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Martha Graham Dance Company: "Lamentation", "Diversion of Angels", "Embattled Garden", "Chronicle", at The Joyce Theater
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Martha Graham Dance Company: "Lamentation", "Diversion of Angels", "Embattled Garden", "Chronicle", at The Joyce Theater

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Shape & Design
Film by Peter Arnell
Diversion of Angels
Lamentation Variations
Embattled Garden

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 15, 2015 Matinee

(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.

Lamentation (1930): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Zoltán Kodály, Original Lighting by Martha Graham, Lighting adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch.

After three nights of Lamentation Variations, and more later tonight, we finally got to see a live performance of Graham’s original Lamentation. Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch wore the body-length, stretch purple costume, with her head covered, her feet even covered, in the personification of grief. 1930 could have been 2015, with all the political and religious catastrophes of late, and this one lone woman, in total grief, bending down to her feet, swaying about, her head swung back, then down, was astoundingly poignant. Frankly, I’d rather see Variations based on this singular dance, with personal interpretations by women in the Company, alone, one at a time, in this same costume, their own choreographic interpretations realized. This work is riveting and relevant, way beyond the contemporary Variations.

Diversion of Angels (1948): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Norman Dello Joio, Original lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Lighting adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Natasha M. Diamond-Walker and Ben Shultz as The Couple in White, Peiju Chien-Pott and Lloyd Mayor as The Couple in Red, XiaoChuan Xie and Lloyd Knight as The Couple in Yellow, and Chorus ensemble..

Graham’s 1948 work, of three couples in three stages of love, or one couple interpreted by the others in the before and after, is exquisite. 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. Mr. Mayor and Ms. Chien-Pott were the most connected and chemistry-bound, while Ms. Diamond-Walker and Ben Shultz danced with serenity and sublimity, and XiaoChuan Xie and Lloyd Knight were ingénue and flirtatious. With a lovely performance of the Chorus of five, this was a fine interpretation of Ms. Graham’s especially fine modern ballet.

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

Once again, the audience viewed the silent film clip of Ms. Graham dancing Lamentation, followed by three Variations, all of which most of the audience had already seen, assuming they attended more than one Program (there were four). Once again, we watched Ms. Gerring’s piece, this time led by Lloyd Knight, with dancers running about, crouching, twitching, swimming, and more. Mr. Abraham’s piece was danced by XiaoChuan Xie and Ying Xin, in a repeat of the Opening Night Gala. Of all the new Variations, this was the one imbued with class and fascination. The Keigwin Variation, set to Chopin, with the full Company, once again has dancers standing, touching their faces and hips, falling on the stage, cringing and collapsing.

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 XiaoChuan Xie as Eve, Tadej Brdnik as Adam, Natasha M. Diamond-Walker as Lillith, Lloyd Knight as The Stranger.

With luck I caught this performance of a second cast for Graham’s 1958 Embattled Garden. Even though the first cast, on the 11th, was exemplary, tonight’s cast was even more searing. It was different, not better. And, as in ballet, it’s challenging to view a work twice, in close proximity, with two different casts. XiaoChuan Xie, as Eve, was gripping in her lust for The Stranger and jealousy of Lilith’s interest in The Stranger and Adam. Nuanced emotionality was rampant and dynamic. These moments were memorable and meaningful. As Adam, Tadej Brdnik was the most mature I’ve ever seen him, in fine, muscular shape, lurking about Lilith (who is said to be his first wife), then returning to Eve, in the garden décor by Isamu Noguchi. Lloyd Knight, as The Stranger, was seething and predatory, plucking women like flowers. And, Natasha M. Diamond-Walker, as Lilith, fanning herself in the plants, moved with sensuality and surrealness.

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 women in the Company in Steps in the Street, Performed by Blakely White-McGuire, Ying Xin, and the women in the Company in Prelude to Action.

This was the same cast for Chronicle as reviewed on the 11th. Blakely White-McGuire, once again, danced the solo, Spectre-1914, with wild abandon, tossing her red and black, expansive dress, originally designed by Martha Graham, over the black set pieces, upon which she sits, warning the world of an impending World War, in the shadow of the previous World War. (I would actually like to see a program that details Ms. Graham’s early costume design training, skills, and process, as well as content on her relationship with Halston.) Ms. Blakely White-McGuire may be the most intense dancer on any New York stage this season. She reeks psychological tension. This was my third viewing of Steps in the Street, counting the Gala, and it’s not a work I could ever tire of. The women in the Company danced this trio of combined works with fervor, pathos, and strength. The racing back and forth, in long black costumes, arms, necks, and heads angular, fists propped against the neck, led by Ying Xin, was sensational. The final Prelude to Action, led by Ms. White-McGuire and Ms. Xin brought the house to vocal accolades.

Kudos to all, and kudos to Martha Graham.

Xiaochuan Xie in Martha Graham's "Diversion of Angels."
Courtesy of the Martha Graham Dance Company.

Natasha Diamond-Walker, Lloyd Knight,
and XiaoChuan Xie in Martha Graham's "Embattled Garden"
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce

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