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An Interview with Janet Eilber, Artistic Director, Martha Graham Center, at Seven Bar and Grill
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An Interview with Janet Eilber, Artistic Director, Martha Graham Center, at Seven Bar and Grill

- Sponsors and Testimonials: Offstage with the Dancers

An Interview with Janet Eilber,
Artistic Director, Martha Graham Center

At Seven Bar and Grill

Seven Bar & Grill
(Seven Website)
350 7th Avenue
(btwn. 29th/30th St.)

Ask for Michelle, Manager
Ask for Mike DeMilta, Executive Chef

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 15, 2012

(See More Graham Company Reviews)

I recently sat down with Janet Eilber, Artistic Director, Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. The Company has moved to Westbeth, downtown, and on a recent performance at the new site, I was truly impressed. We both dined on Chilled Gazpacho Soup and Chilled Lobster with Citrus Green Salad. This was a delightful and elegant lunch. Ian Conroy, Proprietor of Seven Bar and Grill, joined us at the table. My interview with Ms. Eilber is below.

After your Holiday shopping in Herald Square and throughout midtown Manhattan, you'll find fine continental dining at Seven Bar & Grill. It's also near Off-Broadway Theaters and Madison Square Garden. Call 212.967.1919, and reserve a comfortable booth or large party table. Ask for Ian, Mike, or Michelle, and tell them you saw them on

RZ You spoke of the generosity of Graham's spirit. How did that inspire you as a dancer and as the head of the Graham Center?

JE I think I was referring to her great curiosity – even in her later years, she had such an avidity for new ideas, new ways of thinking. The status quo bored her. This curiosity gave her the courage to keep trying new things – to continue to be creative for her entire life. As a dancer, she provided an atmosphere of experimentation and exploration. As you developed a new role or a new interpretation, you were encouraged to question everything, to stretch and challenge yourself. Now as artistic head of the Graham Center, I appreciate more than ever how she valued creativity and innovation, and feel we she would be invigorated by all the experimentation we are doing.

RZ What are your fondest and most unique memories of Martha?

JE Of course I remember her as a great director – able to inspire or terrify you depending on what she needed to draw out of you. But I also remember her humor and a sweetness that most people don’t connect with her theatrical image. I was lucky enough to dance at the White House the night she received the Medal of Freedom from President Ford. She was about 82 years old. In the car on the way back to the hotel after the ceremony and celebration, she sighed and said to me, “As I walked on the red carpet with the honor guard and all the flags overhead, all I could think of was if only my mother could see me now…” A moment we can all relate to!

RZ You mentioned that some of Graham's past dancers teach at the school. Could you mention a few, and what their training adds to your program.

JE We are lucky to have many generations of Graham dancers teaching at the school – some who danced with the company in the 1950s and 60s like Marnie Thomas and Ellen Graff, some from later decades like Peggy Lyman and Lone Larson and some even more recent like Elizabeth Auclair or Virginie Mecene, who is now director of the school. I believe these teachers bring a range of experiences with the Graham legacy and with the field of modern dance in general that gives a unique depth and breadth to our educational offerings.

RZ How is the current company shaping up with some new dancers?

JE Fantastic!!! We have several new dancers in the company this year who have come out of our School and our advanced student company, Graham II. And they are all terrific! Come to our NY season in February and see Iris Florentiny-Reyne, Abdiel Jacobson, Lloyd Mayor and Ying Xin who have all just recently moved into the main company from Graham II, and of course all the rest of our beautiful dancers.

RZ You mentioned a February-March season. Where, and what is the theme and program, so far, as it's evolving?

JE Our NY season is at the Joyce Theater from February 20 to March 3. Our season theme this year is “Myth and Transformation”. We’re looking at how artists take iconic stories and characters and transform them to make contemporary statements. Graham did this – as of course many, many artists have. We’re particularly featuring Graham’s Greek themed works this season. We are reviving her erotic masterwork from 1963, Phaedra, which hasn’t been seen in a decade. And the season will also feature three of her other classic Greek works: Errand into the Maze, Cave of the Heart and Night Journey. One program will contain the NY premiere of a new work that Doug Varone created for us and another will have The Show (Achilles Heels) created, choreographed and directed by Richard Move. It was originally commissioned by Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project, and is a highly provocative, contemporary interpretation of the Greek legend of Achilles featuring an original score by Arto Lindsay with songs by Deborah Harry and Blondie and scenic art by Nicole Eisenman.

RZ Tell me about the "Rite of Spring's" North Carolina revival for it's 100th anniversary. I read about the 1984 Graham production and its success.

JE University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has just launched an incredible line-up for its 2012-13 season that revolves entirely around the 100th Anniversary of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. 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 on April 26 and 27. We’re also thirlled that the UNC presenter, Emil Kang, has also commissioned a new work for our company by the renowned international choreographer, Nacho Duato. Duato be working with the Company in December and January to create this new work with music by Arvo Part.

Chilled Gazpacho Soup
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Janet Eilber, Artistic Director
Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Seven Bar and Grill Wait Staff
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Chilled Lobster with Citrus Green Salad
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Ian Conroy, Proprietor, Seven Bar and Grill
with Janet Eilber
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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