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Martha Graham Dance Company: Prelude and Revolt, Rediscovering Martha Graham's "American Document", Appalachian Spring

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Political Dance Project
Prelude and Revolt
Rediscovering Martha Graham’s “American Document”
Appalachian Spring

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Martha Graham: Founder, Dancer, Choreographer
Artistic Director: Janet Eilber
Executive Director: LaRue Allen
Senior Artistic Associate: Denise Vale
Music Director: Aaron Sherber
Lighting Designer: Beverly Emmons
General Manager: Faye Rosenbaum
Production Manager: Ann Posluszny
Director of School: Virginie Mécène
Press: Jonathan Marder + Company

Martha Graham Dance Company:
Tadej Brdnik, Katherine Crockett, Jennifer DePalo,
Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, Maurizio Nardi, Miki Orihara,
Blakely White-McGuire, Lloyd Knight

Jacqueline Bulnes, Sevin Ceviker, Jacquelyn Elder,
Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Samuel Pott, Ben Schultz,
Heather McGinley, Andrea Murillo, Xiaochuan Xie

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 12 Matinee, 2010

(See More Graham Company Reviews)

Prelude and Revolt: Denishawn to Graham (2007): Arranged by Janet Eilber, Lighting by Judith M. Daitsman, Text by Jeffrey Sweet and Janet Eilber, Narration by Janet Eilber, Multimedia Montage and Live Dance:

The Incense (Excerpt, 1906): Choreography and Costume by Ruth St. Denis, Performed by Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch.

Gnossienne (A Priest of Knossos, Excerpt, 1919): Choreography by Ted Shawn, Music by Eric Satie, Performed by Ben Schultz.

Tanagra (Excerpt, 1926): Choreography and Costume by Martha Graham, Performed by Miki Orihara.

Serenata Morisca (1916): Choreography by Ted Shawn, Reconstructed by Martha Graham, Costumes by Martha Graham after Pearl Wheeler, Music by Mario Tarenghi, Lighting by Thomas Skelton, Performed by Blakely White McGuire.

Lamentation (1930): Choreography and Costume by Martha Graham, Music by Zoltan Kodaly, Original Lighting by Martha Graham, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Katherine Crockett.

Panorama (1935): Theme of Dedication - Imperial Theme – Popular Theme, Choreography by Martha Graham, Music by Norman Lloyd, Costumes by Martha Graham, Realized by Russell Vogler, Lighting by David Finley, Performed by Martha Graham School Young Artists Program Dancers, Talent Unlimited High School Dancers, and All-City Dancers.

Today’s Graham program was superb. The entire matinee was superb, and my guest, a first-time Graham viewer, was enthralled. Artistic Director, Janet Eilber’s greetings, descriptions, and narration were charming and eloquent, following mesmerizing archival film clips. Prelude and Revolt: Denishawn to Graham (2007) should be added to the permanent repertory. It was authentic, educational, and nurturing to the audience of Graham devotees who have been craving more Graham and Graham era performances between these brief, sporadic seasons. As one of those loyal devotees, I do not crave Graham-light, e.g., Lamentation Variations, but rather Graham’s own Lamentation, performed today by the exemplary Katherine Crockett. And, I do not crave Graham-inspired American Document 2010, but rather American Document 1938. Martha Graham created 181 ballets. That’s a repertory worth decades of programs, on its own, not to mention Graham era choreographies (such as Duncan and Denishawn) that could enrich and enhance.

Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch’s depiction of Ruth St. Denis’ 1904 The Incense could not have been more hypnotic, graceful, and elegant. Ben Schultz’ performance of Ted Shawn’s 1919 Gnossienne, to Satie’s spellbinding score, drew me in and captured my imagination. Miki Orihara danced Graham’s little known 1926 Tanagra. Ms. Orihara rivets the eye, and where has this rare dance been hiding? Another unusual work introduced in this collage was Ted Shawn’s 1916 Serenata Morisca, to Mario Tarenghi’s score, danced by the enchanting Blakely White McGuire. But, it was the Lamentation showstopper, performed by Ms. Crockett, that, alone, made the Graham season worth it. Bent over, then writhing in angst, in Ms. Graham’s iconic head-to-foot stretch gray material, with accentuated eyelashes and chiseled cheeks, Ms. Crockett brought the house down. This was another performance that created immediate encore craving, as Ms. Crockett characterized the quintessential embodiment of grief. Graham’s Panorama followed, and once again (see June 9 review) the high school and youthful dancers, all in red, bounded across the stage in exceptional, energized propulsion.

Rediscovering Martha Graham’s “American Document” (2010): Conversation about the Reconstruction with Janet Eilber, Media by Saira McLaren. New Episodes: Lighting by Judith Daitsman. Ms. Eilber graciously introduced and described this extensive, archival reconstruction. Film clips of Graham’s original 1938 work, including Erik Hawkins, were exactly what I was hoping to see.

American Document (Excerpts, 1938): Choreography by Martha Graham, Reconstruction by Virginie Mécène and Denise Vale, Music by Ray Green, Lighting by Judith M. Daitsman, Narrator: Stuart Hodes, Pianist: Robert Boston, Performed by Graham II: Greta Campo, Laure Duverger, Jesse Factor, Suleika Fichtner, Iris Florentiny, Malaika Floyd, Fanny Gombert, Claire Layman, Kathryn MacLellan, Lauren Newman, Lindsay Poulis, Zachary Tracz, Stephanie Van Dooren, Xiaochuan Xie.

The New Episodes (2009-2010): Choreography by Tadej Brdnik to a score by Allen Krantz, Samuel Potts, to a score by Daniel Bernard Roumain, and Blakely White-McGuire, to a score by Patrick Leonard.

Stuart Hodes, a former Graham dancer and Broadway actor, served as the formidable Narrator, with visual flair, vocal resonance, and magnetic personality. Former Graham dancers, Virginie Mécène and Denise Vale, reconstructed American Document for Graham II, the ensemble company. Ms. Mécène (whose photo is below) is also Director of the Graham School. Graham II performed in the American Document excerpts, plus The New Episodes, and it’s obvious that the three new choreographers (current Graham dancers) have something to say. Ms. Mécène’s ensemble, in soft flowing skirts or tights, was infused with authentic Graham technique, driven exuberance, and profound focus. Graham II exudes the professionalism of a major modern dance company, on its own, and certainly should be seen often, in New York and on national and international stages.

Appalachian Spring (“Ballet for Martha”, 1944): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Aaron Copland, Set by Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Blakely White-McGuire as The Bride, Samuel Pott as The Husbandman, Maurizio Nardi as The Revivalist, Katherine Crockett as The Pioneering Woman, and Jacqueline Bulnes, Jacquelyn Elder, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, and Heather McGinley as The Followers.

With the same cast as June 9 (see June 9 review), Appalachian Spring offered an upbeat finale to my three program Graham season. Once again, Katherine Crockett lit up the stage as The Pioneering Woman, while Maurizio Nardi was even more primal in his Revivalist solo. Blakely White-McGuire as The Bride, Samuel Pott as The Husbandman, and Jacqueline Bulnes, Jacquelyn Elder, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, and Heather McGinley as The Followers were expansive in motion as the wilderness was wide.

Kudos to the Graham Company, and kudos to Martha Graham.

Photos below were all that was available for today’s matinee cast and program.

Virginie Mécène, Director,
Graham II
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Graham II in
Graham's "American Document"
Courtesy of COSTAS

Graham II with Stuart Hodes(center),
Robert Boston (far right) in
Graham's "American Document"
Courtesy of COSTAS

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at