Thursday, March 17, 2011

85 Years of Martha Graham Dance Company

Miki Orihara, Mariya Dashkina-Maddux and Blakeley White-McGuire in "Snow on the Mesa. Photos by Sinru Ku.

BY TAMARA BECK

THE
85th anniversary of the Martha Graham Dance Company is a momentous celebratory occasion, not only because of the legacy of Martha Graham, but also because of the resiliency of the company in the face of staggering financial difficulties.

The Company is at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s home at the Rose Theater through Sunday (20 March) with a roster of programs that honor its founder, as well as, Robert Wilson, and guest choreographers. For the series the artist, director and choreographer RW has created a tribute to MG called “Snow on the Mesa.” It was performed at the season’s gala opening Tuesday night and will be performed again at Sunday’s matinee.

Martha Graham Dance Company alum Grace Hightower De Niro at the opening night gala.

Tonight's program is a celebration of the collaboration between MG and sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Dances include "Cave of the Heart," a 20th-century take on the Medea myth, and "Embattled Garden," an exploration of contemporary marriage inspired by the story of Adam and Eve with erotic undertones.

MG choreographed 181 dance pieces and also collaborated with the likes of Aaron Copland, Gian Carlo Menotti, Donna Karan, Halston, among others.

Her distinctive style, which has left its influences on the works of Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor and many other dance-makers, grew out of a willingness to experiment with basic human movements. MG was a definitive American voice in the language of dance. Her pupils include Margot Fonteyn, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Liza Minelli and Gregory Peck. All sought her out to help broaden their artistic capabilities.

In “I Am A Dancer,” MG said, “I think the reason dance has held such an ageless magic for the world is that it has been the symbol of the performance of living.”

Her uniquely American dance constructions are full of the vibrancy and rhythm of American life, the spirit of which she explored in all of its freedoms. MG created dances that frankly investigated social, psychological, sexual and political themes.

Martha Graham Dance Company Executive Director LaRue Allen with Artistic Director Janet Eilber at the opening night gala.

Today, Martha Graham Dance Company – the oldest modern dance company in the world – presents not only the classic Graham repertory but also new choreography both at home in New York City and around the world.

Look for more on the company from this reporter who will attend the 19 March matinee. Included on the program is the “Political Dance Project” featuring “Dance is a Weapon Montage” with dances by Isadora Duncan, Eve Gentry, Sophie Maslow, Jane Dudley and MG.

Visit http://marthagraham.org/ to learn more about Martha Graham Dance Company.

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