
Kenneth Topping: Director, Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance
General Strategic Marketing, Ltd., Martha Thomases: Publicity


Presented at the Joyce Theater
www.joyce.org

Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
February 1, 2003

Phaedra (1962): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Robert Starer, Set by Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Christine Dakin, Tadej Brdnik, Kenneth Topping, Erica Dankmeyer, Miki Orihara, Alessandra Prosperi, and the Company. In another amazing tour de force, Kenneth Topping, as the tortured husband, Theseus, of Christine Dakin, as Phaedra, who is not only unfaithful to him, but is involved with Tadej Brdnik, as Hippolytus, her step-son, as a result of a curse from a jealous Goddess, Miki Orihara, as Aphrodite, who, herself, wanted this step-son, but he had his eyes on a different Goddess, Artemis, the blond, Erica Dankmeyer. To make matters worse, Phaedra's mother had been, herself, forced to conceive a Minotaur, from a union with a bull. In fact, the chorus is composed of Bull Dancers, with horns.

Dysfunctional as the story may be, this is a stark, dark, and dramatic work, one of Martha Graham's relatively late pieces, and watching this scenario unfold, with this seasoned and magnificent Company, starring Mr. Topping, Mr. Brdnik, Ms. Dakin, and Ms. Orihara, is a riveting and mesmerizing experience. Mr. Topping and Ms. Dakin, in fantastic shape and the peak of energy and versatility, replete with dramatic and dynamic tension and taut muscular limbs, make this work pierce our souls and sear our hearts which will further enhance this reading.

Lamentation (1930): One of my newfound joys this Graham Season is to discover the very talented Katherine Crockett. She can exude serenity or sadness, elegance or anguish, poise or passion. In this repeat review, it should be mentioned that Ms. Crockett is a study of internal war, of the results of emotional disaster and the catharsis of unleashing those emotions, in a somatic whirlwind. Her use of the purple shroud is fascinating to behold, as she and the shroud almost appear as a new Noguchi set, soft and surreal.

Diversion of Angels (1948): On this viewing, it should be noted that the dancers, as the three aspects of love, as well as the remaining Company, turn the entire stage into the imaginary garden, a kaleidoscope of bursts of color and motion. To offset the anger and anguish of the adjoining pieces, this work is upbeat and ephemeral, with a score by Norman Dello Joio, whose music I had not before heard. I would especially like to mention Erica Dankmeyer's fluidity and technical skill, as the adolescent lover in Yellow. Fang Yi Sheu was again brilliant as the Lover in Red, and, at this matinee, Catherine Lutton and Gary Galbraith were superb as the mature lovers in White.

Sketches from Chronicle (1936): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Wallingford Riegger, Partially Orchestrated and Arranged by Stanley Sussman, Partially Re-Orchestrated by Justin Dello Joio, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Partial New Lighting Design by David Finley, Partial New Lighting Design by Steven L. Shelley, Performed by Elizabeth Auclair, Miki Orihara, and the Company. Just when I thought I had seen all the major works, along came Chronicle. This piece, in three sections, is completely danced by women. It is a Prelude to War, to devastation, to death and destruction. I was not familiar with the music of Wallingford Riegger, which is dramatic, percussive, passionate, and evocative.

Elizabeth Auclair's solo in the first section, Spectre - 1914, includes a costume, designed by Martha Graham, which is internally a deep, blood red, and externally, the deepest black I have ever seen. Ms. Auclair makes full use of her black pedestal and full-length cloak, to unpeel and wrap herself in the internal foldings of this cloak, as if her entrails and blood are seeping and surrounding her entire body, head to toe. Miki Orihara is a dynamo in the second section, Steps in the Street, in a long black dress, with the all female Company, in look alike black dresses, replete with slits for leg thrusts, turning cartwheels and marching with fists clenched and focused torsos.

The emotions in this work are primitive and timeless. The third section, Prelude to Action, reminds me of the mood of the classic film, Alexander Nevsky, which could also serve as a dance of War. Terese Capucilli, Co-Artistic Director of the Graham Company, with some assistance, researched this very early Graham work, through film archives and Barbara Morgan photographs.

Kudos to Ms. Capucilli and to Christine Dakin for their excellent and sold-out, all-too-brief Season, the first in years. My wish is for a speedy return of this rare and extremely professional Company. Kudos to Martha Graham, who, more than ever, remains my hero. She smiles down to watch this sensational and revered Revival of her treasured works. Her protégés and their own disciples can bask in her pride and our gratitude.

 

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net