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Martha Graham Dance Company: Embattled Garden, Mosaic, The Legend of Ten, Chronicle

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

92nd Anniversary Season

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 13, 2018

(See More Graham Company Reviews and Interviews.)

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 So Young An as Eve, Lloyd Mayor as Adam, Natasha M. Diamond-Walker as Lilith, Abdiel Jacobsen as The Stranger.

Embattled Garden is a most expressive piece about love, which "does not obey the rules of love, but yields to some more ancient and ruder law" (Graham). 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, Lloyd Mayor is a memorable Adam to So Young An’s Eve, who, held by her thighs, stretches back, during a symbolic lift. Abdiel Jacobsen, who is a seething, muscular presence, was cast as the Stranger, and Natasha M. Diamond-Walker, a focused and supremely poised 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. It should be noted that this season, as in every Graham season, I am in awe of the outsized energy, deeply intrinsic theatricality, and incomparable stage presence of each member of this renowned and thriving dance company.

Mosaic (2017): Choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Assistants to Mr. Cherkaoui: Jason Kittelberger and Jennifer White, Music by Felix Buxton, Costumes by Karen Young, Lighting by Nick Hung, Performed by Lloyd Knight, Charlotte Landreau, Lloyd Mayor, Ari Mayzick, Anne O’Donnell, Lorenzo Pagano, Anne Souder, Leslie Andrea Williams, Xin Ying.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Mosaic, with a score by Felix Buxton, costumes by Karen Young, was, as in a previous viewing last season, thoroughly absorbing and elevating. In a combined Middle-Eastern-Israeli inspired score, arranged by Mr. Buxton, a multicultural mosaic is fabricated, tile by tile, dancer by dancer, in solos and ensemble vignettes. Dancers attach and detach in energized groups in motion, and, as one becomes unglued, another becomes affixed. Nine Company dancers, four women and five men, interact with glowing, colorful rafter lighting by Nick Hung. As always, the Company was in rare form, and the combination of Lloyd Mayor, Charlotte Landreau, Lloyd Knight, and this incredible cast onstage together is an astounding experience. All the youthful Principals and rising stars have talent, personality, enthusiasm, and tireless energy. The charisma scale is off the charts, again, this season. And, in the midst of intertwining togetherness and spacial solitude, the hypnotic music, smoke, lighting, and stunning costume shift from opaque, dark pleats to transparent, nude unitards with tattoo drawings, we hear recorded clips of “Yedid Nefesh”, “Moses”, and “Moshe” by Mr. Buxton’s selection of composers.

The Legend of Ten (2010): Choreography by Lar Lubovitch, Music by Johannes Brahms, Lighting by Jack Mehler, Costumes by L. Isaac with Naomi Luppescu, Staging by Katarzyna Skarpetowska and Reid Bartelme, Performed by Abdiel Jacobsen, Anne Souder, and the Company.

I love the fact that Ms. Eilber brings in additional choreographers, but not additional companies. We come to see Graham dancers, and that’s what we see. The enhancement and expansion of the Graham genre with the likes of Lucinda Childs (last night) and Lar Lubovitch (tonight) is a brilliant concept for the seasonal programming. I have always loved the Brahms Quintet in F minor, and this Lubovitch work is the choreographer’s visual interpretation of each phrase of music of this Piano Quintet. What could be more brilliant?

The Company dances in stunning black costumes by L. Isaac with Naomi Luppescu, and the work is staged for the Graham Company by Katarzyna Skarpetowska and Reid Bartelme. The lush lifts, dashes off and on stage, and the eclectic choreography that happens in real time, with partnered dance, un-alike in tempo, but in similar rhythms and mood occurring onstage at once, were entrancing. The motion is seamless and visually gripping. I recall individual dancers showcasing an attitude and step, then meshing with the Company, before the lights flash off, dancers caught in the moment. I would love to see this work again, soon.

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 Xin Ying in Spectre-1914, Performed by Anne Souder and the Company in Steps in the Street, Performed by Xin Ying, Anne Souder, and the Company in Prelude to Action.

In Spectre-1914, Xin Ying 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. Ying’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 Anne Souder, 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. Ying, now in white and black, with Ms. Souder and the women in the Company, was at once forceful and feminine. I never tire of this work, so inspirational, so perfected by this superb Company. Kudos to Janet Eilber for this fantastic New York series of performances.

Kudos to Martha Graham.

Natasha Diamond-Walker, So Young An,
Lloyd Mayor, and Abdiel Jacobsen
in Graham's "Embattled Garden"
Courtesy of Melissa Sherwood

So Young An, Lloyd Mayor, and Abdiel Jacobsen
in Graham's "Embattled Garden"
Courtesy of Melissa Sherwood

The Company in Lar Lubovitch's "The Legend of Ten"
Courtesy of Melissa Sherwood

Xin Ying in Graham's "Chronicle"
Courtesy of Melissa Sherwood

Xin Ying and the Company
in Graham's "Chronicle"
Courtesy of Melissa Sherwood

Anne Souder in Graham's "Chronicle"
Courtesy of Melissa Sherwood

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