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BWW Reviews: Martha Graham MYTH and TRANSFORMATION


On March 3, The Martha Graham Dance Company finished its season, entitled "Myth and Transformation," at the JoyceTheater. Since the company lost many of their costumes and sets to Hurricane Sandy, the great legacy Martha Graham-- that force of nature and company founder--created, has been tested. However, this year's engagement proved to be the gift that legacies are built on.

Sunday's performance began with the classic Cave of the Heart (1946), inspired by the Medea legend. The dance opens with the enigmatic and passionate dancer, Katherine Crockett, warning that there is danger afoot. It is evident that Medea, the powerful and scorned sorceress, chooses to use the destructive powers of love to destroy her rival. However, all her venom hits a brick wall when it comes to the protective shield that Jason, danced by Ben Shultz, provides for his lovely, vulnerable princess, danced by the delicate Iris Florentiny.

The performance belonged, deservedly, to Medea, Miki Orihara. Her lines were clear and distinct, her passion and rage terrifying. When they talk of a performance for the ages, this is definitely one of them.

Contemporary Italian choreographer, Luca Viggetti, offered From the Grammar of Dreams. Although I wasn't sure what the piece was about, I appreciated the phenomenal dancers performing it. Strangely enough I was reminded of my favorite Kung Fu movies, where opposing schools meet in the center of the street and compete with incredible feats of lyricism, power and strength. The five women--Peanut Chien-Pott, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Blakely White McGuire, Xiaochuan Xie and Ying Xin--were equals in precision, strength and control. Tough women!

The Lamentation Variations-- based on an early 1930s film featuring Martha Graham dancing her iconic solo, Lamentation--was performed. This was an unusual piece: different choreographers were invited to create a movement study in response to the film for the current Graham Company. The results were decidedly mixed.

I loved the tenderness of the Pagarlova Variation. It was silent, touching and spiritual. Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Lloyd Mayor, Maurizio Nardi and Ben Shultz complemented each other beautifully. They fused a gentle piece of oneness, while supporting a strong structure of togetherness. The Rainer Variation was totally lost on me. I found my mind wandering for long stretches, even with Janet Eilber and Katherine Crockett on stage. It was not their fault; they were dealing with a banal piece that had nothing to say. The Varone Variation was fascinating. Watching Tadej Brdjnik, Abdiel Jacobsen, Lloyd Knight and Maurizio Nardi falling like dominoes, yet never hitting the ground, was engaging. The men were strong, yet yielding, performing a perfect balance of continuous movement as if it were one body, uncoiling infinitely to form an amazing kinsmanship of male counterparts.

A special treat for the evening was Variations of Angels, film homage to Martha Graham's Diversion of Angels. I was moved by hearing Graham's voice expressing her deepest feelings and inspirations. The footage revealed that Martha Graham was confident that "there is always one person to whom you speak to in the audience." Be assured that Graham spoke to millions.

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From This Author - Elisa Kimble

Elisa L. Kimble is a performing artist, freelance writer. In addition to writing for Elisa writes for Precious Times magazine as the music editor. (read more...)