Martha Graham Dance Company To Present Spring 2024 New York Season At City Center, April 17-20

The season features Martha Graham's celebrated masterwork Appalachian Spring (1944), with a luminous score by Aaron Copland.

By: Jan. 11, 2024
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The Martha Graham Dance Company's spring 2024 New York season, entitled American Legacies, extends the Company's exploration of American themes and marks the first of three New York seasons as part of GRAHAM 100, the Company's three-year centennial celebration. Performances will take place Wednesday, April 17, at 7:30pm, Thursday, April 18, at 7pm (Gala), and Friday and Saturday, April 19-20, at 7:30pm, at New York City Center.

The season features Martha Graham's celebrated masterwork Appalachian Spring (1944), with a luminous score by Aaron Copland and a spare set by Graham's longtime collaborator Isamu Noguchi. Graham's powerful The Rite of Spring (1984) and her witty Maple Leaf Rag (1990), her last complete work, with music by Scott Joplin and costumes by Calvin Klein, will also be presented. Music for the Graham classics will be performed live by The Mannes Orchestra under the direction of David Hayes.

Jamar Roberts, one of New York's most in-demand choreographers, has created a new group work for the Company. The work takes the origins of folk and blues and the human experience as a jumping-off point. The piece features a commissioned score by Grammy-winning composer Rhiannon Giddens inspired by songs from her latest album, You're the One. Costume design is by Karen Young and lighting is by Yi-Chung Chen.

The program also includes a brand-new production of Agnes De Mille's 1942 classic, Rodeo, with Aaron Copland's iconic score reorchestrated for a six-piece bluegrass ensemble by multi-instrumentalist and composer/arranger Gabe Witcher. All the elements of the Company's new production of Rodeo are designed to broaden the conversation about this iconic work of Americana while remaining true to de Mille's humorous and heartfelt story about a young, independent misfit searching for love. The work was set by de Mille repetiteur Diana Gonzalez, and features new costumes by Oana Botez, projected visual design by Beowulf Boritt, and lighting design by Yi-Chung Chen. The new production was co-commissioned by The Soraya at California State University, Northridge, and premiered there in September 2023. 

Completing the program is Hofesh Shechter's rapturous CAVE, a visceral collective movement experience with an electronic score by Shechter and German duo Âme. CAVE is presented in association with Hofesh Shechter Company and was produced in partnership with Studio Simkin. It premiered at New York City Center in April 2022.

“The range of the Company's repertory this season showcases the profound interaction between iconic classics and entirely contemporary creations,” says Graham Company Artistic Director Janet Eilber. “We're thrilled to be working with Rhiannon Giddens whose work often celebrates Black and immigrant artists who are foundational to American folk music. Pairing her with choreographer Jamar Roberts on programs with our new bluegrass production of Agnes De Mille's Rodeo puts 20th- and 21st-century Americana side by side and offers audiences a more expansive and inclusive way to understand our past. And our remarkable dancers somehow move seamlessly and brilliantly between styles and techniques that span decades.”

The dancers of the Martha Graham Dance Company are So Young An, James Anthony, Ane Arrieta, Ricardo Barrett, Alessio Crognale-Roberts, Laurel Dalley Smith, Zachary Jeppsen, Meagan King, Lloyd Knight, Jacob Larsen, Antonio Leone, Devin Loh, Marzia Memoli, Anne Souder, Matthew Spangler, Richard Villaverde, Leslie Andrea Williams, and Xin Ying.   

2024 New York City Center Programs

 

Wednesday, April 17, at 7:30pm

Rodeo

Choreography by Agnes De Mille, music by Aaron Copland, reorchestrated by Gabe Witcher, visual design by Beowulf Boritt, costumes by Oana Botez, lighting design by Yi-Chung Chen

New Work

Choreography by Jamar Roberts, music by Rhiannon Giddens, costumes by Karen Young, lighting design by Yi-Chung Chen

Maple Leaf Rag

Choreography by Martha Graham, music by Scott Joplin, costumes by Calvin Klein

Thursday, April 18, at 7:00pm | Gala

Maple Leaf Rag

Choreography by Martha Graham, music by Scott Joplin, costumes by Calvin Klein

The Rite of Spring

Choreography by Martha Graham, music by Igor Stavinsky, set by Edward T. Morris, projections by Paul Lieber, costumes by Pilar Limosner after Martha Graham

Friday, April 19, at 7:30pm

Appalachian Spring

Choreography by Agnes De Mille, music by Aaron Copland, set design by Ismau Noguchi, costumes by Martha Graham

New Work

Choreography by Jamar Roberts, music by Rhiannon Giddens, costumes by Karen Young, lighting design by Yi-Chung Chen

The Rite of Spring

Choreography by Martha Graham, music by Igor Stavinsky, set by Edward T. Morris, projections by Paul Lieber, costumes by Pilar Limosner after Martha Graham

Saturday, April 20, at 7:30pm

Rodeo

Choreography by Agnes De Mille, music by Aaron Copland, reorchestrated by Gabe Witcher, visual design by Beowulf Boritt, costumes by Oana Botez, lighting design by Yi-Chung Chen

New Work

Choreography by Jamar Roberts, music by Rhiannon Giddens, costumes by Karen Young, lighting design by Yi-Chung Chen

CAVE

Choreography by Hofesh Shechter, music by Hofesh Shechter and Âme, costumes by Taylor McNeill and Caleb Krieg, lighting design by Yi-Chung Chen

Tickets start at $35 and are available at CityTix: 212-581-1212 / nycitycenter.org.

For more information about the Company's Gala on April 18, contact Taylor Hollingsworth at thollingsworth@marthagraham.org.

New York City Center is located at 131 West 55th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues), in Manhattan.

About the Artists

Agnes De Mille (1905-1993) was an American dancer and choreographer who further developed the narrative aspect of dance and made innovative use of American themes, folk dances, and physical idioms in her choreography of musical plays and ballets. Her father was the playwright William Churchill DeMille, her mother, Anna George DeMille, was the daughter of the economist Henry George, and her uncle was the film director Cecil B. DeMille. She spent her youth (from 1914) in Hollywood and earned a BA degree in English from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she also learned dance. After moving to New York City, she toured the United States and Europe (1929-40), giving concerts of her own character sketches in mime-dance. She created her first major roles in ballet with the Ballet Rambert, performing in works by Antony Tudor, and later studied modern dance.

Rodeo (1942), one of her most important ballets, was created for The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The first ballet to include tap dancing, it used distinctively American gestures—bronco-riding and steer-roping movements. Most of de Mille's other ballets were choreographed for New York City's Ballet Theatre, which she joined in 1940. Her works for that company include Fall River Legend (1948; based on the story of Lizzie Borden), The Harvest According (1952), and Three Virgins and a Devil (1941). De Mille's equally outstanding career as a choreographer of musicals began in 1929 with The Black Crook. In 1943 she choreographed the dances for Oklahoma! In that Broadway musical, dance not only added to the dramatic atmosphere but also, for the first time in American theatrical history, was instrumental in advancing the plot. Among the other musicals for which she staged the dances were One Touch of Venus (1943), Carousel (1945), Brigadoon (1947), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), Paint Your Wagon (1951), The Girl in Pink Tights (1954), and 110 in the Shade (1963). She also arranged dances for the films Romeo and Juliet (1936) and Oklahoma! (1955), directed plays, and choreographed television programs. The recipient of many prizes and awards, de Mille continued to choreograph ballets for American Ballet Theatre and also wrote two autobiographies, And Promenade Home (1958) and Where the Wings Grow (1977). Her later books include her controversial biography of fellow dancer-choreographer Martha Graham entitled Martha (1991).

Rhiannon Giddens has made a singular, iconic career out of stretching her brand of folk music, with its miles-deep historical roots and contemporary sensibilities, into just about every field imaginable. A two-time Grammy award winner and Pulitzer Prize-winning singer and instrumentalist, a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient, and composer of opera, ballet, and film, Giddens has centered her work around the mission of lifting up people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been overlooked or erased, and advocating for a more accurate understanding of the country's musical origins through art. Giddens is also exploring other mediums and creative possibilities just as actively as she has American musical history. With 1858 replica minstrel banjo in hand, she wrote the opera Omar with film composer Michael Abels (Get Out, Us, Nope) which received the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in music, and, with her partner Francesco Turrisi, she wrote and performed the music for Black Lucy and the Bard, which was recorded for PBS' Great Performances; she has appeared on the ABC hit drama Nashville and throughout Ken Burns's Country Music series, also on PBS. Giddens has published children's books and written and performed music for the soundtrack of Red Dead Redemption II, one of the best-selling video games of all time. She sang for the Obamas at the White House, is a three-time NPR Tiny Desk Concert alum, and hosts her own show on PBS, My Music with Rhiannon Giddens, as well as the Aria Code podcast, which is produced by New York City's NPR affiliate station WQXR. As Pitchfork once said, “Few artists are so fearless and so ravenous in their exploration”—a journey that has led to NPR naming her one of its 25 Most Influential Women Musicians of the 21st century and to American Songwriter calling her “one of the most important musical minds currently walking the planet.”

Jamar Roberts is a choreographer who has made works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, ABT Studio Company, LA Dance Project, Ballet X, the Juilliard Dance Division, Ailey II, Peter London Global Dance Company, New York City Center's Fall For Dance, and Vail Dance Festival, among others. Roberts is a graduate of the New World School of the Arts and the Ailey School and has danced for AAADT, Ailey II, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. He won a 2016 Bessie Award for Outstanding Performer, and has performed as a guest artist with the Royal Ballet in London as well as made multiple television performance appearances. In fall 2020 the March on Washington Film Festival invited Roberts to create a dance on film tribute to the Honorable John Lewis. Other highlights include Works & Process at the Guggenheim, where he created the acclaimed short work on film Cooped and A Chronicle of a Pivot at a Point in Time, which first premiered on film in the summer of 2021 and was restaged for a live performance world premiere in March 2022. He was a Director's Fellow at NYU's Center for Ballet and the Arts in the 2020-2021 season, and he has also made a short film for the LA Opera entitled The First Bluebird in the Morning. He was featured on the cover of Dance Magazine in June 2021, having previously been on the cover in June 2013 and being named one of “25 to Watch” in 2007. Roberts is a creative associate at the Juilliard School.

Israeli-born, UK-based choreographer Hofesh Shechter formed Hofesh Shechter Company in 2008.The company is in residence at Brighton Dome, and Shechter is an associate artist of Sadler's Wells in London. In addition to works for his company, Shechter has staged and choreographed works on leading international dance companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Batsheva Ensemble, Candoco Dance Company, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater 1, Paris Opera Ballet, Royal Ballet, and Royal Ballet Flanders. He is also renowned for composing atmospheric musical scores to compliment the unique physicality of his movement. He has choreographed for theater, television, and opera, notably at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for Nico Muhly's Two Boys, Motortown and The Arsonistsat at the Royal Court, Saint Joanat The National Theatre, and for the Channel 4 series Skins. As part of #HOFEST, a four-week festival celebrating Shechter's work across four iconic London venues, he co-directed Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice with John Fulljames at the Royal Opera House. In 2016 he received a Tony Award nomination for his choreography for the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. In 2018 Shechter was awarded an honorary OBE for services to dance. In 2020, Hofesh Shechter Company was named the winner of the Fedora–Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for LIGHT: Bach Dances, in collaboration with Royal Danish Opera and co-directed by Shechter and Fulljames.

Gabe Witcher is a Grammy-winning artist/producer/composer/arranger best known for his work with the genre-bending acoustic quintet Punch Brothers. Throughout his nearly 40-year career, he has become a first-call musician/arranger/producer for luminary artists, producers, and film composers alike, including Paul Simon, Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, the Coen brothers, Randy Newman, William Shatner, T Bone Burnett, Sara Bareilles, and MacArthur “genius grant” winners: Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer and Rhiannon Giddens. Witcher also frequently appears as a featured soloist on film and television scores including The Hunger Games, True Detective, Toy Story, Cars, Sons of Anarchy, Better Call Saul, Nashville, and Oscar winners Brokeback Mountain and Babel. Witcher has been music director for Kennedy Center Presents: American Acoustic with Chris Thile - All Star Jam, Sara Bareilles's Amidst the Chaos album release, The Music of Red Dead Redemption 2 at the Red Bull Music Festival Los Angeles (2019), Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis, Los Angeles (2013). In 2014 he began debuting symphonic works and he has had his music played by first rate symphonies around the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Pops, San Francisco Symphony, l'Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne and the National Symphony Orchestra. Punch Brothers won the 2018 Grammy award for Best Folk Album and is currently nominated again for Best Folk Album (2023).

Led by maestro David Hayes, the Mannes Orchestra is the premiere large ensemble at The New School's Mannes School of Music. The orchestra strives to foster the highest level of musicianship by engaging with a wide range of repertoire in a focused, dynamic, and supportive environment that mirrors the culture and practices of professional orchestras. Known for its bold and adventurous programming, the Mannes Orchestra has been hailed by The New York Times as an orchestra whose quality is “a revelation,” and for its “intensity of focus.” The orchestra performs a multitude of concerts each season at venues including Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, John L. Tishman Auditorium at The New School, and appearances with the Mannes Opera at the Bank Street Theater and the Martha Graham Dance Company at New York City Center.

Founded in 1916 by America's first great violin recitalist and noted educator, David Mannes, and pianist and educator Clara Damrosch Mannes, the Mannes School of Music is a standard-bearer for radically progressive music education, dedicated to supporting the development of creative and socially engaged artists. Through its undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies programs, Mannes offers a curriculum as imaginative as it is rigorous, taught by a world-class faculty and visiting artists. As part of The New School's College of Performing Arts, together with the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music and the School of Drama, Mannes makes its home on The New School's Greenwich Village campus in a state-of-the-art facility at the newly renovated Arnhold Hall.

Martha Graham (1894-1991) is recognized as a primal artistic force of the 20th century, alongside James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, and Frank Lloyd Wright. TIME magazine named Martha Graham “Dancer of the Century,” and People magazine named her among the female “Icons of the Century.” The diversity and depth of her extraordinary artistic legacy, often compared to Stanislavsky's Art Theatre in Moscow and the Grand Kabuki Theatre of Japan, is perpetuated in performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company and Graham 2, and by the students of the Martha Graham School.

In 1926, Martha Graham founded her dance company and school while living and working out of a tiny Carnegie Hall studio in midtown Manhattan. In developing her technique, Graham experimented endlessly with basic human movement, beginning with the elemental forms of contraction and release. Using those principles as the foundation, she built a movement vocabulary that would “increase the emotional activity of the dancer's body.” With this pioneering technique, which has been compared to ballet in its scope and magnitude, Graham's 181 ballets expose the depths of human emotion through movements that are sharp, angular, jagged, and direct.

As complex as she was prolific, Graham's approach not only revolutionized the art form of dance with an innovative physical vocabulary, she expanded the scope of the art form by rooting works in contemporary social, political, psychological, and sexual contexts, deepening their impact and resonance. Graham's ballets were inspired by a wide variety of sources, including modern painting, the American frontier, religious ceremonies of Native Americans, and Greek mythology. Many of her most important roles portray great women of history and mythology: Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Medea, Phaedra, Joan of Arc, and Emily Dickinson.

As an artist, Martha Graham conceived each new work in its entirety—dance, costumes, and music. During her 70 years of creating dances, she collaborated with such artists as sculptor Isamu Noguchi; actor and director John Houseman; fashion designers Halston, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein; and renowned composers including Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Norman Dello Joio, Louis Horst (her mentor), Gian Carlo Menotti, William Schuman, and Carlos Surinach.

Always a fertile ground for experimentation, Martha Graham and her Company have been an unparalleled resource in nurturing many leading choreographers and dancers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Jacqulyn Buglisi, Merce Cunningham, Sir Robert Cohan, Erick Hawkins, Pearl Lang, Donald McKayle, Elisa Monte, Anna Sokolow, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp. She created roles for classical ballet stars such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Margot Fonteyn, and Rudolf Nureyev, welcoming them as guests into her Company. In charge of movement and dance at The Neighborhood Playhouse, she taught actors such as Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Anne Jackson, Madonna, Liza Minnelli, Gregory Peck, Tony Randall, and Joanne Woodward how to use the body as an expressive instrument.

Martha Graham's uniquely American vision and creative genius earned her numerous honors and awards, such as The Laurel Leaf Award from the American Composers Alliance in 1959 for her service to music. Her colleagues in theater, the members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local One, voted her the recipient of the 1986 Local One Centennial Award for Dance, not to be awarded for another 100 years. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford bestowed upon Martha Graham the United States' highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and declared her a “national treasure,” making her the first dancer and choreographer to receive this recognition. Graham received another presidential honor when President Ronald Reagan named her among the first recipients of the United States National Medal of Arts in 1985.

The Martha Graham Dance Company has been a leader in the evolving art form of modern dance since its founding in 1926. It is both the oldest dance company in the United States and the oldest integrated dance company.

Today, the Company is embracing a new programming vision that showcases masterpieces by Graham alongside newly commissioned works by contemporary artists. With programs that unite the work of choreographers across time within a rich historical and thematic narrative, the Company is actively working to create new platforms for contemporary dance and multiple points of access for audiences.

Since its inception, the Martha Graham Dance Company has received international acclaim from audiences in more than 50 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The Company has performed at the Metropolitan Opera House, Carnegie Hall, the Paris Opera House, Covent Garden, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as well as at the base of the Great Pyramids in Egypt and in the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater on the Acropolis in Athens. In addition, the Company has also produced several award-winning films broadcast on PBS and around the world.

For more information about the Company, visit www.marthagraham.org.




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