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Martha Graham Dance Company: Cave of the Heart, Deaths and Entrances, Chasing

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Cave of the Heart
Deaths and Entrances

At the
Rose Theater
Frederick P. Rose Hall
Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center

Martha Graham:
Founder, Dancer, Choreographer

Artistic Director: Janet Eilber
Executive Director: LaRue Allen

Senior Artistic Associate: Denise Vale
Director, Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance:
Virginie Mécène
General Manager: Faye Rosenbaum
Marketing and Communications Assoc.: Saira McLaren
Press: Jonathan Marder + Company

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

Jacqueline Bulnes, Lloyd Knight,
Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Samuel Pott, Ben Schultz,

Jacquelyn Elder, Hanan Misko, George Smallwood,
Oliver Tobin, Andrea Murillo, Lauren Newman. Xiaochuan Xie
Iris Florentiny, PeiJu Chien-Pott

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 16, 2011

(See More Graham Company Reviews)

Martha Graham, Founder, Dancer, and Choreographer of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and I actually shared the same birthday. She was a pioneer and a pillar of strength and encapsulated basic human emotions, especially those of female characters from the frontier and from mythology, drawing inspiration from friends who painted, sculpted, and composed 20th Century music. In 1988, Time Magazine named Martha Graham the Dancer of the Century. During her 70 years as a choreographer, Ms. Graham created 181 ballets and a Modern Dance technique that has been compared to ballet, due to its complexity and depth.

Martha Graham considered herself, first and foremost, a Dancer. I remember seeing her onstage, in her later years. She danced at a point of maturity, when almost all dancers have retired. Ms. Graham never retired, and I recall her accepting bravura audience acclaim, onstage, in her expansive, golden, Asian styled, Halston gown. Her black hair was a severe as her dances. She continued to exude the same, studied presence and poise that have been recorded in photos and films of her earliest performances. Ms. Graham founded her dance company and school in 1926 in Carnegie Hall. In Ms. Graham’s own words, “In all of us who perform there is an awareness of the smile which is part of the equipment, or gift, of the acrobat. We have all walked the high wire of circumstance at times. We recognize the gravity pull of the earth as he does. The smile is there because he is practicing living at the instant of danger. He does not choose to fall.” (Company Notes)

Cave of the Heart (1946): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Samuel Barber, Set by Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting Design by Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Blakely White-McGuire as The Sorceress, Medea, Ben Schultz as Jason, Xiaochuan Xie as The Princess, Creon’s Daughter, and Katherine Crockett as The Chorus.

The Company was in fine form in this Graham classic, a tale of the embodiment of angst, as a possessed woman seeks ultimate revenge on her faithless husband and his young lover. Noguchi’s metallic set shines in the dimness of the spare stage, with Blakely White-McGuire, as Medea, hovering in silence. Ms. White-McGuire does not exude the fierce deathly gaze of Miki Orihara, so renowned for this role, but she was magnetic, none the less. Ben Shultz, as Jason, the husband, shifts from a strutting, callous seducer to a tortured, tormented man alone, when Medea drags her prey in a sack across right stage. Xiaochuan Xie, as The Princess, did not invoke the image of those before her in this role, like the estimable Erica Dankmeyer, a former Graham dancer, but she certainly has mastered the searing presence of the mistress in this mythological magic. But, it was Katherine Crockett who immediately drew me in, with her imposing, warm demeanor, as The Chorus, in a red striped robe and long sideway steps. Her side profile is chiseled with magnetic tension. Kudos to Martha Graham for this timeless work.

Deaths and Entrances (1943): Choreography by Martha Graham, Music by Hunter Johnson, Set by Arch Lauterer, Costumes Designed by Oscar de la Renta, after originals by Edythe Gilfond, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Lighting for Reconstruction Beverly Emmons, Performed by Miki Orihara, Katherine Crockett, Blakely White-McGuire as The Three Sisters, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Jacquelyn Elder, Xiaochuan Xie as The Three Remembered Children, Tadej Brdnik as The Dark Beloved, Maurizio Nardi as The Poetic Beloved, and Ben Schultz, Oliver Tobin as The Cavaliers.

This is a dance about the female psyche, about rejection in love, loss in life, a small death of the spirit, a subsequent rejuvenation. This is a dance for all women who have known the pain of a wounded heart and the joy of surmounting despair. It reminds me of a walk in an attic, looking at icons of one's past, here a vase, a wine goblet, a shell. Although this dance was inspired by the Brontë sisters, it also seemed reminiscent of the Alcott sisters’ attic in Little Women, called the March sisters in the novel. With past and present inter-mixed, as well as moods of innocence and tragedy inter-twined, Deaths and Entrances is an abstract work that haunts the viewer long after the curtain has fallen.

Miki Orihara, Katherine Crockett, and Blakely White-McGuire, as The Three Sisters, articulated the impassioned moments, present and past, with internalized and appropriate gesture. Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Jacquelyn Elder, and Xiaochuan Xie, as The Three Remembered Children, exuded the innocence of youthful buoyancy. Tadej Brdnik as The Dark Beloved, Maurizio Nardi as The Poetic Beloved, and Ben Schultz and Oliver Tobin as The Cavaliers each created a significant male character in the scheme of their lives. As always, I was drawn to Ms. Orihara and Mr. Nardi, who exude powerful theatricality, powered from within. In fact, Ms. Orihara and Mr. Nardi are perhaps two of today’s finest dance performers on stage, anywhere. Kudos to Martha Graham.

Chasing (World Premiere): Choreography by Bulareyaung Pagarlava, Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Michael Nyman, Costumes by David Quinn, Lighting by Judith M. Daitsman, Performed by Tadej Brdnik, Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, Maurizio Nardi, Ben Schultz, Blakely White-McGuire, Xiaochuan Xie. As mentioned last night, with 181 Graham-choreographed dances, and with such a short season, and moreover with so many non-performance seasons in recent years, due to a variety of issues in the Company, it seemed uncalled for to mount this premiere, that offered so little in the Graham genre. Pagarlava’s Chasing, with an ensemble of some of the Company’s crème de la crème dancers, like Maurizio Nardi and Tadej Brdnik, set to a score of snippets by Mozart and Nyman, was meaningless and shallow. To stage Graham dancers in “shallow” is a travesty.

Dancers flew or walked about the stage, gathered in duos, or breezed about to wind-swept refrains. It was painful to watch and even more painful to think of all those rare Graham works that could have been seen instead.

Katherine Crockett, Blakeley White-McGuire,
Benjamin Schultz, Xiaochuan Xie
in Graham's "Cave of the Heart"
Courtesy of Costas

Xiaochuan Xie, Benjamin Schultz
Katherine Crockett, Blakeley White-McGuire
in Graham's "Cave of the Heart"
Courtesy of Costas

Xiaochuan Xie and Benjamin Schultz
in Pagarlava's "Chasing"
Courtesy of Costas

Xiaochuan Xie, Benjamin Schultz,
Blakeley White-McGuire, Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch
in Pagarlava's "Chasing"
Courtesy of Costas

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