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Martha Graham Dance Company: American Document 2010, Sketches from "Chronicle"
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Martha Graham Dance Company: American Document 2010, Sketches from "Chronicle"

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Political Dance Project
American Document (2010)
Sketches from “Chronicle”


At
The Joyce Theater
www.joyce.org
175 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
212.242.0800

Martha Graham: Founder, Dancer, Choreographer
Artistic Director: Janet Eilber
Executive Director: LaRue Allen
Senior Artistic Associate: Denise Vale
Music Director: Aaron Sherber
Lighting Designer: Beverly Emmons
General Manager: Faye Rosenbaum
Production Manager: Ann Posluszny
Director of School: Virginie Mécène
Press: Jonathan Marder + Company

Martha Graham Dance Company:
Tadej Brdnik, Katherine Crockett, Jennifer DePalo,
Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, Maurizio Nardi, Miki Orihara,
Blakely White-McGuire, Lloyd Knight

Jacqueline Bulnes, Sevin Ceviker, Jacquelyn Elder,
Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Samuel Pott, Ben Schultz,
Heather McGinley, Andrea Murillo, Xiaochuan Xie

Guest Artists from SITI Company:
(SITI Company Website)
Akiko Aizawa, Leon Ingulsrud, Ellen Lauren,
Kelly Maurer, Barney O’Hanlon, Stephen Webber

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 8, 2010


(See More Graham Company Reviews)

American Document (2010): Directed by Anne Bogart, Written by Charles L. Mee, Lighting by Brian H. Scott, Sound Design by Darron L. West, Costumes by James Schuette, Created by and performed by members of the Martha Graham Dance Co. and SITI Co.

The Martha Graham Dance Company has reinvented itself and its expanded repertoire over the years since Graham died, in April, 1991, at almost 97 years old. Ms. Graham danced into her 70’s and created 181 modern dance ballets. She was a pioneer of Modern Dance and directly influenced 20th and 21st Century recent and current choreographers and dancers in her unique stylized dance genre. After long, bitter battles over legal rights to her choreographies, more complicated than I can describe, the current Martha Graham Dance Company is now presenting less than one week at The Joyce of a few Graham works, a few archival Modern Dance works, and a few new “Graham inspired” works.

American Document (2010), an “inspired” piece, similar to Graham’s 1938 American Document, has been forged by Anne Bogart of SITI Company, an actors’ ensemble, and Charles L. Mee, playwright. To put it kindly, I found the work unsettling and unworthy of Opening Night placement in a Martha Graham Dance Company program. In fact, it was macabre; at one point the SITI actors and Graham dancers were forced to shout out methods of torturing a rat. Yes. This was an anti-torture statement, anti-right-wing, to be sure, and a commendable concept, had it been “choreographed” differently. Yet this work was barely dance, as the six actors were in a variety of physical shapes, suitable for acting, yet unsuitable for an Opening Night dance of the Graham Company’s renowned stature.

Program notes refer to Ms. Graham as a “visionary choreographer”. American Document (2010) was more vulgar than visionary, and, thankfully, I only had to experience it once in my three night attendance. Ten Graham dancers and the six actors moved about, with fragmented music, occasionally gesturing in Graham “inspired” technique, e.g., a pelvis thrust, frontward shoulder leads, bent knees, leaps, and more. I had no problem with the actors collaborating. I would have preferred to have them in full acting capacity, reciting the poems and literary excerpts that relate to inherent Americana, with the Graham dancers in full dance capacity, unhindered in scope or speed. A live musical accompaniment or uninterrupted recording would have enhanced the experience, since it was an endless hour to the only intermission. Darron L. West’s “soundscape” included bits of Copland, Archie Shepp, and Ben Webster, but they were presented as morsels, within spoken, walked, and athletic exercises. Martha Graham deserves better.


Sketches from Chronicle (1936): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Wallingford Riegger, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by David Finley and Steven L. Shelley, Researched and Reconstructed in 1989 and 1994 by Terese Capucilli, Carol Fried, Yuriko, Martha Graham, Sophie Maslow, and Diane Gray, Performed by Jennifer DePalo, Miki Orihara, Jacquelyn Elder, Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Heather McGinley, Andrea Murillo, Blakely White-McGuire, Xiaochuan Xie.

When the lights dimmed and Jennifer DePalo appeared, alone, in the iconic, brilliant, red and black dress, that epitomizes the color of war, Martha Graham’s legacy was indeed radiant and reverent. I vividly recall Fang-Yi Sheu and Elizabeth Auclair in the opening “Spectre – 1914” segment, in past years, and Jennifer DePalo was equally outstanding and austere, as she moved about the Noguchi-styled box to “Drums-Red Shroud-Lament”. The dress became scenery, shifting in fabric tone, held high, or enveloping the stage. Ms. DePalo’s torso and pelvis took on a life of their own, as she fully exemplified Ms. Graham’s “contraction-release” techniques. When “Spectre” was over, I had a craving to see it yet again, the performance was so riveting.

“Steps in the Street”, led by the virtuosic Miki Orihara, another Graham pro, has been seen repeatedly in Graham and Graham II events, and, again, I never tire of this work. Its segments are titled “Devastation-Homelessness-Exile”. One by one, and then the ensemble, appears almost silently, shuffling deliberately, sideways, like a Greek vase figure, heel-toe in Graham barefoot mode. Dresses are long, tight-fitting black, and the dancers’ affect is collectively mournful. If ever there were a face of war, this is it. Ms. Orihara is an impassioned, mesmerizing dancer, and Jacquelyn Elder and Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch enhanced this performance with transporting intensity. The full ensemble was pure perfection in its recreation of this monumental work. “Prelude to Action” brought Ms. DePalo back in a white-black dress, and this time she was ablaze with fevered leaps and lunges, all intrinsically in the Graham motif of primal power. The full ensemble, again, grabbed the viewer’s attention throughout.

Below are photos of Jennifer DePalo, but no photos were available of the current company’s ensemble segments. In fact, the Graham Dance Company’s website still posts photos of past Company dancers, who have long ago moved on. Also below are a few preview performance photos taken at the Reception of a Graham Gala Benefit at Cedar Lake space in Chelsea.



Jennifer DePalo in
Graham's "Sketches from Chronicle"
Courtesy of COSTAS


Jennifer DePalo in
Graham's "Sketches from Chronicle"
Courtesy of COSTAS


Jennifer DePalo in
Graham's "Sketches from Chronicle"
Courtesy of COSTAS



Martha Graham Dance Company
Gala Reception at Cedar Lake
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Martha Graham Dance Company
Gala Reception at Cedar Lake
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Graham Company Dance Preview
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Graham Company Dance Preview
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Virginie Mécène, Director,
Graham II
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Graham Company Dance Preview
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Graham Company Dance Preview
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Graham Company Dance Preview
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Graham Company Dance Preview
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Martha Graham Dance Company
Gala Reception at Cedar Lake
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower




For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net