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Graham 2 Performs Graham Works and a Premiere, with an Honoree Reception at the Martha Graham Studio Theater
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Graham 2 Performs Graham Works and a Premiere, with an Honoree Reception at the Martha Graham Studio Theater

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The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance
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Graham 2
(Graham 2 Website)
New York City Season

Honoring Graham Alumna Diane Gray

Martha Graham Studio Theater
55 Bethune Street, 11th Floor
NYC, NY 10014

The Martha Graham Dance Company
Artistic Director: Janet Eilber
Exec. Director: LaRue Allen

Graham 2 Artistic Director: Virginie Mécène

Graham 2 Dancers:
Sarita Apel, Alex Clayton, Vera Paganin, Alexandria Stinger
Linda Bombelli, Alessio Crognale, Jessica Sgambelluri
Dani Stinger, Antonio Cangiano, Stylianos Kefalas,
Anne Souder, Anja Zwetti

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 28, 2015

(See More Graham Company Reviews)

Night Chant (1990) (Excerpt): Choreography by Martha Graham, Restaging by Virginie Mécène, Costumes by Halston and Martha Graham, Music by R. Carlos Nikai, Set by Isamu Noguchi, Performed by Anne Souder, Alex Clayton, and Graham 2 ensemble.

Heretic (1929): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music Arranged by Charles de Sivy, Lighting by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Jessica Sgambelluri and Graham 2 ensemble.

Satyric Festival Song (1932): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Original Music by Imre Weisshaus, Music for Reconstruction by Fernando Palacios, arranged by Aaron Sherber, Lighting for Reconstruction by Paul Ziemer, Performed by Dani Stinger.

Turning Point (Premiere): Choreography by Blanca Li, Music by Ted Gutierrez (“Sunset Wind”), Performed by Graham 2 ensemble.

Diversion of Angels (1948): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Norman Dello Joio, Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Anja Zwetti and Alessio Crognale, as The Couple in White, Anne Souder and Antonio Cangiano, as The Couple in Red, Vera Paganin and Alex Clayton, as The Couple in Yellow, and Sarita Apel, Linda Bombelli, Jessica Sgambelluri, Dani Stinger, and Stylianos Kefalas as the Chorus.

I was so happy to have been invited to the opening night, gala of the Graham 2 dance ensemble season, in Westbeth, at its Martha Graham Studio Theater. Although it was a hot and humid, late spring evening, the expansive space, once occupied by Merce Cunningham’s troupe, was packed. A special honor was bestowed on Diane Gray, the former Associate Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company and former Director of the Graham School. Ms. Gray is also an alumna of the Company, in which she danced for sixteen years, and, during the 1980’s, she led her own company, Dances by Diane Gray. Ms. Gray, Honoree, was feted by speeches, including one by Nolini Barreto, of the Graham Alumni Committee. A film, “A Love Fest”, by Nancy Stevens, produced by Virginie Mécène, Artistic Director of Graham 2 and Director of the Graham School, included tributes and anecdotes addressed to and for Diane Gray. Some of the tales included witty trials and tribulations of touring with the Company. Janet Eilber, Artistic Director of the Graham Center and Graham Dance Company, spoke eloquently of Diane Gray, and she welcomed all the special guests. Ms. Mécène introduced the program and spoke with pride about her Graham 2 ensemble and Graham School students, many of whom, by now, are members of the main Company.

Graham’s 1988 Night Chant, excerpted tonight, featured Anne Souder and Alex Clayton, along with thirteen more dancers, some of whom are “Understudies”, plus a Company “Apprentice”. They are all students in the Graham School. The 1988 Night Chant, with its Navajo Indian chants, R. Carlos Nikai’s wooden flute score, corn husk props, and Isamu Noguchi tree, is a perfect dance vehicle for a student ensemble. The silky costumes, by Halston and Ms. Graham, flow luminously over the leotards. A full moon is illuminated within the backdrop. There were cartwheels, women tossed by male partners, elevated leaps, slapped thighs, and women’s arms held like circular chains, flapping like wings. Flexed wrists and pelvic thrusts were indicative of the Graham dance genre. The corn-like, hand-held objects and a percussive shaker were evocative of the harvest, with a flat, round drum passed from man to woman. When the men walked in line, their arms held like open rectangles, and the women bent forward, their arms stiffly crossed, Native American, ritualistic motifs ensued. Both Ms. Souder and Mr. Clayton were mesmerizing in form and affect.

Graham’s 1929 Heretic was led by Jessica Sgambelluri, as the heretic, with a female ensemble of eight. The dance is the image of starkness and contrasting emotions. The dancers are dressed in severe, black, long, tight dresses with heads covered, as well. They walk and dance with clenched jaws and fists, the image of self-righteousness and lack of forgiveness. The Heretic, Ms. Sgambelluri, is costumed in contrasting white, falling prostate at their feet, every joint and muscle taught with physicality, in anguish for her life. Her blond hair and white costume evoke youthful innocence. One senses raw vulnerability. What is always so impressive about these student performances is the maturity of emotions, exquisite balance and form, professional gestures, evocative of many decades of Graham performances, and synchronized timing. Dani Stinger was the solo dancer in Graham’s 1932 Satyric Festival Song, with a rambunctious, grinning take on the renowned piece. She exuded verve and sinewy physicality, in a long, striped jersey dress, like a green candy cane. She tossed her long, red hair to create movement and sassiness. The solo flute score, by Imre Weisshaus, added airiness and joy, in contrast to the despair and angst of the previous work.

Blanca Li’s Premiere, created for this event, called Turning Point, a “work in progress”, happens to be stunning. The full Graham 2 ensemble of thirteen danced with charged energy, all in black, shifting directions and motifs. Ms. Li is a Graham alumna of the 1980’s and was invited by Ms. Mécène to create this work on the students, so they could participate in the creative process. The score is called “Sunset Wind”, by Tao Gutierrez. I look forward to seeing this work again, as it evolves. Tonight’s final work, before the audience, staff, guests, and dancers gathered for a lovely reception, was Graham’s 1948 Diversion of Angels. Anja Zwetti and Alessio Crognale were The Couple in White (mature love), Anne Souder and Antonio Cangiano were The Couple in Red (erotic love), Vera Paganin and Alex Clayton were The Couple in Yellow (adolescent love), and Sarita Apel, Linda Bombelli, Jessica Sgambelluri, Dani Stinger, and Stylianos Kefalas were the Chorus. Anne Souder seized the stage with fiery intensity, Vera Pagan was lyrical and ebullient, and Anja Zwetti was refined and poised. Their partners danced in likeness of mood and momentum. The combination of the three couples, with Chorus, is always enticing, so different in visual and tonal impact from Graham’s mythologically based, darker works. Kudos to all.

Jessica Sgambelluri, Linda Bombelli, and Anja Zwetti
in Martha Graham's "Night Chant."
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce.

Jessica Sgambelluri and Graham 2
in Martha Graham's "Heretic."
Courtesy of Antonia K. Miranda.

Dani Stinger
in Martha Graham's "Satyric Festival Song."
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce.

Jessica Sgambelluri (center) and Vera Paganin,
Linda Bombelli, Alessio Crognale, Sarita Apel,
Stylianos Kefalas, and Antonio Cangiano
in Blanca Li's "Turning Point."
Courtesy of Antonia K. Miranda

Ann Souder in
Martha Graham's "Diversion of Angels."
Courtesy of Brigid Pierce.

Graham 2 Gala Reception
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

John Warren and Kenneth Bloom, Chairman of the Board
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Elisa Monte and Diane Gray at the
Graham 2 Gala Reception
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Graham 2 Gala Reception
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Elisa Monte, Peggy Lyman Hayes, Diane Gray
Graham 2 Gala Reception
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Graham 2 Dancer Closeups
Graham 2 Gala Reception
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Virginie Mécène and Diane Gray
Graham 2 Gala Reception
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Joan Spence and Nolini Barreto
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Dani Stinger, Miki Kashiwagi, and Thomas Bingham
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Jessica Sgambelluri, Graham 2 Dancer
Graham 2 Gala Reception
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Graham 2 Group Candid
Graham 2 Gala Reception
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Virginie Mécène and Janet Eilber
Graham 2 Gala Reception
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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