Annenberg Center Live And NextMove Dance Present The Martha Graham Dance Company
Annenberg Center Live and NextMove Dance present the Martha Graham Dance Company in the EVE Project, Friday, January 25 (8 PM) and Saturday, January 26 (2 PM and 7 PM). The EVE Project commemorates the upcoming centennial of the 19th Amendment (which extended the right to vote to American women) with works by all female choreographers, staying true to Graham's tradition of social activism. The program features the Philadelphia premiere of Graham's powerful Chronicle; the first preview performance of Deo, a new work by celebrated choreographers Maxine Doyle and Bobbi Jene Smith, Graham's Diversion of Angels, and Ekstasis by Graham, reimagined by Virginie Mecene. Tickets are available at AnnenbergCenter.org or 215.898.3900.
Martha Graham has had a deep and lasting impact on American art and culture. She single-handedly defined contemporary dance as a uniquely American art form, which the nation has in turn shared with the world. Crossing artistic boundaries, she collaborated with and commissioned work from the leading visual artists, musicians, and designers of her day, including sculptor Isamu Noguchi and composers Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti. Graham's groundbreaking style grew from her experimentation with the elemental movements of contraction and release. By focusing on the basic activities of the human form, she enlivened the body with raw, electric emotion. The sharp, angular and direct movements of her technique were a dramatic departure from the predominant style of the time.
Graham influenced generations of choreographers including Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp, altering the scope of dance. Classical ballet dancers Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov sought her out to broaden their artistry. Artists of all genres were eager to study and work with Graham-she taught actors including Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Madonna, Liza Minnelli, Gregory Peck, Tony Randall, Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson and Joanne Woodward to utilize their bodies as expressive instruments. Over her long career, Graham created 181 dance compositions. In 1976, she was granted the United States' highest civilian honor, The Medal of Freedom, and in 1998, TIME Magazine named her the "Dancer of the Century." The first dancer to perform at the White House and to act as a cultural ambassador abroad, she captured the spirit of a nation. "No artist is ahead of his time," she said. "He is his time. It is just that the others are behind the time."
The Martha Graham Dance Company has been a world leader in the development of contemporary dance since its founding in 1926. Today, under the direction of Artistic Director Janet Eilber, the Company is embracing a new programming vision that showcases masterpieces by Graham alongside newly commissioned works by contemporary artists. With programs that offer a rich thematic narrative, the Company creates new platforms for contemporary dance and multiple points of access for audiences.
Though Martha Graham herself is the best-known alumna of her company, the ensemble has provided a training ground for some of modern dance's most celebrated performers and choreographers. Former members of the Company include Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, Paul Taylor, John Butler and Glen Tetley. Celebrities who have joined the Company in performance include Mikhail Baryshnikov, Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Maya Plisetskaya, Tiler Peck, Misty Copeland, Herman Cornejo and Aurelie Dupont.
In recent years, the Company has challenged expectations and experimented with a wide range of offerings beyond its mainstage performances. It has created a series of intimate in-studio events, forged unusual creative partnerships with Siti Company, Performa, the New Museum, Barney's and Siracusa's Greek Theater Festival (to name a few); created substantial digital offerings with Google Arts and Culture, YouTube and Cennarium; and created a model for reaching new audiences through social media.
The current company of dancers hail from around the world and, while grounded in their Graham core training, can also slip into the style of contemporary choreographers like a second skin, bringing technical brilliance and artistic nuance to all they do. "Some of the most skilled and powerful dancers you can ever hope to see," said the Washington Post last year. "One of the great companies of the world," says The New York Times, while the Los Angeles Times notes, "they seem able to do anything, and to make it look easy as well as poetic."
Janet Eilber has been the Company's artistic director since 2005. Her direction has focused on creating new forms of audience access to Martha Graham's masterworks. These initiatives include contextual programming, educational and community partnerships, use of new media, commissions from today's top choreographers and creative events such as the Lamentation Variations. Earlier in her career, as a principal dancer with the Company, Eilber worked closely with Martha Graham. She danced many of Graham's greatest roles, had roles created for her by Graham, and was directed by Graham in most of the major roles of the repertory. She soloed at the White House, was partnered by Rudolf Nureyev, starred in three segments of Dance in America, and has since taught, lectured and directed Graham ballets internationally. Apart from her work with Graham, Eilber has performed in films, on television and on Broadway directed by greats such as Agnes DeMille and Bob Fosse, and has received four Lester Horton Awards for her reconstruction and performance of seminal American modern dance. Eilber has served as Director of Arts Education for the Dana Foundation, and is a Trustee Emeritus of the Interlochen Center for the Arts.