Wednesday February 6th, 2013 - Members of the press were invited today to the Martha Graham Dance Company's spacious studio/theater at Westbeth on Bethune Street for an hour-long preview of the upcoming Graham season at The Joyce. The space, once the home base of Merce Cunningham, seems literally to pulsate with the energy of the dance.
In this one-hour presentation we were shown works by Richard Move, Luca Veggetti and Doug Varone - all of which make the arrival of The Joyce season all the more desirable - as well as a bit of classic Graham danced by two of the leading exponents of the Graham style, joined by the current dynamic ensemble of the Company's women.
Janet Eilber, the Company's artistic director, welcomed us, speaking briefly of the damage sustained to the Graham Company's sets and costumes due to Hurricane Sandy. With true Grahamian vitality of spirit, the Company have moved forward from this unfortunate calamity, preparing for a full and exciting season at The Joyce during which they will continue their development of new repertory to perform as well as bringing the Graham masterworks to the stage. In response to the loss of the stage decor for ERRAND INTO THE MAZE, that ballet will be performed in a stripped-down version, prepared by Luca Veggetti.
The Joyce season will revolve around themes of Myth and Transformation. And what more mythic figure is there than Achilles? His story was re-told in 2002 when choreographer Richard Move created THE SHOW (Achilles Heels) for the White Oak Dance Project. The piece now comes to us via the Graham Company, and today the choreographer introduced a twenty-minute excerpt from the work in which the old legend is transformed into a TV game show called It's All Greek to Me. Normally I'm not one for spoofs and send-ups, but Mr. Move's work is truly inventive and brilliant. I won't spoil the fun of this dancework (which feels like a play with dancing) before Joyce audiences get to see it, but only to say that the Graham dancers have grabbed it and run with it. Lloyd Mayor is the boyish hero, Abdiel Jacobsen his beloved Patroclus, Blakeley White-McGuire is Athena, and Katherine Crockett is Helen of Troy.
Luca Veggetti then showed three sections of his new ballet set to an intriguing vocal score by Kaija Saariaho: settings of poetry by Sylvia Plath sung by a pair of mystically entwined soprano voices. Entitled FROM THE GRAMMAR OF DREAMS, Luca's movement patterns show both the strength and delicacy of five of the Company's women: Blakeley White-McGuire, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, PeiJu Chien-Potts, Xiaochuan Xie and Ying Xin. Thanks to his gracious invitation, I've been following Luca's creative process for this new work, once bringing my friend Matt Murphy with me to photograph a rehearsal.
The latest in a series of commissioned variations on the Graham solo LAMENTATION comes from choreographer Doug Varone, and it's already high on my list of favorite danceworks...without having yet seen it onstage. In this quartet for male dancers - Tadej Brdnik, Maurizio Nardi, Lloyd Knight and Abdiel Jacobsen - a wooden bench is the link to the Graham original. As the men sit, stand, huddle, lie upon, and move the bench about the space, it seems to take on the role of a fifth dancer. Varone''s choice of setting Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit is truly inspired, and the dancers bring a quality of contained emotion and unexpressed tenderness to the piece.
Miki Orihara and Tadej Brdnik brought the showing to a close with the bridal duet from NIGHT JOURNEY, in which Miki's lyricism and vulnerability were a counterpoise to Tadej's powerful movement and youthful Greek-god physique. Then the Graham women came storming onto the scene in one of Graham's most striking ensemble passages.
Above: Tadej Brdnik of the Martha Graham Dance Company. The Graham season at The Joyce can't get here fast enough!
My thanks to Janet Stapleton, Janet Eilber, Denise Vale and all the artists involved for a really meaningful dance experience, something that truly warmed the spirit on this frigid evening.