Above: Miki Orihara in an Albert Watson portrait.
Sunday March 18th, 2012 evening - In this final performance of their 2012 Joyce season, the Martha Graham Dance Company saluted principal dancer Miki Orihara as she celebrates her 25th anniversary with the Company.
The 'Graham Week' at The Joyce has played to packed houses and great enthusiasm; there is truly a deep interest in the work of this legendary choreographer and a genuine desire to experience her dances live, as well as witnessing works inspired by her. And the Graham dancers have devoted and vociferous admirers, adding to the excitement of each performance.
The programme commenced with the solo Witch Dance, choreographed in 1936 by Mary Wigman. In this piece, a crouching old woman evokes spells and curses. When dancer PeiJu Chein-Pott removed the ceremonial masque and heavy wig at her curtain call, the lovely young dancer underneath was revealed.
The whimsical title Every Soul Is a Circus is drawn from a Vachel Lindsay poem. In this 1939 psychological comedy set to a score by Paul Nordoff, a woman's fantasies about being 'the star of the show' are explored. A Ring Master (Tadej Brdnik) and an Acrobat (Lloyd Knight) create the illusory circus tent as the woman rises from her daydreaming and takes center stage. Katherine Crockett gave a splendid performance as the Empress of the Arena, alluring and with just a trace of self-mockery.
Ms. Crockett reappeared soon after in the Lamentation Variations solo by Richard Move; here the imperial dancer seemed to glow from within as she moved slowly in a band of bright light near the edge of the stage, pausing to sustain incredible balances or to bend her elegant torso into improbable shapes. From her gorgeous blonde hair to the tips of her toes, every fibre of Ms. Crockett's being seemed to resonate with the quiet power of the movement. Glorious!
Aszure Barton's duet in the Lamentation series was beautifully danced by Jacqueline Bulnes and Xianchuan Xie.
Lar Lubovitch's response to Lamentation was breath-taking; it seems to take place in a shadowy graveyard where shrouded bodies are laid out on the stage. On a low bench, a couple perform a stylized pas de deux of mourning; they remain seated throughout most of the piece. The dead seem to awake, however briefly, moving within their garments in shapes that recall Martha Graham's original Lamentation solo. I would dearly love to see this work again.
Night Journey was the evening's final work, set to a score by William Schuman and danced on a set by Isamu Noguchi. ln this Oedipal tale, Queen Jocasta's final moments of life are depicted in a flashback. Blakely White-McQuire leads the Chorus with marvelously taut physicality. The towering figure of Samuel Pott as the blind seer Tiresias stalks the stage with his crutch, and Tadej Brdnik appears in the visions of his mother/wife, contemplating the horror that has evolved. Shimmering in a white gown, Miki Orihara's Jocasta is a tragic figure engulfed in the waves of unexpected events too horrific to contemplate. Radiant and vulnerable in her despair, Miki gave a performance which was both passionately danced and finely nuanced in dramatic gesture.
After receiving a standing ovation at the final curtain - where the entire Company joined the cast of Night Journey onstage to salute Miki - The Joyce's lower lobby was the scene of an impromptu champagne fete as a big crowd of devotees lingered to congratulate Miki. "Here's to another twenty-five years!" someone called out, raising a toast as Miki fell into a mock swoon. It was so lovely to be there on her special evening.