Sunday June 16th, 2013 - An ecstatic evening of dance from Graham II as the young dancers of the Graham "next generation" performed a full-evening programme at the Martha Graham Studio Theater on Bethune Street. Drawing on their youth and on the great depths of energy and commitment needed to sustain these demanding works, the dancers looked splendid...and some of them will doubtless join the main Company in time. Roses and champagne for Virginie Mécène, the artistic director of Graham II, for this celebratory presentation.
As an admirer of ritualistic and mythic danceworks, this programme was particularly pleasing to me. The evening opened with an excerpt from Martha Graham's 1962 work SECULAR GAMES set to a score by Robert Starer. Five young athletes cavort on a beach somewhere in antiquity; they pass a ball around and revel in the fresh air of the seascape. When not dancing, they strike classic poses, recalling the images found on ancient vases.
From 1967, excerpts from Graham's CORTEGE OF EAGLES (music by Eugene Lester) were performed; set after the fall of Troy, the ballet reflects on the fates of Andromache and Hector (a duet danced by Jacklyn Rea and Lorenzo Pagano) and Polyxena (Charlotte Landreau); there is also a powerful solo depicting the Ferryman of the Dead (danced by Gildas Lemmanier). Interspersed with these personal portraits, ensemble passages for the Captive Women, and for The Warriors display the marvelous characteristics of the Graham style: exalted emotions expressed in stylized, vivid combinations.
UNITY, an excerpt from choreographer Kun-Yang Lin's 2011 MANDALA PROJECT, is set to a vibrantly spiritual score by Tim Russell. All of the dancers wear long red skirts. Richly lit, the work begins by exploring the architecture of walking; as the music sweeps from a doom-ladened pacing motif to a seductive Eastern lilt, the dancers revel in the sheer beauty of their own physicality. Standing in a semi-circle, they burst into shouts of beatific joy, celebrating both their individuality and sense of community. UNITY is just plain gorgeous.
Martha Graham created ACTS OF LIGHT in 1981 to music of the celebrated Danish composer Carl Nielsen. For this evening's performance, the Graham II dancers were joined by Mariya Dashkina Maddux, a soloist with the Graham Company. Her ravishing performance (with Lorenzo Pagano) of the work's opening duet Conversation of Lovers was a marvel to behold at close range. Mariya's nuanced sense of gesture - and the beauty of her sweeping hair - developed in a poetic response to the music which ranges from epic grandeur to the gentle lyricism of an oboe solo. Lorenzo Pagano was Masha's impassioned, handsome partner and together they created an atmosphere of quiet ecstacy as the duet came to a close.
Women in saffron hooded tunics moved in unison in the priestess-rites of Lament. Enshrouded in a white Lamentation-style wrap, the radiant young Charlotte Landreau danced a solo as the men knelt reverently around her. She moves with restless expression in her constricting white fabric; shadows play on the floor as the men encircle her. Lorenzo Pagano capped a night of spectacular dancing with a solo as Ritual of the Sun evolved into a pagaent-like finale. To a rhapsodic musical build-up, the dancers sustained simple poses or sank to the floor before joining in the big ecstacy of the ballet's trumphant conclusion. "A knockout!" is what I scrawled on my playbill.
Martha Graham's healthy appreciation for the male physique meant that the boys were showing off their bodies all evening; but moreover they were also showing off their incredible stamina and passion for movement.
All of the dancers tonight seemed inspired by the music and the movement, and by the sense of being part of an honorable tradition. The evening, a total pleasure in its own right, gave an assurance that there are dancers being readied to carry the Graham legend forward into the coming years.