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Martha Graham Dance Company: Myth and Transformation: Appalachian Spring, Depak Ine, The Rite of Spring
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Martha Graham Dance Company: Myth and Transformation: Appalachian Spring, Depak Ine, The Rite of Spring

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Myth and Transformation
Appalachian Spring
Depak Ine
The Rite of Spring

New York City Center

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, PeiJu Chien-Pott,
Lloyd Knight, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Ben Schultz,
Xiaochuan Xie, Natasha Diamond Walker, Abdiel Jacobsen,
Lloyd Mayor, Lauren Newman, Oliver Tobin, Ying Xin,
Lorenzo Pagano, Lucy Postell, Tamisha Guy,
Charlotte Landreau, Gildas Lemonnier

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 22, 2014

(See More Graham Company Reviews and Interviews)

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 Mariya Dashkina Maddux as The Bride, Lloyd Mayor as The Husbandman, Maurizio Nardi as The Revivalist, Natasha Diamond-Walker as The Pioneering Woman, and Tamisha Guy, Charlotte Landreau, Xiaochuan Xie, and Ying Xin as The Followers.

Appalachian Spring, Martha Graham’s 1944 iconic ballet about a wedding in the wilderness, with The Bride, The Husbandman, The Revivalist, The Pioneering Woman, and The Followers, dancing in Isamu Noguchi’s spare outdoor set, is still in fine form. Natasha Diamond-Walker, The Pioneering Woman, is a determined and dominant figure, with detailed features, strong stature, and flawless demeanor. As The Pioneering Woman, with a long full skirt and protective demeanor, she was the central focus of this lyrical, lively ensemble.

Maurizio Nardi, always a spellbinding performer, slowly gave his Revivalist hat to his Followers and then took center stage for his requisite, resonant performance, even surpassing his many interpretations of this role. Mr. Nardi is a gripping dramatist and a virtuosic dancer, exuding intensity and mastery. Janet Eilber, Artistic Director of the Graham Company, who greeted the audience each night with informative synopses of the evening’s program, told us that this was Mr. Nardi’s farewell as The Preacher, as he’s leaving the Company soon. He will be missed. Mariya Dashkina-Maddux and Lloyd Mayor, as Bride and Husbandman, danced with cheerful lyricism, punctuating Copland’s theme with captivating animation. The four Followers caught my eye throughout, for their expressive Graham technique. They evoked happiness, in their ruffled costumes.

Depak Ine (2014): Choreography by Nacho Duato, Music by Arsenije Jovanovic and John Talabot, Costumes by Angelina Atlagic, Lighting and Stage Design by Bradley Fields, Performed by the Company.

I found this new work, premiered just two nights ago, highly disturbed and disturbing. One woman, Peiju Chien-Pott, is a victim to male brutality, lying still, in wait, or perhaps already once abused. The Company performs a wild mating dance, with no emotion, other than lust and greed, in piled upon groupings of dancers. This was truly sexist and unsettling, certainly in total contrast to Martha Graham’s repertoire, usually featuring dominant women, think Errand Into the Maze. Then the dance worsens, as Ms. Chien-Pott is briefly seen writhing, as if experiencing kinetic, twitchy shocks, when she is attacked by three male dancers. After their predatory behavior, she falls into a heap, as the earlier, unpleasant characters return. Possibly this was Nacho Duato’s own synopsized version of The Rite of Spring, but, regardless, I have no need to see this piece again.

The Rite of Spring (1984): Choreography by Martha Graham, Music by Igor Stravinsky, Costumes by Pilar Limosner after Martha Graham and Halston, New Production Concept by Janet Eilber, Lighting by Solomon Weisbard, Scenery by Edward T. Morris, Projection by Paul Lieber, Projection Design Associates, Erik Pearson and Olivia Sebesky, Performed by Blakely White-McGuire as The Chosen One, Ben Schultz as The Shaman, and the Company.

In a 2012 lunch interview with Janet Eilber, I asked her about the upcoming revival of Ms. Graham’s The Rite of Spring, to be performed first in North celebration of the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s music, The Rite of Spring. Ms. Eilber said, “Martha had a deep connection to the “Rite”, because she starred in the first American production in 1930, choreographed by Leonide Massine. Fifty-four years later, she choreographed her own version – which is very athletic, emotional and powerful. We are reconstructing Graham’s “Rite”, which has not been seen in 20 years, and we will premiere our reconstruction as the final event for the Chapel Hill season”.

Blakeley White-McGuire was magnetic and spell-binding as The Chosen One. This late Graham work is one of the finest dance interpretations of Stravinsky’s monumental work. The music builds to propulsive mayhem, and all eyes are on the victim of the rite. In fact, when the women fist dance in a circle, then exit, Ms. White-McGuire is last in line, to be plucked for the Shaman. Ben Schultz, as The Shaman, is terrifying, exceedingly tall, an imposing presence. The rope with which he ties his prey is, in itself, almost another character, rather than prop, as it’s so indicative of The Chosen One’s impending doom. In the ensemble, Xiaochuan Xie and Maurizio Nardi caught my eye throughout. The Graham dancers, above all others, are always in attitude, physically and psychically, never off guard, not even a loose muscle. They, themselves, are each works of art. They sculpt themselves into the dramatic moment. I was glad this was the final work for this seasonal viewing, as it could not have been upstaged.

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

Martha Graham Dance Company
"Depak Ine", choreography by Nacho Duato
Courtesy of Costas

Martha Graham Dance Company
in "The Rite of Spring"
Courtesy of Costas

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