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Flash Review 3, 1-23: Move's Martha: Bitch or Queen?
Move Moves Martha@ Uptown

By Kelly Hargraves
Copyright 2001 Kelly Hargraves

It all depends on how you look at it.

*Martha Graham could be the greatest choreographer of all time, or she could be a royal bitch...or both.*

Richard Move approaches his portrayal of Martha Graham with the reverence of a trained dancer and the sass of a queen. Faithfully adhering to the details of Graham's storied past, Move's innuendo is seen in each tilt of his head and batting of his luscious lashes. As he introduces legends like Merce Cunningham and Meredith Monk Saturday at Martha@Town Hall, he refers to them as "former students or dancers who may have started their own work," consciously belittling their obvious achievements. Move's interview with Cunningham is brilliant in its droll attempt to make everything Merce has ever done reflect back on Martha. When Cunningham tells of meeting Helen Keller, Move responds that although the story is charming (s)he'd rather hear about Cunningham's experience in the Graham company.

*Richard Move could be a great dancer/impresario of our time or he could just be a great drag queen...or both.*

Move and Co. present pieces taken from Graham's repertoire -- although they are in no way reconstructions. "The Legend of Phaedra" shows the structure of Graham's epic stories and vocabulary as well as her penchant for near naked men, "Mary's Moment" and "Lament" add a new telling to Graham's creations. Each piece is ripe with irony and humor, yet because many of the dancers in this company have trained at the Graham School and even danced in the Graham company, they are also prime examples of the Graham technique.

*These performers could be the greatest contemporary artists or they could be part of a vaudeville variety show doing tricks.*

This eclectic mix of performers presents such a unique type of work that it's like a vaudeville show with Martha Graham as MC. Move has put together a program that includes pieces from some of the greatest names in dance -- Mark Morris, Merce Cunningham, Meredith Monk and Sharon Kinney (presenting Paul Taylor's "Epic," which was scandalous when it premiered in 1957) -- as well as new talents like David Neumann and Stacy Dawson and the extraordinary performer Bill "Crutchmaster" Shannon. Move introduces the pieces with a mini-history of their origins that usually references Graham in some way. Accomplished filmmaker Charles Atlas presents a collage of Martha-themed clips such as snippets from "Who's Afraid of Virgina Wolfe?" to create a symphony of Marthas.

*Martha@ could be the best contemporary dance history lesson around ...or it could just be the latest fad...or it could be both.*

I never made it to Martha@Mother because it was always sold out or way past my bedtime...or both, but I knew of the legendary weekend series in Manhattan's meat-packing district. Now Martha@ has gone uptown, to Town Hall, complete with a prestigious agent, IMG, representing it. Move has toured his ode to Martha Graham throughout the world and now seems primed to take on Broadway.

*The stage show could be the reason to go or the audience in the lobby could be the most interesting thing to watch...or both.*

Saturday's SRO crowd includes celebs like rock goddess Debbie Harry and the guy from Channel 11 News as well as dance pioneers such as Yvonne Rainer and countless others. It also includes some of the best-dressed drag queens around as well as hundreds of patrons from the show's downtown club roots. As one audience member says, it is ground zero for the New York avant-garde. Moves says it best when he dubs the evening "ultra ultra"(pronounced oou-tra)...or both.

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