Martha Graham Company at the Joyce theater


we are going to see this company this sunday, program A to meet one of the dancers whom i’ve never met. the last dance program we saw was Juan Michael Porter’s II program of Tales of Kojiki; Redux and after the show he and i talked about working together again. i’ve got a dance project i’d like to do so that is the purpose for the sunday meeting.

i never thought of myself as a dance creator but why not i’ve been involved with dance for twenty years. one of my models Masha is very interested in doing this piece, i’ll do some testing with her next week and a costume fitting to see if my ideas work.

here is  a link to the nytimes about recreating ‘Imperial Gestures’ something i’ve been involved with during my tenure at the Jose Limon Company  but for me to create a new dance ( new dance) is there such a thing? maybe a different look to an old story. more on this later.

my earliest exposures to the Phaedra story came from the movie version with Melina Mercouri, Anthony Perkins, Raf Vallone in the classic tear jerker Phaedra movie. what a tour de force and the ending whew, i bought the soundtrack record and listened to it over and over. lovely. talk about crying this does it.

here is a review in this weeks financial times Limited of the graham season

Graham’s ‘Phaedra’ was impressive for its storytelling, but it was another choreographer’s work that stole the show
Martha Graham Company in ‘Phaedra’
Martha Graham Company in ‘Phaedra’

According to Euripides, ill-fated Phaedra’s helpless, forbidden passion “is what the god has chosen [her] to become” – which makes Martha Graham the perfect artist to depict her. In fact, unlike the characters in the choreographer’s earlier and better Greek tragedies, Night Journey and Cave of the Heart, the players in Phaedra are more stiff instrument than person. They do not win our sympathy when they suffer enormously for attempting to heed the dictates of their cruel gods.

After a decade in storage, the briefly controversial ballet – at its 1962 premiere a couple of congressmen deemed it too sexy for government funding – returns as part of the company’s Myth and Transformation season, whose abundant works either riff on Graham or are by her. What does impress in Phaedra – besides the excellent actor-dancers, including the newcomers on which the troupe’s bright future depends – is the storytelling. Typical of Graham, the drama moves as dexterously as film can do between reality and dream, dread or the past that has cursed the present.

Deft shifts in register also distinguish Richard Move’s hour-long tour de force The Show (Achilles Heels), crafted in 2002 for Baryshnikov and Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry and only now set on the Graham company, where it deserves a long life. With The Iliad as his source, Move stitches together a host of unlikely elements: a hilarious game show rigged like Achilles’ fate, a chorus that lip-syncs wooden dialogue from a 1950s movie epic, and dreamlike tone-poems that feature Helen as desperate, voluptuous captive, vain Achilles and his devoted lover Patroclus dancing arm in arm, and war widows clasping mechanical doves that beat their wings. Arto Lindsay’s finely textured industrial score conjures a recycled, subterranean world, with Harry’s songs adding notes of elegy and romance.

Move may replace Graham’s temporal and psychological excavations with postmodern pastiche, but the end is the same: outsized feeling. Even without Baryshnikov and Harry to prod us, The Show excites euphoria over bigger-than-life people like this Achilles (the Brit and Graham newbie Lloyd Mayor), who, beyond anything else, is beautiful and knows it. The dance lets us yearn for image and person to unite. It not only accepts our shallow pleasures, it discovers their dignity and their depth.

Until March 3, www.joyce.org

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