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Martha Graham Dance Company: Cave of the Heart, Errand, Night Journey

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Myth and Transformation
Cave of the Heart
Night Journey

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
Press: Janet Stapleton

Martha Graham Dance Company:
Tadej Brdnik, Katherine Crockett, Maurizio Nardi,
Miki Orihara, Blakely White-McGuire, Lloyd Knight,
Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Ben Schultz, Xiaochuan Xie,
PeiJu Chien-Pott, Natasha Diamond Walker, Iris Florentiny,
Abdiel Jacobsen, Oliver Tobin, Lloyd Mayor,
Lorenzo Pagano, Lucy Postell, Ying Xin

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 22, 2013

(See More Graham Company Reviews and Interviews)

Cave of the Heart (1946): Choreography and Costumes: Martha Graham, Music: Samuel Barber, Set: Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting: Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Blakely White-McGuire as Medea, Tadej Brdnik as Jason, Xiaochuan Xie as Creon’s Daughter, Natasha Diamond-Walker as The Chorus.

Blakely White-McGuire added a new dimension to Medea, as she seethes at Jason’s rejection of her, as he showcases his wife about on his shoulders and arms. Ms. White-McGuire allows the audience to see her pain in a vulnerable way; she seems more conflicted than previous Medeas. When she drags the lifeless Princess, Creon’s Daughter, across the stage in a silky sack, this Medea has a self-satisfied but fearful demeanor, her muscles bristling at the weight of her baggage. Tadej Brdnik, as Medea’s lover, Jason, father of her children, dances in astounding, seasoned theatrics, at first oblivious to Medea’s jealousy and impending revenge, even lowering one woman on top of the other, as if to physically make them bond. Later he demonstrates grief and disbelief with full body tension and the force of his limbs. Xiaochuan Xie, as the Princess, has a wide smirk, an all-knowing attitude, as her presence serves to torture her rival, Medea. She bounds about in youthful abandon. Natasha Diamond-Walker, as the Chorus, was less riveting than Katherine Crockett, normally in this role, but she exuded warmth and understanding, a trembling fear for fate. Luckily, the Noguchi sets, were not destroyed in the hurricane saga, last fall, when so much of the Graham Company’s costumes and sets were deluged with waves of water. As the opening work for my first night’s program in this season’s Myth and Transformation series, I found the Company in rare form, as usual.

Errand (1947, Errand Into the Maze): Choreography for Errand Into the Maze: Martha Graham, Music: Gian Carlo Menotti, Lighting: Beverly Emmons, Direction: Luca Veggetti with Miki Orihara, performed by Miki Orihara and Ben Schultz.

As mentioned above, Hurricane Sandy destroyed many costumes and sets in the Graham Company’s new Westbeth studio basement, so Errand Into the Maze was reconceived, with the help of Luca Veggetti and Miki Orihara, into simply Errand. Ms. Orihara and Ben Schultz were Ariadne and the Minotaur. Ms. Orihara was in a stripped down costume, just leotard and long skirt, and Mr. Shultz had a mesh mask tied to his head with a plexiglass pole behind his neck, as his weapon and support. The theme is the cathartic experience of facing down one’s demons and coming out the stronger and calmer. First the Minotaur threatens and leaps and jumps about and onto Ariadne, but she attacks and overwhelms him, all to a score by Gian Carlo Menotti. Mr. Schultz is large and muscle-bound, and Ms. Orihara is taut and narrow, with a very strong spirit. The size difference made the drama all the more mesmerizing.

Night Journey (1947): Choreography and Costumes: Martha Graham, Music: William Schuman, Set: Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting: Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Katherine Crockett as Jocasta, Ben Schultz as Oedipus, Abdiel Jacobsen as Tiresias, Mariya Dashkina Maddux as Leader of the Chorus, PeiJu Chien-Pott, Natasha Diamond-Walker, Iris Florentiny, Lucy Postell, Xiaochuan Xie, Ying Xin as Daughters of the Night.

Night Journey brings to the stage the tale of Oedipus, his mother and wife, Jocasta, the blind seer, Tiresias, and the female chorus, led by Mariya Dashkina Maddux. The ballet is set during Jocasta’s “instant of death”, when she realizes she has weaned and bedded the same man, who stands before her, having embraced and kissed her moments before the seer reveals that Oedipus was born from her own womb. In a fascinating “Talk Back”, after tonight’s program, Janet Eilber, the Graham Company’s Artistic Director, told the audience about her own experience as Jocasta, and Martha Graham’s own directions, to run from, rather than to, her own bed and the area where she had nursed her son, the image of urgent psychic flight. As Jocasta, Katherine Crockett was gripping, using her entire body to demonstrate angst and alarm. Ben Schultz, fresh from the previous work, was magnetic, as he morphed from husband to a tortured son, sliding off stage in ruin. Abdiel Jacobsen, a wonderful enhancement to the Company, was masterful and compelling as the blind seer, while Mariya Dashkina Maddux brought gravity and foreboding to the moment, as the lead chorus. The six Daughters of the Night, stamping strong bare feet against the floor, in iconic Graham rhythmics, expanded the William Schuman score.

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

Graham's "Cave of the Heart"
Danced by Blakeley White-McGuire
Courtesy of Costas

Graham's "Errand"
Danced by Ben Schultz and Miki Orihara
Courtesy of Costas

Graham's "Night Journey"
Danced by Katherine Crockett and Ben Schultz
Courtesy of Costas

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