On Monday March 5th, 2012 I experienced a dance-revelation of the first magnitude when photographer Brian Krontz and I attended a formal studio rehearsal of Martha Graham's CHRONICLE down at Joyce SoHo. I had never been up to the top-floor studio at Joyce SoHo; it is a huge and wonderfully atmospheric space with large windows and a skylight. We were greeted by Graham icon Tadej Brdnik, and how marvelous to see the beautiful women of the Company quietly warming up and preparing to dance.
A single row of chairs lined the mirrored wall where invited guests and photographers sat ready. I was thoroughly dazzled when the luminous Katherine Crockett used the mirror over my shoulder to pin up her hair. Overcoming my shyness, I talked to her briefly: it was rather like speaking with a benevolent goddess. Which is exactly what she is.
The Company's artistic director Janet Eilber spoke about CHRONICLE and then we were swept into one of the most thrilling danceworks I have had the pleasure to witness.
CHRONICLE was made by Martha Graham in 1936 as a response by the choreographer to the rise of Facism. In this three-part, all-female work Graham allows us to bask in the architecture of her choreography and vividly expressed movement of the women while underscoring the entire piece with both strong anti-war sentiment and the deep roots of feminine solidarity and sisterhood.
To a score by Wallingford Riegger, Martha Graham has fashioned an abstract yet keenly dramatic work.
The first section of CHRONICLE is a solo entitled Spectre 1914. Guest dancer Fang-Yi Sheu (above), who will perform this work at the Graham celebratory Gala at New York City Center on March 14th, danced with splendid authority and passion at today's rehearsal.
The costume that Fang-Yi Sheu wears has a richly textured underskirt of deep scarlet...
...which the dancer manipulates in swirling movement as the dance evolves.
In the second and third sections, entitled Steps in the Street (War's Devastation) and Prelude to Action respectively, the other women move into the space. Above: Andrea Murillo, Mariya Dashkina Maddux and Grace Campo. In leaping combinations and stately processionals, the women amplify the ritualistic aspects of the work. The structure is formal, but the dancing is passionate.
Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, foreground.
Fang-Yi Sheu remins the central figure as the ensemble movement ebbs and flows around her.
Jacqueline Bulnes, Fang-Yi Sheu
Andrea Murillo (foreground)
The priestess-like figure of Ms. Crockett (above) appears briefly.
As the rehearsal proceeded, reality seemed to vanish and the transportive beauty of the dancers and the dance elevated us to some altogether higher realm. I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience this magnificent work at close range and very much looking forward to seeing it next week, both at the City Center gala and at The Joyce performances.
Special thanks to Brian Krontz who produced these radiant images of the dancers, leaving me with a perfect souvenir of the afternoon, and to Mallika Dattatreya for her kindness in arranging our visit.