MARTHA GRAHAM DANCE COMPANY Matinee
March 19, 2012
For its run at the Joyce Theater, the Martha Graham Dance Company presented “Inner
Landscape,” one of the company’s innovative contextual programs designed by Artistic
Director Janet Eilber that strings together Graham’s psychological works with film,
narration, and pieces by other choreographers, both old and new.
There is already a film playing as the audience gets seated: “Beautiful Captives,” a montage
by Peter Sparling with music by Erik Santos that overlays film of Martha Graham dancing
with black and white movies, blurring the lines between the dance performance and the
actors on screen. The soundtrack sets up the program’s theme by including text about
Freud and psychoanalysis.
As the film ends, the lights come up on “Allegro Misterioso,” a solo choreographed in 1954
by Anna Sokolow, one of Graham’s disciples. Standing in the corner with her torso doubled
over and arms outstretched to the floor, the dancer begins to flutter her hands quickly,
maintaining a straight line in her back as she lets her hands trace an upward path until
they are pointed directly at the ceiling. Although her hands and focus still reach to the sky,
her body begins to slowly hinge backwards, until she is forced to catch herself by rolling
quickly to the ground, only to stand up and start again. Throughout much of the solo, the
dancer runs around the stage, staring pointedly into space as if expecting to find something
in close pursuit. As Eilber joked during the program narration that followed, clearly
Graham was not the only choreographer fascinated with angst.
Graham’s “Deaths and Entrances” opens on a tableau of three women—Graham envisioned
them as the three Bronte sisters—wearing similar evening dresses playing chess. For one
sister the game seems to stir memories of the past. These lost remembrances come in and
out of the space like visions, sending the sister into dramatic fits of emotion. Graham’s
signature movements—the cupped hands, the contracting torso—are featured throughout,
all performed with the dramatic intensity of a silent film.
Originally developed to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, “Lamentation Variations”
are contemporary choreographer’s spontaneous responses to a film of Graham from
the 1930s performing movements from her famous solo “Lamentation.” This particular
program featured the variations of Bulareyaung Pagarlava, Larry Keigwin and a premiere
by Yvonne Rainer. The brief sketches range widely in style and movement, yet remain tied
to the original source material.
Pagarlava’s and Keigwin’s works maintain the introspective,
somber tone of the original; Rainer, instead, opts for a lightly comedic approach: a dancer
perches on a box in a shirt that stretched to resemble the original “Lamentation” costume
while Eilberg alternately puts paper in a shredder and shines a light in the dancer’s face to
try and get her to move.
The program closes with “Chronicle,” a Graham work from 1936 choreographed in
response to the rise of the fascism in Europe. As the solo figure in the opening section
depicting the prelude to war, Jacqueline Bulnes was all fearsome attack, forcefully
manipulating her long, black skirt, sending it up in the air to reveal the red lining
The mass of black-clad women that enter for the second section resemble a
small army, jetting across the space with tense leaps and moving in and out of formation.
The precision and discipline with which the company replicates Graham’s movements is
exceptional; it is remarkable to feel as if the old company videos have come alive in high
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jessica Moore