Dance Review: Martha Graham

In its 85th years, Martha Graham Dance Company presents works dating from 1936 onward, a bona fide trip down memory lane.

November 2, 2011 21:46
1 minute read.
Martha Graham Dance Company

Martha Graham Dancer 311. (photo credit: John Deene)


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Martha Graham Dance Company is celebrating its 85th season, making it the longest surviving modern dance company. On its current tour it presented works dating from 1936 onward, a bona fide trip down memory lane.

In Chronicle, (1936) one can see the thin veins connecting the German expressionist dance of Kurt Joss and Mary Wigman’s schools on early American modern dance.

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Revival of Embattled Garden, which was also in the repertoire of the young Batsheva company in the 1960s, carries a particular nostalgia for local audiences. Its set, designed by sculptor Isamu Noguchi, influenced Israeli set designers for two decades.

After playing the dramatic and despondent Deaths and Entrances (1943), based on entangled relationships of the three Bronte sisters, the program ended on a high note with Maple Leaf Rag (1990), set to Scott Joplin’s beloved score – the last work Graham choreographed, not long before her death.

The company performed that piece on an earlier tour in Israel, yet it was still surprising to witness its vitality, optimism and humor, scarcely seen in earlier works. It also pointed to changes that her famous technique went through which mellowed her more rigid stylistic character over the years.

The company has a strong group dancers. Yet many of the dances are best appreciated for their contribution only in context of their era. Although Graham was a major influence on modern dance, particularly in the middle of the 20th century, the relevance of her works to contemporary dance had diminished and her technique, which once revolutionized body perception, is now obsolete.

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