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Martha Graham Dance Company: Gala: "At Summer’s Full", "Lamentation Variations", "Steps in the Street", at The Joyce Theater
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Martha Graham Dance Company: Gala: "At Summer’s Full", "Lamentation Variations", "Steps in the Street", at The Joyce Theater

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Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Shape & Design: Gala
Film by Peter Arnell
At Summer’s Full
Lamentation Variations
Steps in the Street

The Joyce Theater

Martha Graham: Founder, Choreographer
Artistic Director: Janet Eilber
Executive Director: LaRue Allen
Senior Artistic Associate: Denise Vale
Press: Janet Stapleton

Martha Graham Dance Company:
Tadej Brdnik, PeiJu Chien-Pott,
Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, Lloyd Knight,
Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Blakely White-McGuire,
Abdiel Jacobsen, Ben Schultz, XiaoChuan Xie,
Natasha M. Diamond Walker, Lloyd Mayor,
Lauren Newman, Lorenzo Pagano, Lucy Postell,
Ying Xin, Charlotte Landreau, Anne O’Donnell,
Dani Stinger, Konstantina Xintara

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 10, 2015

(See More Graham Company Reviews and Interviews)

Film by Peter Arnell (World Premiere): Edited by Dan Marino, Music by Ron “Neffu” Feemster, Camera: Rune Stokmo, Asst. Camera: Connie Zhou, Graphics: Yuko Yamazaki.

How wonderful to have the Graham Company back, performing in town. Peter Arnell’s new film is created of thousands of stills of the dancers in motion, then photo-montaged as a pulsating film, with dancers’ legs sliding down, arms slowly outstretching, torsos pulling the bodies, ensembles joining and separating, and so on. I found the film enchanting, in black and white, and it was presented for every program.

At Summer’s Full (Selections from “Letter to the World”, 1940): Choreography by Martha Graham, Arranged by Janet Eilber, Music by Hunter Johnson, Costumes provided by Body Wrappers, Lighting by John Torres, Performed by Misty Copeland (Guest Artist), and an ensemble of eight.

Martha Graham’s 1940 “Letter to the World” was excerpted and arranged by Janet Eilber, Artistic Director, for a new work, At Summer’s Full, featuring the American Ballet Theatre Soloist, Misty Copeland. Ms. Copeland lent an air of balletic elegance, with the Company in ballet slippers, as well, rather than requisite barefoot. Lloyd Knight partnered Ms. Copeland, holding her as if she were porcelain. The ensemble of eight was equally featured, in this homage to Emily Dickinson’s poetry: “There comes a day at summer’s full, Entirely for me; I thought that such were for the saints, Where revelations be…” The Body Wrappers costumes, in shades of grey, allowed for the women to swirl their long skirts into silky circles. This is a ballet I’d like to see in the original Graham choreography with the 20 Dickinson, spoken poems.

Lamentation Variations (Project: 2007): Choreography by Kyle Abraham, Michelle Dorrance, Liz Gerring, and Sonya Tayeh, Performed by the Company.

In 2007, on the anniversary of 9/11/01, the Company began presenting new choreography called “Lamentation Variations”, each of which synthesizes the Graham original, with elements of grief, mourning, introspection, alienation, and numerous other interpretations of the archival film of Graham’s Lamentation performance (which was also shown, in silence).

Kyle Abraham’s new work was a duo for Ying Xin and XiaoChuan Xie. Their shadows cast connecting imagery of each other in imaginative style. Michelle Dorrance’s Variation, for a larger ensemble, is propulsive, yet poignant, with dancers exemplifying moments of grief in varying rhythms, while wearing casual street clothes. One male dancer, in a side-by-side ensemble, faces rear, others facing front. The gazes evoke Ms. Graham’s original oeuvre. Liz Gerring’s Variation, with an ensemble led by Lloyd Knight, was introspective and searing, while Sonya Tayeh’s Variation included moves of contemporary hip hop, balletic athleticism, and percussive motion to match the score.

Steps in the Street (1936): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Wallingford Riegger, Original lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Lighting adapted by Nicholas Houfek, Stage Design by Frank Gehry, Performed by Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch and the Company.

A new black-white, atmospheric stage design, constantly in slow motion, projected on the backdrop, was by Frank Gehry, who was also on hand to take an audience-positioned bow. Graham’s Steps in the Street, the centerpiece of the 1936 Chronicle, was reconstructed in 1989 by Ms. Graham, with Yuriko, over a half century after her original creation. Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch led a women’s ensemble of eleven, in black long stretch dresses, in this renowned antiwar work. The sound is sometimes silent, with just the shuffling of feet and jumping pulse, and sometimes flooded with Wallingford Riegger’s score. This is a work one never tires of; it’s mesmerizing and majestic.

Kudos to all, and kudos to Martha Graham.

Misty Copeland and Lloyd Knight
in "At Summer's Full"
(selections from Martha Graham's "Letter to the World")
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce

Xiaochuan Xie and Ying Xin
in Kyle Abraham's "Lamentation Variation"
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce

Martha Graham Dance Company
in Michelle Dorrance's "Lamentation Variation"
Courtesy of Christopher Jones

Martha Graham Dance Company
in Martha Graham's "Steps in the Street"
Stage design by Frank Gehry
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce

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