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Martha Graham Dance Company: Ekstasis, Panorama, Histoire, The Rite of Spring
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Martha Graham Dance Company: Ekstasis, Panorama, Histoire, The Rite of Spring

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

92nd Anniversary Season
Sacred / Profane

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:
PeiJu Chien-Pott, Abdiel Jacobsen, Lloyd Knight
Ben Schultz, Xin Ying, Natasha M. Diamond-Walker
Charlotte Landreau, Lloyd Mayor, Ari Mayzick
Lorenzo Pagano, Anne Souder, So Young An
Laurel Dalley Smith, Marzia Memoli, Anne O’Donnell
Leslie Andrea Williams, Alyssa Cebulski, Leon Cobb
Jacob Larsen, Cara McManus, Alessio Crognale

The Mannes Orchestra
Conductor David Hayes

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 12, 2018

(See More Graham Company Reviews and Interviews.)

Ekstasis (1933, 2017): Choreography by Martha Graham, reimagined by Virginie Mécène, Original Music by Lehman Engel, reimagined by Ramon Humet, Lighting by Nick Hung, Costume by Martha Graham, Performed by PeiJu Chien-Pott.

After the impressive opening comments by Janet Eilber, the Graham Company’s Artistic Director and former star dancer, once again, we were treated with an exuberant and extraordinary New York season opening performance of Ekstasis. The Graham Company alumna, Virginie Mécène, now its Program Director and Director of Graham 2, reimagined Martha Graham’s 1933 solo dance, Ekstasis, and last season she assigned the role to the masterful PeiJu Chien-Pott. The reimagining occurred after thorough research of archived photographs and possibly reviews and notes. Ekstasis was scored to an original composition by Lehman Engel, which was reimagined by Ramon Humet. Ms. Chien-Pott was, tonight, once again mesmerizing in a long, golden, tightly fitting, stretch fabric, Graham-designed costume. Her hip was angularly bent up, arms stretched straight and forward, as if holding a crown on her head. This new repertory work continues to be a fantastic addition to the Company seasons.

Panorama (Theme of Dedication, Imperial Theme, Popular Theme, 1935): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Restaged and Directed by Oliver Tobin and Amélie Bénard, Music by Norman Lloyd, Lighting by David Finlay, Performed by Teens@Graham All-City Panorama Project.

Martha Graham’s Panorama, from 1935, like the 1936 Chronicle, speaks to the rumblings of impending war, through “thought and action”. This work is designed for large numbers of high school teens, all in red costumes by Ms. Graham, shirt and loose pants for the few, if any, young men, and long dresses for the large numbers of young women. The 40 teens race through en masse, create circular hand-held motion, run in and through lines of dancers, hop, jump, prance, gallop, and generally exude enormous amounts of energized ebullience. This work was reconstructed in 1992 by Yuriko.

Histoire (World Premiere) Choreography by Lucinda Childs, Music by Krzysztof Knittel and Astor Piazzolla, Lighting by Yi-Chung Chen, Costumes by Karen Young, Performed by Lorenzo Pagano, Xin Ying, Lloyd Knight, Lloyd Mayor, Marzia Memoli, Anne O’Donnell, Ben Schultz, Anne Souder.

With an opening duet, for Lorenzo Pagano and Xin Ying, the Graham Company has expanded on Lucinda Childs’ 1999 Histoire to add six additional dancers, and expand the Krzysztof Knittel score with music by my favorite Argentine tango composer, Astor Piazzolla. Knittel’s “Harpsichord III” for harpsichord and tape is the score for the early duet. Piazzolla’s “Milonga en re” and “Soledad” add the intoxicating, tonal ambiance of the piano, double bass, violin, and the iconic bandoneón. After the upbeat, modernistic early duet for Xin Ying and Lorenzo Pagano, three additional couples dance with tango-inspired, conflicting connections. Ms. Ying and Mr. Pagano are later absorbed into the ensemble, as they shift mood and affect. The costumes here are grey, and a cloud of disconnection ensues. But, at the finale, the couples seek out their partners and reconnect. I would love to see this work again, soon.

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 Design by Paul Lieber, Projection Design Associates, Erik Pearson and Olivia Sebesky, Performed by Charlotte Landreau as The Chosen One, Abdiel Jacobsen as The Shaman, and the Company.

In a 2012 lunch interview with Janet Eilber, we discussed an upcoming revival of Ms. Graham’s The Rite of Spring, which was to be performed first in North Carolina, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s music, The Rite of Spring. Ms. Eilber had said, “Martha had a deep connection to the “Rite”, because she starred in the first American production in 1930, choreographed by Léonide 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”.

Charlotte Landrieu, who has received rave reviews on these pages, since she performed in Graham 2, 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 first dance in a circle, then exit, Ms. Landrieu is last in line, to be plucked for the Shaman. Abdiel Jacobsen, as The Shaman, is terrifying, muscular and seething, 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. Ms. Landrieu seemed glued in an approach-avoidance conflict to Mr. Jacobsen’s torso. The dramatic tension could be sliced. In the ensemble, Lloyd Knight, Ben Schultz, So Young An, and Natasha M. Diamond-Walker 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. This was truly an exemplary fourth work for the first of two seasonal programs. I hope this performance was recorded in some way, as it was so mesmerizing. Kudos to Janet Eilber for her conceptual enhancement of this iconic work.

Kudos to Martha Graham.

PeiJu Chien-Pott in Graham’s “Ekstasis”
Reimagined by Virgine Mécène
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce

Teens@Graham Students
in Graham’s "Panorama"
Courtesy of Melissa Sherwood

Anne O’Donnell, Lloyd Knight, and Cast
in Lucinda Childs’s "Histoire"
Courtesy of Melissa Sherwood

Charlotte Landreau and the Company
in Graham's "The Rite of Spring"
Courtesy of Melissa Sherwood

Charlotte Landreau, Abdiel Jacobsen, and Ben Schultz
in Graham's "The Rite of Spring"
Courtesy of Melissa Sherwood

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