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Martha Graham Dance Company: Fall and Recovery Benefit Program

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Myth and Transformation
Fall and Recovery Benefit Program

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

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:
Tadej Brdnik, Katherine Crockett, Maurizio Nardi,
Miki Orihara, Blakely White-McGuire, Lloyd Knight,
Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Ben Schultz, Xiaochuan Xie,
PeiJu Chien-Pott, Natasha Diamond Walker, Iris Florentiny,
Abdiel Jacobsen, Oliver Tobin, Lloyd Mayor,
Lorenzo Pagano, Lucy Postell, Ying Xin

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 26, 2013

(See More Graham Company Reviews and Interviews)

Improvisation: Michelle Dorrance. Tonight’s Benefit, Fall and Recovery, was to raise funds for the Graham Company’s lost costumes and sets, due to the October hurricane and its damage within the storage areas of the Company’s new Westbeth studios. This eclectic program included traditional ballet, danced by stars from the New York dance community, as well as Graham works, a reconstruction, preview excerpts, and more. Before the show began, a silent archival film showed original Graham dancers on the grass, falling and rising. Michelle Dorrance began the evening with improvisational tap dance a cappella. She was followed by LaRue Allen, the Executive Director of the Graham Company, who made an eloquent appeal for restoration assistance..

After the Rain (Excerpt): Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon, Music: Arvo Pärt, Costumes: Holly Hynes, Performed by Wendy Whelan and Ask la Cour. This is the second half of After the Rain, an exquisite work from City Ballet that has been reviewed in this column on numerous occasions. The Wheeldon piece allows for Ms. Whelan (she remains its only female performer) and a male partner (it was Jock Soto originally) to move within the whispery musical score, against, on, under, and toward each other. Ask la Cour, a recently promoted Principal with City Ballet, has mastered the flexing hand and arm gestures. His lanky build and height work well for the poignant imagery. The dancers rolled and coiled on the stage, after Ms. Whelan stood en air, balancing on Mr. la Cour’s legs, with both dancers stretching forward in windswept fashion. The audience was quite enthused, and it seemed that many were just now introduced to this magical Wheeldon oeuvre. .

The Show (Achilles Heels, Excerpt): Choreography, Creation, Director: Richard Move, Original Score: Arto Lindsay, Songs by Deborah Harry and Blondie, Costumes: Pilar Limosner, Lighting: Lee Dickert, Narrator: Tadej Brdnik, Performed by Lloyd Mayor as Achilles and Katherine Crockett as Helen of Troy, with Blakeley White-McGuire, Ben Schultz, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Natasha Diamond-Walker..

This excerpt of a new work by Richard Move had pre-recorded voices and campy head turns, with Lloyd Mayor, a new member of the Company just introduced. He has outsized stage presence and portrayed Achilles, with Katherine Crockett as Helen of Troy. Both dancers were spellbinding, and the Chorus of additional performers, in gold woven headpieces, mouthed the entertaining narrative with twists of the neck and head, all synchronized like Swan Lake’s Cygnettes. This piece will be reviewed in greater detail when it’s performed in totality.

2.2: Choreography: Francesca Harper, Choreographic Assistant: Eriko Iisaku, Music: Autechre and Franz Joseph Haydn, Performed by Francesca Harper and Eriko Iisaku. There was an improvisational bent to this work for two dancers, by Francesca Harper, as the costumes morphed from grey black to flamenco, with the music morphing from electronic to Haydn.

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue: Choreography: George Balanchine, Music: Richard Rodgers, Costumes: Irene Sharaff, Performed by Maria Kowroski and Martin Harvey. This is another City Ballet work that’s been reviewed on several occasions. It’s choreographed by George Balanchine, and, as in After the Rain, the familiar female cast dancer, Maria Kowroski, was here at the Graham Gala, along with a new partner, Martin Harvey, a dynamo, driven and dashing. I can’t remember enjoying this work more, even though it was excerpted for the pas de deux. It’s a ballet from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s On Your Toes, and it has Ms. Kowroski showing off her strong, long limbs with pizzazz. But here, tonight, she was having a ball, flirting and cavorting with Mr. Harvey in show-stopping fashion. Mr. la Cour even came back rear stage to do the fire-cracking honors with the show’s pistol. Mr. Harvey should be partnering Ms. Kowroski in this genre more often.

Moon (from Canticle for Innocent Comedians): Choreography: Martha Graham, Costumes: Miki Orihara, Original Music: Cameron McCosh, Music Recreation: Pat Dougherty, Performed by Miki Orihara and Abdiel Jacobsen. Martha Graham’s Moon was another showstopper, thanks to Miki Orihara and Abdiel Jacobsen. Ms. Orihara, in a white silk dress, was rocked in pulsating rhythm, to the Cameron McCosh score, by Mr. Jacobsen, in searing sublimity. This dance has gravitas and sophistication, pathos and sentiment. These are master dancers, both.

Dose: Choreography: David Neumann, Music: Tom Waits, Performed by David Neumann. Compared to the exceptional performances throughout this fine evening, Mr. Neumann’s dance seemed underachieved. It was called Dose,, set to a Tom Waits score. The jazzy hip-hop lyrics lacked interest, and Mr. Neumann merely moved a wiggle here, a pelvic gesture there, seeming to showcase muscular isolation, but this was no Bill Irwin or Marcel Marceau.

Dying Swan: Choreography: Mikhail Fokine, Music: Camille Saint-Saëns, Costume: Olga Dvorovenko, Performed by Irina Dvorovenko. Irina Dvorovenko, soon to retire from American Ballet Theatre, in May, is a frequent Gala performer, with her outstanding rendition of Mikhail Fokine’s Dying Swan. This was one more show-stopper, in an evening of such grandeur, and the audience went wild. Ms. Dvorovenko, performing in a costume created by her mother, Olga, undulated her quivering arms, just as a swan would do, even better, fluttering with her back to the audience, to huge accolades.

Imperial Gesture: Choreography: Martha Graham, Reconstruction: Kim Jones, Original Music: Lehman Engel, Music for reconstruction: Pat Daugherty, Costume: Karen Young after original by Martha Graham, Lighting: Judith M. Daitsman, Dramaturg: Jean-Marie Higgins, Performed by Blakely White-McGuire.

This recreation of a 1935 Graham work, which I had never seen, was the pièce de résistance of tonight’s Gala. Kim Jones is listed as the reconstruction designer, which would require hundreds of hours, pouring over archival notes and images. Blakely White-McGuire danced in the bright orange and black dress, kicking and whipping the skirt around with intensity. This is a work that encompasses lust for power and essence of ego, as Ms. Eilber explained in one of her many appreciated comments to the audience, at various intervals. This nightly practice illuminated the works for all in attendance.

Rust (Preview Excerpt): Choreography and Costumes: Nacho Duato, Asst. to Mr. Duato: Kevin Irving, Music: Arvo Pärt, Additional music: Pedro Alcalde, Lighting: Brad Fields, Performed by Tadej Brdnik, Abdiel Jacobsen, Lloyd Knight, Maurizio Nardi, Ben Schultz. The preview of Rust, by Nacho Duato, with five crème de la crème male dancers from the Company, had Maurizio Nardi, at one point, falling onto his arms. The men roll, walk, and even carry one dancer in interesting imagery. I look forward to the complete work next season.

From the Grammar Of Dreams: Choreography and Costumes: Luca Veggetti, Music: Kaija Saariaho, Lighting: Beverly Emmons, Performed by PeiJu Chien-Pott, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Blakeley White-McGuire, Xiaochuan Xie, Ying Xin. Like Dose, I found From the Grammar of Dreams puzzling and a lesser work, but there will be an opportunity to revisit it this week. It’s filled with atonal angst, staccato screaming and shrillness, thanks to a Kaija Saariaho score. Figures and positions change, with five women performing, a mirror image of Rust, for five men. The eerie motif would have been more appreciated, by this writer, with a different score, to jazz or contemporary chamber music. Yet, it was well received by most in the crowd.

Panorama (Theme of Dedication, Imperial Theme, Popular Theme): Choreography and Costumes: Martha Graham, Reconstruction: Yuriko, Restaging and Direction: Oliver Tobin and Amelie Benard, Music Norman Lloyd, Performed by Teens@Graham All-City Panorama Project.

I have reviewed this work previously, and it never ceases to amaze. Thirty-one high school students, mostly women, dash and jump and pound their feet, in iconic Graham shapes and footwork, all in loose red costumes. The Norman Lloyd score was well chosen by Ms. Graham in its original “Theme of Dedication”, “Imperial Theme”, and “Popular Theme”. Not only is this a great recruiting device, for the Graham School, but also a way to develop young audiences, who learn by doing. The dancers were propulsive, possessed, and impassioned. Not one was off-step or off-focus. This concept was conceived by Janet Eilber, and it remains a huge success.

Kudos to the Graham Company, and kudos to Martha Graham.

Graham's "Imperial Gesture"
Danced by Blakeley White-McGuire
Courtesy of Charles Eilber

Veggetti's "From the Grammar of Dreams"
Danced by Xiaochuan Xie, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Ying Xin
Courtesy of Costas

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