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News & Analysis, 10-24: Graham Moves
New Artistic Directors, New Money, and Season Repertoire Announced
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider
For the first time since
the death of Martha Graham in 1991, the Martha Graham Dance Company
will be directed by dancers, veteran principals Terese Capucilli
and Christine Dakin, a company spokesman said this week. The company
also announced a $1.5 million challenge grant from its board, including
$1 million from Delores Barr Weaver, and the repertoire for its
first season in nearly three years, a line-up spanning more than
60 years of Graham work demonstrating the sheer breadth of her choreographic
Capucilli and Dakin,
both personally nurtured by Graham, were in many ways the company's
rocks during the near-decade it toiled under the directorship of
non-dancer Ronald Protas, who in the last year lost his federal
court claims to ownership of most of Graham's dances and the trademarks
to her name and technique. Made associate artistic directors during
Protas's final years in charge, they acted as co-artistic coordinators,
while continuing to lead the company on stage as well, during its
May one-night stand at City Center.
As the company's new
co-artistic directors, said Graham Center executive director Marvin
Preston, Capucilli and Dakin bring "50 years of performance experience
with the Martha Graham Dance Company, much of it under the direct
tutelage of Martha Graham herself. They are extraordinarily capable
of articulating and demonstrating their rich understanding of, insight
into, and know-how of Martha Graham's technique. They work well
together. Their styles and personalities are wonderfully complementary.
They have the unique ability to assure that the know-how associated
with each of Martha Graham's dances is preserved with artistic integrity
and passed on to the next generation of Martha Graham dancers. This
is their time."
For their first season
as artistic directors -- excepting a one-night City Center engagement
last spring, the first since the Graham company suspended operations
in May 2000 -- Capucilli and Dakin have planned a program that ranges
from the 1929 "Heretic" to the 1990 "Maple Leaf Rag." The season,
which runs January 22 to February 2 at the Joyce Theater in New
York, will be preceded by a gala preview January 21. With tickets
priced from $250 to $2,500, the gala and other development activities
are critical as the Graham infrastructure moves to rebuild after
a two-year period of uncertainty about its future which made fundraising
challenging. No doubt with the ambitious season as well as the return
of the Graham School by the end of the year to its historic headquarters
at 316 E. 63rd Street in mind, the center's board of trustees has
committed $1.5 million to a challenge grant.
The work planned for
the Joyce seems designed to showcase the great range of Graham's
dance subjects. It includes the 1935 "Frontier," of which the New
York Herald Tribune's Edwin Denby wrote on May 11, 1944 (Graham's
50th birthday): "Here again it is in her stationary poses that (Graham)
is able in the thrust of the neck to give an extraordinary sense
of enormous space around her. 'Frontier' is incidentally an answer
to those critics of modern dancing who claim it is technically too
easy; 'Frontier' is certainly technically one of the most difficult
dances anybody ahas ever attempted."
Like the upcoming Joyce
season, that evening at the National Theater also included the 1937
"Deep Song," an homage to Republican Spain which, wrote Denby, is
"technically an extremely interesting derivation from Spanish flamenco
dancing, from the carriage and rhythm of it -- but it is a completely
original and personal dance form that Miss Graham has evolved."
The Joyce program will
also feature the sets Isamu Noguchi designed for many of the works.
For "Frontier," Noguchi (quoted in Agnes de Mille's "Martha") once
explained: "I used a rope, nothing else. It's not the rope that
is the sculpture, but it is the space which it creates that is the
sculpture. It is an illusion of space. It is not flat like a painting
used as a backdrop. It is a three-dimensional perspective. It bisects
the theater space. Therefore, it creates the whole box into a spatial
concept. And it is in that spatial concept that Martha moves and
creates her dances. In that sense, Martha is a sculptor herself."
Graham also chiselled
away at the psyche, framing in dance her perspective on the mental
maze -- often at great personal cost. The New York season will also
include the 1946 "Dark Meadow," with characters like "One Who Seeks,"
a role originated by Graham; "He Who Summons," originated by Erick
Hawkins, Graham's real-life lover; an "Earth Mother" modelled after
Persephone; and "They Who Dance Together," played by the corps.
"The chorus," writes de Mille, "made an emotional background and
intensified all the phases of Martha's passage towards self-realization
and power..... At the end, Martha, the heroine, finds herself alone,
and Noguchi's strange, phalliclike cactus form at the back of the
stage bursts into flower, or rather buds out in Noguchi's blooms.
It was a dance of sacrifice in which the artist strips herself of
everything to achieve her fulfillment.
Of an early performance,
de Mille recounts:
"I took a psychoanalyst,
Florence Powdermaker, to a performance, and she sat at the end with
tears streaming down her cheeks, her head in her hands, and said,
'Oh, unnecessary, unneeded! This is not the price. Is there no one
who can teach Martha this? She does not need to give her life for
perception. The suffering! The suffering!'"
These days, a new generation
of Graham dancers -- some trained by her, others at her school --
are giving over their bodies and souls so that the Graham oeuvre
can continue to augment our perception. For two years, that devotion
has largely been one of pure faith, as the dancers waited for lawyers
to resolve whether they would ever be able to give their dancing
lives to Martha again. When the curtain rises January 22, that faith
will be rewarded, as will be the patience of Graham's existing audience
and the curiosity of would-be new initiates, including 600 public
school children who will be able to see a performance.
Said Capucilli and Dakin,
in a joint statement: "This season at the Joyce gives the audience
an opportunity to see these works as Martha originally performed
them: in an intimate space, with live chamber music. The depth and
beauty of Martha's work is seen through her dancers -- the core
of whom were chosen by her and worked with her for decades. The
newest dancers are young, exciting talents, trained at her school,
and they are burning with the passion for this extraordinary repertory.
They will be the next generation to bring Martha's dances to new
Also on the bill for
the Joyce audience: "Lamentation" (1930), "Satyric Festival Song"
(1932), "Chronicle" (1936), "El Penitente" (1940), "Errand into
the Maze" (1947), "Night Journey" (1947), "Diversion of Angels"
(1948), "Embattled Garden" (1958), and "Phaedra" (1962).
Paul Ben-Itzak is The Dance Insider's editor and CEO. He swears
he did not have to put his hand on a rock before writing this story.
E-mail paul by clicking here.
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