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Martha Graham Dance Company: "Satyric Festival Song", "Embattled Garden", "Rust", "Chronicle", at The Joyce Theater
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Martha Graham Dance Company: "Satyric Festival Song", "Embattled Garden", "Rust", "Chronicle", at The Joyce Theater

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Shape & Design
Film by Peter Arnell
Satyric Festival Song
Embattled Garden
Lamentation Variations

The Joyce Theater

Martha Graham: Founder, Choreographer
Artistic Director: Janet Eilber
Executive Director: LaRue Allen
Senior Artistic Associate: Denise Vale
Press: Janet Stapleton

Martha Graham Dance Company:
Tadej Brdnik, PeiJu Chien-Pott,
Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, Lloyd Knight,
Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Blakely White-McGuire,
Abdiel Jacobsen, Ben Schultz, XiaoChuan Xie,
Natasha M. Diamond Walker, Lloyd Mayor,
Lauren Newman, Lorenzo Pagano, Lucy Postell,
Ying Xin, Charlotte Landreau, Anne O’Donnell,
Dani Stinger, Konstantina Xintara

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 11, 2015

(See More Graham Company Reviews and Interviews)

Film by Peter Arnell (2015): Edited by Dan Marino, Music by Ron “Neffu” Feemster, Camera: Rune Stokmo, Asst. Camera: Connie Zhou, Graphics: Yuko Yamazaki.

Peter Arnell’s new film is created of thousands of stills of the dancers in motion, then photo-montaged as a pulsating film, with dancers’ legs sliding down, arms slowly outstretching, torsos pulling the bodies, ensembles joining and separating, and so on. I found the film enchanting, in black and white, and it was presented for every program.

Satyric Festival Song (1932): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Original Music by Imre Weisshaus, Music for Reconstruction by Fernando Palacios, Lighting for Reconstruction by David Finley, Performed by XiaoChuan Xie.

Against type, Ms. Graham choreographed this witty, brief work in 1932, with the solo female dancer wearing a long, tight striped dress, jumping up and down and around and around, tossing her ponytail from side to side. Imre Weisshaus’ rare score magnified XiaoChuan Xie’s frenetic, tiny steps, nuanced wiggles, winking glances, and undulating muscles. Ms. Xie presented the choreography with glee.

Embattled Garden (1958): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Carlos Surinach, Set by Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Lighting adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Peiju Chien-Pott as Eve, Abdiel Jacobsen as Adam, Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch as Lillith, Ben Shultz as The Stranger.

This is a most expressive piece about love, which "does not obey the rules of love, but yields to some more ancient rule of law". The brightly colored Noguchi set, against a black backdrop, provides the framework for the complicated relationships, between Adam and Eve, Lilith and the Stranger.

With stark, muscular elongations and torso contractions, Abdiel Jacobsen is a memorable Adam to Peiju Chien-Pott’s Eve, who, held by her thighs, stretches back, during a symbolic lift. Ben Shultz, who is a large muscular presence, was cast as the Stranger, and Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, a focused and magnetic dancer, was intriguing as Lilith. The demonstration of anguish was on view, as characters wandered through mazes, as if lost in the forest of internal ambiguities and conflicting emotions.

Lamentation Variations (Project: 2007): Choreography by Larry Keigwin, Kyle Abraham, and Sonya Tayeh, Performed by the Company.

At each program, the audience saw new or repeated Variations of Martha Graham’s original Lamentation, which is shown in silence, as well. Tonight’s new Variation was by Larry Keigwin, set to Chopin, in which the full Company stands, dancers touching their faces and hips and so on, falling on the stage, cringing, and collapsing. The Abraham Variation was performed by two men, instead of two women, as on the previous night. Lloyd Knight and Lloyd Mayor effectively created the shadowy interconnections. The propulsive Tayeh Variation, once again, was over-the-top street dance-modern-rock, but fascinating to watch.

Rust (2013): Choreography and Costumes by Nacho Duato, Assistant to Mr. Duato, Kevin Irving, Music by Arvo Part, Additional music by Pedro Alcalde, Lighting by Brad Fields, Performed by Tadej Brdnik, Abdiel Jacobsen, Lloyd Mayor, Lloyd Knight, Ben Schultz.

The most experimental, avant-garde piece of the series was Nacho Duato’s 2013 Rust. Performed by five men, it exemplifies street torture, with kicking, knifing, catapulting, and cowering. The shirts pull over the head, from the rear, exposing the chests. The electronic, Alcalde score, added to Arvo Part’s music, added angst. In view of the anti-war expressiveness in the monumental Graham work that follows, it seemed uncalled for and inappropriate to include this torturous work by Duato, even if it’s meant to be anti-torture. Watching it was pure torture.

Chronicle (1936): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Wallingford Riegger, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Steps in the Street Lighting for Reconstruction (“Steps in the Street”) by David Finley, Performed by Blakely White-McGuire in Spectre-1914, Performed by Ying Xin and the Company in Steps in the Street, Performed by Blakely White-McGuire, Ying Xin, and the Company in Prelude to Action.

Blakely White-McGuire, in her flaming red hair, wears a red and black endless dress, that covers a stage set, with flowing velvety brilliance. She has the quintessential intensity and fluidity to project this work about the times of war. This is not a work about war itself, but a work for the women in the Company about the emotions of war. It illustrates agony, strength of mind, determination, perseverance, and mourning. Ms. White-McGuire’s rearrangement of her burning red dress, as inside color becomes outside fire, was magnetic. The long, silent and sliding steps of the Company of women, led by Ying Xin, in Steps in the Street, in long black dresses, horizontal elbows, and silhouetted hands and faces were part myth/part reality. The tragic themes unfolded. Prelude to Action, featuring Ms. White-McGuire, now in white and black, with Ms. Ying Xin and the women in the Company, was at once forceful and feminine.

Kudos to all, and kudos to Martha Graham.

Abdiel Jacobsen and Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch
in Martha Graham's "Embattled Garden"
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce

Xiaochuan Xie and Ying Xin
in Kyle Abraham's "Lamentation Variation"
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce

Tadej Brdnik in Nacho Duato's "Rust"
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce

Blakeley White-McGuire in Martha Graham's "Chronicle"
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce

Martha Graham Dance Company
in Martha Graham's "Steps in the Street"
Stage design by Frank Gehry
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce

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