MATHA GRAHAM DANCE COMPANY Program C
February 27, 2017
The Martha Graham Dance Company presented Sacred/
Profane at the Joyce In Februrary. Curated by Graham dancer and artistic director, Janet Eilber, this
season comprised three distinctive programs integrating Graham’s repertoire and works by
four renowned choreographers: Pontus Lidberg, Nacho Duato, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and
Program “C” included the second act of Graham’s
Clytemnestra, Maple Leaf Rag, her last complete work, and two world premières: I used to love you,
choreographed by Annie-B Parson, and Mosaic by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Graham’s only full-evening work, Clytemnestra, displayed her aesthetic foundations in
sculptural drama. Dating from 1958, costume designs by Graham and Helen McGehee
remain astounding, in symbiosis with Isamu Noguchi’s iconic sets and Halim El-Dabh’s
dissonant musical composition. Evoking the bi-dimensional world of L'après-midi d’un faune, the
company revived the Greek tragedy of Agamemnon’s wife.
programming, Eilber offered an upbeat introduction to the evening’s works with ample
references to facilitate the audience’s appreciation of the historic innovations of the
company’s founder. Likewise, Eilber explained the process of commissioning choreographer
and director Annie-B Parson to take footage of Graham’s 1941 Punch and The Judy and
“reimagine” the original comedy.
Dividing past and present, Parson reconstructed Graham’s
choreographic work and filmed sections through the lens of contemporary parody. Three
dancers dressed in bright colored pleated dresses intertwined movement on rolling chairs with
text written by Will Eno, both integrated with microphones held by stands placed at the
proscenium. The upstage area hosted a projector and screen showing Graham’s
choreography footage, a rollaway bed, and dancers dressed in gray costumes representing the
characters in the film. Although entertaining for some, the blunt contrast came across as
irreverent to seasoned patrons.
In a swirl of earthy-toned silhouettes against backlight, nine dancers embodied Mosaic.
Making a statement of unity within diversity, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s choreography
amalgamated Middle-Eastern melodies by Felix Buxton with body paint designs, reaffirming
the concept of bonding with straps wrapped around the dancer’s arms.
The dancers gave life
to a malleable tree of lacing gestures repeatedly dispersing and returning to a vibrant
collective cluster. Absorbing the dim space through boundless flow of contemporary
movement, Cherkaoui’s discourse evidenced the connecting thread of Martha Graham’s
technique through the evolution of modern dance.
Celebrating the light-hearted side of the
American dance pioneer, Maple Leaf Rag, premiered in 1990, featured the full company
showcasing Graham’s technique, vocabulary, and aesthetic in a minimalistic and witty wink to
her memory. From the point of departure of a female dancer sitting on a pliable long barre
placed at the center of the naked stage, the work proceeded in crescendo with dancers
gathering to dance on and around the barre, briefly interrupted by a single dancer drawing a
twirling line across the stage through a series of tilted turns, or the whole company passing by
in prancing cavalcades.
The evening closed evoking Martha Graham’s immortal signature
image represented in a dark vacuum. A single spotlight delicately showered lead dancer PeiJu
Chien-Pott dressed in a long, plain, white dress, drifting through time in reserved plasticity.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY 00 Gabriela Estrada