MARTHA GRAHAM DANCE COMPANY OPENS
March 16, 2012
Snatches of Martha Graham intoning dance truths materialize on a video montage (Beautiful Captives by Peter Sparling) as the audience files in to see the The Martha Graham Dance Company take the Joyce Theater stage. Two different repertory programs alternate along with a special evening performed by over 100 students and a gala at City Center.
It's not easy keeping a dance company viable after the creator has died, particularly when the company founder was a modern dance fountainhead. But through sheer determination, and productive educational strategies, the company is moving forward under the leadership of Janet Eilber. Program A opened with the amusing and cheekily sexy “All the World's a Circus" that featured Erick Hawkins and Merce Cunningham in the original production.
A virile Ring Master, Tadej Brdnik asserts his presence, stomping out rhythms, torso forcefully erect before the wonderfully whimsical Empress of the Arena (Blakeley White-McGuire). A series of characters color in the picture of absurdist, fanciful life theater demonstrating the postures and gestures solidifying into the Graham movement language.
“Lamentation” a Graham solo that captured the notice of generations of viewers, serves as a fertile jumping off point for the commission of seven variations devised by contemporary choreographers, including one by Lar Lubovitch.
A soulful and heart wrenching solo, Graham sits on a stool, enveloped in a stretchy tube of material, doubling her torso over and slowly drawing up limbs until an emotional gravity yanks them back down. Lubovitch magnifies the movement’s sensibility spreading the choreography over the Graham ensemble. Entwined like a double image of Shiva, the central couple is surrounded by an Ancient Greek chorus of company members. Dancers react to the couple’s movement impulses, rotating around their centers, into the floor, and up in a lyrical ode to the never-ending song of loss.
Immersed in Greek mythology, Graham choreographed “Night Journey” as an ode to Queen Jocasta, the mother and wife of Oedipus. In her usual feminist twist, Graham dubs Jocasta (Katherine Crockett) the protagonist. Flipped back to front, the story starts at the point when Jocasta takes her life and she flashes on her encounter and union with Oedipus. Full of pathos and great joy, the dance depicts the angst through torso contractions (formed like responses to punches in the solar plexus) and the heart rushing torso plunging down as the leg fans up over. Even if the story remains a mystery to viewers the human experience is ever-present.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis