The Kennedy Center Presents The Martha Graham Dance Company This March
Last seen at the Kennedy Center in 2008, the world-renowned Martha Graham Dance Company returns with The EVE Project, March 5-7. Created in celebration of the centennial of the 19th amendment this year, which gave American women the right to vote, The EVE Project is a collection of new commissions and signature Graham classics that make impactful statements about female power.
Recognized as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century and the mother of modern dance, Martha Graham (1979 Kennedy Center Honoree) altered the fabric of dance by creating an entirely new style of movement. She made a lasting impact as a groundbreaking choreographer, influencing an entire generation of artists including Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor, who both danced also with her company. Graham's approach to presenting women onstage was revolutionary. Instead of gentile goddesses, princesses, flowers, or swans, she created complex, flawed, ambitious, and powerful women onstage often modeled after real individuals and characters of mythology. Her works were rooted in contexts that spanned the contemporary, social, and political to psychological and sexual.
Intended to honor not only the progress of women in the last 100 years, but also provide entrée into today's pressing conversations, The EVE Project celebrates female empowerment. It aims "to connect audiences-in the ephemeral and visceral way dance does-to both historical and contemporary ideas of the feminine," Janet Eilber, Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company stated. "It provides a lens through which to consider Graham's transformative views of women in concert with the immediate and personal creations of today's visionary dance makers."
Signature Graham classics include Diversion of Angels, Ekstasis, and Chronicle. Originally titled Wilderness Stair, Diversion of Angels premiered in 1948 and is set to a romantic score by Norman Dello Joio. Graham recalled that when she first saw the work of the modern artist Wassily Kandinsky, she was astonished by his use of color, a bold slash of red across a blue background, and was determined to make a dance that would express this. Taking its themes from the infinite aspects of love, the work features three couples embodying romantic love (Couple in Red); mature love (Couple in White); and flirtatious and adolescent love (Couple in Yellow).
Ekstasis is thought to be the 37th creation by Graham. In a 1980 interview, Graham explained that the genesis of this dance came from a pelvic thrust gesture that led her to explore "a cycle of distortion" that she found deeply meaningful. Reimagined by Virginia Mécène in 2017 using sparse documentation of the original solo, this version features music by Ramon Humet.
Premiered in 1936, Chronicle was a response to the rise of fascism in Europe after Graham refused an invitation to take part in the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany. Performed to a dramatic score by Wallingford Riegger, it is a rallying cry against oppression and features a cast of 11 women clothed in costumes designed by Graham herself. The original dance consisted of five sections and was considered to be lost. In the late 1980s, the discovery of an early film allowed three sections to be reconstructed. "Spectre-1914", "Steps in the Street" and "Prelude to Action" are now performed by the Company.
For this engagement, the program also includes the recent Untitled (Souvenir) by acclaimed choreographer Pam Tanowitz-whose work was last seen in 2019's Ballet Across America program-and Lamentation Variations by Aszure Barton, Liz Gerring, and Michelle Dorrance.
Pam Tanowitz's Untitled (Souvenir) is a group work set to music by prominent female composer and Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw. Inspired by older and lesser-known Graham dances, Tanowitz uses her signature style to manipulate phrases of the work and merges the steps with her own.
Originally conceived in 2007 to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, Lamentation Variations includes short works inspired by Graham's iconic solo, Lamentation. Each choreographer was asked to create a spontaneous choreographic sketch of their reaction to an early 1940's film of Graham in Lamentation for the current company of dancers. These performances will feature the variations of contemporary female choreographers Aszure Burton, Liz Gerring, and Michelle Dorrance. Intended to be a one-night only occasion, the reception was such that it has become an ongoing creative project. The Company now has a total of 15 variations from a wide range of today's top choreographers.
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