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Juilliard Dances Repertory 2015 Performs Martha Graham's "Dark Meadow" and Merce Cunningham's "BIPED"
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Juilliard Dances Repertory 2015 Performs Martha Graham's "Dark Meadow" and Merce Cunningham's "BIPED"

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Juilliard Dance
Lawrence Rhodes, Artistic Director

Juilliard Dances Repertory 2015

Dark Meadow
By Martha Graham – Carlos Chávez
Aaron Sherber, Conductor

By Merce Cunningham – Gavin Bryars

At the Peter Jay Sharp Theater
Press: Gloria Gottschalk

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 25, 2015

Dark Meadow (1946): Choreography and costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Carlos Chávez, Set by Isamu Noguchi, Staged and directed by Terese Capucilli, Original lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Lighting design (1998) by Beverly Emmons based on the original, Additional coaching and rehearsal by Christine Dakin, Rehearsal assisted by Elizabeth Auclair, Costume consultant: Karen Young, Costumes executed by Juilliard Costume Shop, Set consultant: Anne Posluszny, Set restoration by Juilliard Production Shops, Conductor: Aaron Sherber, Performed by Tiare Keeno, Jeffery Duffy, Kellie Drobnick, and an ensemble of nine dancers and eight musicians, on flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, violin I, violin II, viola, and cello.

Martha Graham’s 1946 Dark Meadow is a rare and magnetic work. Tonight’s performance by Juilliard Dance, an annual repertory showcase event, brought out many of the who’s who in the New York dance community, especially former Graham dancers, whom I noticed in the aisles. One former Graham dancer, who was also Co-Artistic Director some years ago, is Terese Capucilli, who staged and directed this gripping dance for Juilliard. For additional coaching and rehearsal, Ms. Capucilli brought in her former Co-Artistic Director, Christine Dakin, as well as former dancer, Elizabeth Auclair. I vividly recall their exquisite dancing over the decades. Also in the audience and in the aisles were Virginie Mécène, who heads the Graham II troupe, and Janet Eilber, current Graham Dance Artistic Director. It was truly an exciting evening to be at Juilliard, a tribute to its high esteem.

The Graham quote that accompanies tonight’s Dark Meadow program outline refers to Ms. Graham’s “…necessity…to reveal the inner landscape,…the soul of man.” An original 1946 review of Ms. Graham’s forty minute, complex work, written in The Times, by John Martin, summarized that it was a difficult dance to follow, but an important event of the season. I agree, and that is what I noted to Janet Eilber at intermission. This is a dance that grows on the viewer in the gestalt. An ensemble of twelve included Tiare Keeno, as One Who Seeks, Jeffery Duffy, as He Who Summons, Kellie Drobnick, as She of the Ground, and an ensemble of nine as They Who Dance Together. The 1946 commissioned score, by Carlos Chávez, has a Native American Indian motif, as do the earth-toned costumes, an original Graham design. The score, conducted by Aaron Sherber, was performed by a student ensemble on oboe, clarinet, bassoon, violins I and II, viola, and cello, who enhanced the visual aesthetic and expanded the Juilliard experience.

The tall Isamu Noguchi sets were symbolic of the erotic and cultural motif of this piece that seemed steeped in Ms. Graham’s fascination with Native American Indian rhythms and rituals. The leads, Jeffery Duffy, in black, and Tiare Keeno, in red, are exceptionally riveting in their solos and duos, eyes glistening, pelvises thrusting, shoulders angular, bare feet stomping, and chemistry seething. Kellie Drobnick, in a long, tight dress and thorny crown, exuded stunning persona, as did the pulsating ensemble. Kudos to all.

BIPED (1999): Choreography by Merce Cunningham, Music by Gavin Bryars (Biped), Projected artwork by Shelley Eshkar and Paul Kaiser, Costumes by Suzanne Gallo, Lighting by Aaron Copp, Staged by Jennifer Goggans and Jean Freebury, Design and production consultant: Davison Scandrett, Music consultant: Jesse Stiles, Music coaching: John King and Lauren Dempster, Costumes executed by the Juilliard Costume Shop, Costume consultant: Jennifer Goggans, Performed by an ensemble of seventeen dancers and four musicians, on violin, cello, guitar, double bass, and keyboard.

Ironically, Merce Cunningham, who danced in the Graham Company when Dark Meadow premiered in 1946, appearing, then, in Graham’s Letter to the World, an homage to Emily Dickinson, choreographed BIPED in 1999, over a half century later, for his own Company, and it could not have been atmospherically more in contrast to tonight’s previous work. With electronically timed lighting and sound, with a filmatic, projection grid, with a score by Gavin Bryars (“Biped”), and with sleek, silvery costumes by Suzanne Gallo, later shifting to solid, grey jersey jumpsuits, BIPED was equally mesmerizing. Without the erotic clues of set, gesture, and psychic connection of the Graham work, this atmospheric, Cunningham work was a dance media event, with dancers in swift or languid moving patterns, a kaleidoscopic gestalt. Like Graham, this modern dance, barefoot and pulsating, reconfigured the ensemble around leads, who here were anonymous. For Cunningham, Juilliard danced in techy synchronicity, rather than Graham’s tribal ritualism. Four musicians, on violin, cello, guitar, double bass-keyboard, performed the score. The ensemble of seventeen was echoed in the projected, robotic figures on the lighted grid. It’s good to know that Merce Cunningham’s pieces are being seen, and in such professional hands. Jennifer Goggans and Jean Freebury did the staging. Kudos to all..

Juilliard Dances Repertory
Jeffery Duffy and Tiare Keeno
in Martha Graham's "Dark Meadow"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Juilliard Dances Repertory
Merce Cunningham's "BIPED"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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