Northrop Dance Presents Clytemnestra by Martha Graham Dance Company 11/21
Northrop Dance at the University of Minnesota brings the 50th anniversary production of Clytemnestra from the Martha Graham Dance Company. Demonstrating Graham's pioneering approach to time and space on stage, the psychodrama is deemed a masterpiece of 20th Century American modernism. Using her longtime collaborator, Isamu Noguchi (a legend in Japanese/American sculpture), the shapes and structures of the set evoke the inner spaces of mind and memory, accentuating the dramatic emotional action. This production also features the modernist sounds of Egyptian composer Halim El-Dabh and classic lighting by Jean Rosenthal.
Clytemnestra is Graham's only full-evening work, with three acts, and a cast of 21 dancers bringing to life classic characters Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, Electra, Orestes, Cassandra, Iphigenia, and Helen of Troy. The piece premiered at the Adelphi Theater in New York City on April 1, 1958. Critic John Martin called it "an epic full evening work by a modern master." Told from the perspective of Clytemnestra, the Queen of Mycenae, it unfolds like the rivers of blood that flowed from generation to generation in the doomed House of Atreus.
For Graham, the action took place in the theater of the mind. Moving back and forth across time and space, Clytemnestra relives scenes of betrayal, revenge, murder, and finally reconciliation, in a dance that ends as it begins in the Underworld. She remembers the events that have brought her to this moment in time; the seduction of her sister Helen by Paris of Troy, the armies of her husband Agamemnon and Menelaus, husband of Helen, that gather at Aulis to set sail but were stalled; the brutal sacrifice of her beloved daughter Iphigenia, by Agamemnon, exacted as the prIce The Gods demanded for changing the winds and allowing the army to set forth. She imagines the rape of the women of Troy and sees Helen, walking the battlements, watching it from above. The dance then shifts to the present where Clytemnestra, left alone at Mycenae, rules "like a man," taking a lover and plotting her revenge against Agamemnon. When he returns victorious from Troy, she seduces him, then leads him into the royal palace where she murders him. Cassandra, the mistress he has brought back with him from Troy, shrieks the prophecy of his death and of her own. Having the gift of infallible prophecy, Cassandra is cursed because no one who hears her believes her.
Although it relives this bloody path, Clytemnestra is about rebirth and redemption. The Queen and the piece as a whole demand answers from the Gods themselves - answers to questions that loom today: how can the bloodshed, the generational offenses, the cycle of revenge be ended? What responsibility does the individual have to the greater good? How can the past be forgiven, redeemed and reborn in future generations who can build anew?
Thu, Nov 12 from 6:45 - 7:15 pm
All ticket holders are invited to attend a performance preview between Northrop Director, Ben Johnson and Artistic Director, Janet Eilber will be held in the basement of Northrop in Studio Four from. Seating limited to capacity.
About the Company
Founded in 1926 by dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, The Martha Graham Dance Company is the oldest and most celebrated contemporary dance company in America.
Since its inception, the Martha Graham Dance Company has received international acclaim from audiences in over 50 countries. The company has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, 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 of Egypt and in the ancient Herod Atticus Theatre on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. In addition, the company has also produced several award-winning films broadcast on PBS and around the world.
Though Martha Graham herself is the best-known alumna of her company, having danced from the company's inception until the late 1960s, the company has provided a training ground for some of modern dance's most illustrious performers and choreographers. Former members of the company include Merce Cunningham, ERick Hawkins, Pearl Lang, Elisa Monte, Paul Taylor, and Pascal Rioult. Among celebrities who have joined the company in performances are Mikhail Baryshnikov, Liza Minnelli, Katherin Turner, Margot Fonteyn, and Betty Bloomer (who later became better known as First Lady Betty Ford). The Martha Graham Dance Company has commissioned works from Twyla Tharp, Robert Wilson, Susan Stroman, Lucinda Childs, and Maurice Bejart, which have been enthusiastically received by audiences and critics worldwide.
Martha Graham | Founder
Born in 1893 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Martha Graham is recognized as a seminal artist of the 20th Century. In 1998, TIME Magazine namEd Graham as the Dancer of the Century, and People Magazine named her among the female "Icons of the Century." As a choreographer, she was as prolific as she was complex. She created 181 ballets and a dance technique that has been compared to ballet in its scope and magnitude.
Graham founded her dance company and school in 1926, living and working out of a tiny Carnegie Hall studio in midtown Manhattan. In developing her technique, she experimented endlessly with basic human movement, beginning with the most elemental movements of contraction and release. Using these principles as the foundation for her technique, she built a vocabulary of movement that would "increase the emotional activity of the dancer's body." Graham's dancing and choreography exposed the depths of human emotion through movements that were sharp, angular, jagged, and direct. The dance world was forever altered by Graham's vision; it continues to be a source of inspiration for dance and theatre artists.
From 1929 to 1938, Graham worked with an all-female company, refining her technique and crafting her approach to choreography under the demanding gaze of her mentor and lover, the composer Louis Horst. Early work reflected a decorative style, but later transformed to reflect her commitment to the contemporary world. She then created classic works during her years with Horst, and was later influenced by Fascism and world conflicts, reflecting her fears for the world.
In 1938, the company expanded to include men; ERick Hawkins, who would later become Graham's husband, was the first. The arrival of the male protagonist permittEd Graham to experiment with dramatic narrative in her choreography. Between 1938 and 1944, Graham composed a number of works exploring the American condition, with influences from Emily Dickinson poetry and the three Brontë sisters. This era was followed by her Greek mythological work. Clytemnestra was created in this period, demonstrating her mastery of total world theater, synthesizing elements of classical eastern theater forms such as Noh and Kabuki, while making the experience of the female protagonist central.
As an artist, Graham conceived each new work in its entirety - dance, costumes, and music. Over her 70 years of creating dances, Graham collaborated with such artists as sculptor Isamu Noguchi; actor and director John Houseman; fashion designer Calvin Klein; and renowned composers including Aaron Copland, Louis Horst, and William Schuman.
Graham's uniquely American vision and creative genius earned her numerous honors and awards such as the Laurel Leaf of 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 Graham the United States' highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, and declared her a "National Treasure," making her the first dancer and choreographer to receive this honor. Another Presidential honor was awarded to Graham in 1985 when President Ronald Reagan designated her among the first recipients of the United States' National Medal of Arts.
Janet Eilber | Artistic Director
Eilber started performing with the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1972 while still a student at the Juilliard School. During the next several years, she and Graham developed such a close working relationship that Graham created roles for Eilber in almost every one of her new works. As a principal dancer with the company, she performed on all tours, on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera House, and starred in three programs for Dance in America. She soloed twice at the White House and was partnered by Rudolph Nureyev in The Scarlet Letter and Lucifer, roles created for her by Graham.
During the 1980s and 90s, while pursuing an active acting career, Eilber often returned to guest artist with the Graham Company, assisted in the reconstruction of Satyric Festival Song, and stagEd Graham ballets for the Paris Opera Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet, among others.
On Broadway she has guest starred with the American Dance machine and stars in their Showtime special with Gwen Verdon. She starred in Bob Fosse's Dancin' and in Stepping Out, directed by Tommy Tune (1987 Drama Desk nomination). Her film credits include Whose Life Is it, Anyway?, Romantic Comedity, Antigone, and Hard to Hold. She has starred in two TV series and in a variety of guest appearances from Hitchcock to Columbo.
Her choreography has been performed by the Los Angeles Chamber Ballet, many LA Theater Productions, and with Charles Dutoit conducting members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. She is Co-Founder of the American Repertory Dance Company and has received four Lester Horton Awards for her work with ARC. Eilber consults for the Dana Foundation on their arts education initiatives. Eilber is married to screenwriter/director John Warren with whom she has two daughters, Madeline and Eva.
Isamu Noguchi - Set and Prop Designer
The organic sets and props for this production are considered masterworks of theatrical design, evoking the interior mind and memory and accentuating the emotional themes of the work. The set pieces shift in each act to represent tangible props: beds, thrones, and palace chambers.
Noguchi was born in Los Angeles in 1904 as Isamu Gilmour to American writer Leonie Gilmour. His father, Yonejiro Noguchi, was a Japanese poet, who shortly after Noguchi's birth, moved back to Japan. Noguchi and his mother eventually moved to Japan as well, and moved around the country during his childhood. He returned to the U.S. for high school, and following his graduation, college at Columbia University. In 1923, his mother Leonie moved back to California after 17 years abroad in Japan.
During this time, Noguchi started experimenting with sculpture and ended up leaving Columbia to concentrate on his work. He also switched his name to Noguchi from Gilmour, and even went to Japan to reunite with his father on a trip to learn new techniques.
In 1927, Noguchi won the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship despite being a few years shy of the age restrictions, and traveled around Paris making abstract sculptures with stone and wood. In 1929, he met Martha Graham and established his own business as a portrait sculpture which he did for a decade. In 1936 Noguchi went to Mexico to work on a 72-foot political mural called History Mexico in Mexico City. In the 1940s, Noguchi started working for Martha Graham's dance creations as a set designer. He startEd Graham's set for Clytemnestra in 1958.
Some of his best known works are Red Cube in New York City, Black Sun which is in Seattle, Sky Gate in Honolulu, and the railing design for two bridges in the Hiroshima Peace Park. Among some of his awards are the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese government, the Award of Distinction in Sculpture from the Sculpture Center in New York, and the National Medal of Arts in Washington, D.C.
He died in New York in December 1988 at the age of 84.
Halim El-Dabh - Composer
The musical score for Clytemnestra was created in a close collaboration between Graham and the Egyptian composer. It's evocative orchestration, including two voices, references the sounds of the Middle-East while serving the modernism of Graham's approach to the psychological themes. The music is scored for Baritone, Soprano, and 31 instruments.
Halim El-Dabh is University Professor Emeritus of African Ethnomusicology at Kent State University in Ohio. He continues to teach African Cultural Expressions. He has conducted ethnomusicological research in the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, and Zaire. Within the African Diaspora, his research includes Brazil, Jamaica, and the United States.
Born in Egypt in 1921, El-Dabh attended the First International Ethnomusicological Conference (Cairo, 1932), graduating from the University of Cairo in 1945. He was invited to study at the University of New Mexico, and received scholarships to Brandeis University and the New England Conservatory of Music as well. The latter granted him an Honorary Doctorate in 2007. In 2001, he also received an Honorary Doctorate from Kent State University, where he has taught since 1969.
From 1974 to 1981 he was cultural and ethnomusicological consultant to the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Programs for their project on Egyptian and Guinean puppetry. El-Dabh's African puppeteers took part in the celebrations of the second centennial of the United States (Washington, 1976). He was also consultant to the Middfest Folklife Festival in Middletown, Ohio which featured puppeteers from Egypt. El-Dabh also performed and directed combined percussion ensembles from Japan, Korea, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, India, and other nations at Middfest International's 20-Year, 25-Nation Retrospective (Middletown, 2005)
El-Dabh has written for African instruments and African themes. His works in opera, symphony, ballet, orchestra, chamber and electronic music are inspired from the heart of cultures in Africa and Asia. He composed the music for the Sound and Light show performed in several languages at the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. Every night the show recounts the stories of the Sphinx and the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.
Some of El-Dabh's recent activities include being the keynote speaker for the Fela Sowande (1905-1987) Memorial in Cambridge, England in 2005, which acknowledges the many achievements of the Nigerian born Sowande as Yoruba Chief, ethnomusicologist, music composer, and musician. Known as the "Father of Nigerian Art Music," Chief Sowande and El-Dabh were close friends and colleagues at KSU during the 1980's. In 2005 El-Dabh and a group of KSU musicians performed El-Dabh's works with the String Orchestra of Alexandria at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in Egypt. He performed with prominent African musicians, including Ismael (Pops) Mohamed, in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the UNAZI ("lightening" in Zulu) conference (2005). This was the first African Electronic Music Festival in history. El-Dabh also participates regularly in activities in the Kent community.
Individual ($10-65) and season ($40-$172) tickets on sale at northrop.umn.edu, through the Northrop Ticket Office at 612-624-2345, or room 105 Northrop, 84 Church Street SE, Minneapolis. Ask for available discounts. Visit northrop.umn.edu for more information.