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Martha Graham Dance Company: Cave of the Heart, From the Grammar of Dreams, Lamentation Variations, Variations of Angels, Diversion of Angels
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Martha Graham Dance Company: Cave of the Heart, From the Grammar of Dreams, Lamentation Variations, Variations of Angels, Diversion of Angels

- Onstage with the Dancers

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Myth and Transformation
Cave of the Heart
From the Grammar of Dreams
Lamentation Variations
Variations of Angels
Diversion of Angels

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 27, 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 Miki Orihara as Medea, Tadej Brdnik as Jason, Iris Florentiny as Creon’s Daughter, Katherine Crockett as The Chorus.

Tonight’s performance of Graham’s Cave of the Heart was incomparable. Miki Orihara, as Medea, was demonic, psychically off-balance, and haunting. Each staccato gesture, twitch, shake of the pelvis, head, or leg, riveted the eye. This was a woman who had lost reason and self, in the course of her husband, Jason’s, rejection. Tonight’s Princess, the Daughter of Creon, was Iris Florentiny, who interpreted her role with a more ingénue quality than did Xiaochuan Xie, last week. Ironically, Blakely White-McGuire last week interpreted her Medea role with more vulnerability than did Ms. Orihara tonight, who was sliced steel. Each performance was satisfying on many levels, but tonight was fully astounding. In fact, Katherine Crockett reprised her role as the Chorus, who knows that the Princess will probably end up being dragged dead in a sack, to punish and destroy Jason. For his part, Tadej Brdnik was, once again, muscularly parading his Princess over his shoulders, with vitality. But, it was Miki Orihara who gave the performance of a career, as she peers out through the Noguchi set at her soon to be murdered prey. Her torso and pelvis exaggerations were serpentine and stirring.

From the Grammar Of Dreams: Choreography and Costumes: Luca Veggetti, Music: Kaija Saariaho, Lighting: Beverly Emmons, Performed by PeiJu Chien-Pott, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Blakeley White-McGuire, Xiaochuan Xie, Ying Xin.

Once again, I found this work replaceable. It’s danced to an atonal monotone, quasi-operatic score, with stark, partially lit faces. Solo and duo cartwheels catapult to soprano monotones, with shrillness piercing the air. One high point was the final image, not too soon, with the five female dancers creating a starkly lit communal shape. The bits of text that were somewhat audible derive from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. This is not a work I’d choose to revisit.

Lamentation Variations: Choreography: Bulareyaung Pagarlava, Yvonne Rainer, Doug Varone, Music: Gustav Mahler, Yvonne Rainer, Maurice Ravel, Lighting in Pagarlava and Rainer Variations: Beverly Emmons, Lighting in Varone Variation: Judith M. Daitsman, Conceived by Janet Eilber, Performed (Pagarlava): Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Lloyd Mayor, Maurizio Nardi, Ben Schultz, (Rainer): Katherine Crockett, Janet Eilber, (Varone): Tadej Brdnik, Abdiel Jacobsen, Lloyd Knight, Maurizio Nardi.

Lamentation Variations is a work in progress; that is, choreographers create a brief dance for solo or ensemble that reacts, in some way, to Graham’s 1930 solo work, which I would have preferred seeing tonight. The original is a study of a woman in a state of grief, encased in a stretch purple material that envelops her from head to toe. Ms. Graham, who originally danced this solo, lunged and bent forward and stretched her body and soul in every direction, including inward. A brief film of Ms. Graham dancing this work introduced this segment.

The Variations have always, I found, been inconsequential, compared to the authentic concept, that was so riveting on its own. Tonight we saw three Variations, one by Pagarlava, one by Rainer, and one by Varone. The first is a dance for three men and one woman, with music by Mahler. Costumes were flesh-colored leotards, and the choreography was fleeting. The second is a dramatization for Janet Eilber, Artistic Director, to shine a bright light on Katherine Crockett, who sleeps; then, Ms. Eilber puts papers into an electric shredder. We hear the sound, music by Rainer. The third is a seamless bending of four men, sitting on a bench, all moving in the same direction, as if they’re in the stretch fabric costume, music by Ravel.

Variations of Angels: An Homage to Martha Graham’s “Diversion of
Angels”, Film Montage: Peter Sparling, Music: Norman Dello Joio, Footage from Graham Archives.

This archival homage to Graham’s Diversion of Angels, is compiled of film clips of Company dancers, in solo and duo, from various roles in the ballet, for a couple in white, one in red, and one in yellow. I recognized retired dancers from the Company, and these archival films are always a huge hit among Graham aficionados.

Diversion of Angels: Choreography and Costumes: Martha Graham, Music: Norman Dello Joio, Original Lighting: Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Natasha Diamond-Walker and Abdiel Jacobsen as The Couple in White, Blakeley White-McGuire and Maurizio Nardi and The Couple in Red, Xiaochuan Xie and Lloyd Knight as The Couple in Yellow, with PeiJu Chien-Pott, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Iris Florentiny, Ying Xin, Ben Schultz.

Martha Graham’s 1948 Diversion of Angels closed this program with the requisite Couple in White (Natasha Diamond-Walker and Abdiel Jacobsen), Couple in Red (Blakely White-McGuire and Maurizio Nardi), and Couple in Yellow (Xiaochuan Xie and Lloyd Knight). Norman Dello Joio’s score propelled the three couples and four female, one male ensemble in maturity, passion, and innocence, the three themes of the ballet. A kaleidoscope of bursts of color and motion ensues. This Graham work is upbeat and ephemeral, with wide circling arms, one uplifted leg, triangular postures, effervescent leaps, and prancing and dashing in various stages of love. The Couple in White was poised and calm, the Couple in Red was glistening and trembling, and the Couple in Yellow was throwing kisses, dashing to and fro. The beige costumes of the male partners enabled the three flowing costumes, in yellow, red, and white to underscore the symbolism.

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

Veggetti's "From the Grammar of Dreams"
Danced by PeiJu Chien-Pott and Ying Xin
Courtesy of Costas

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