featured photo

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

Flash Review 3, 5-4: Celebrating Twentieth Century Dance
Misha & More at Martha at Mother

By Romy Reading
Copyright 2000 Romy Reading

Last night was a night of many firsts.... My first performance that I would Flash, my first time seeing Mikhail Baryshinikov, and my first night at Martha at Mother. For those of you not from New York or those of you who have yet to be let in on one of the dance world's most "in the know" shows, Martha at Mother is an evening of dance hosted by Richard Move as the high priestess of modern dance herself, Miss Martha Graham. Having nearly perfected the voice, the mannerisms, and the movement Richard brings the modern dance diva back to the stage in New York City and brings us some of the hottest names in the dance world to perform solo works.

A video prelude by Charles Atlas opens the night as the audience filters into the small theater space. For those of us not fortunate enough to have seats, it's a quick scramble to find a good standing-room-only spot. Once settled in my spot on the bar that runs along the side of the theater I was able to take note of who had made it to one of the hottest dance performances in town (Stephen Petronio to Remy Charlip to yes even Julia Roberts had made it in for a chance to see Misha). After Charles's hilarious collage of Hollywood dance/acrobat images, images of Martha and her company, and clips of various actors saying her name ended, Richard Move opened the night with a taste of the Greek era of Martha. A coupling of signature Graham "tragic drama" coupled with a tongue-in-cheek play on Martha's continual power struggle over the male half of the human race, the opening act eased one into the possibilities that Richard as "Martha" would explore.

The next selection was a collection of excerpts from Bebe Miller's Rhythm Studies. With the confidence and clarity of an experienced mother with her child, Bebe showed us how she feels her dance. Luscious , a dynamic kaleidoscope of movement, this brand of post-modern dance let the audience see what it is to feel this often overly abstracted way of moving/dancing . She spoke and vocalized as she danced. It seemed as if it came out of her without a second thought as to how to let it out. I was once told by an acting teacher that the audience resonates in sympathetic harmony with the performer; if the performer is feeling something then so will the audience. How true it was for the audience watching Bebe last night! And the beautiful thing about it for this audience member was that I never felt anything but safe with Bebe.

After a hilarious debate between "Martha" and Yvonne Rainer, Martha struggling to understand what one of the mothers of the minimalist post-modern dance scene was ever trying to achieve (of course she never did come to grips with Ms. Rainer's rebellion against her high theatricality), Baryshnikov performed a solo by Rainer originally choreographed for Valda Setterfield in 1971. No fiery leaps, no multiple pirouettes, no display of the technical prowess that Misha awed the dance world with for so many years -- just pure intent and conviction. To only silence, Mr. Baryshnikov executed this delicate and quiet dance with the utmost purpose and respect for the work. So what if it was not the role of Prince Albrecht with American Ballet Theatre? It was dance, and it was important. Each gesture he made as he carefully handled a red ball filled the entire room with the clarity of his spatial intent. No second was wasted. It was as if he was saying if you are lucky enough to be a dancer then do it like you mean it!

The next work, presented by Daniel Ezralow, Untitled Creation for Martha, though beautifully performed and deeply felt left me confused. Danced with two finger puppets that pranced around with him on the floor as well as across his body, the piece baffled me as to its purpose. Was this a parody of something or an homage or just cute for the sake of being cute? Perhaps someone who saw this performance can help me out with this one. I was a bit at a loss.

The next solo artist, "Tamango" HerbinVan Casyeele, improvised some of the most virtuosic and stunning tap dancing I have ever witnessed. Quick, deft syncopations, and fast, suspended, intricate footwork played out rhythms that seemed to glide across the room straight into your body. I could not decide if I wanted to cheer, applaud, cry or laugh. I did know that it was fantastically fresh and exciting.

The evening ended with a short performance entitled The Dying Swan performed by Ida Nevaseyneva (you need to speak this name out-loud to yourself; good; cute, isn't it?). Nevaseyneva danced his campy rendition of the last moments of the swan's life. With extremely bird-like facial features and comically slender, knobby legs he embodied a perfect parody of this classic dance character.

An enlightening tour through the history of twentieth century dance, the evening would make any dancer fill with pride at having decided to enter this often trying profession. The maturity, knowledge, and brilliance that all of the performers brought to the stage last night makes the not-always-comfortable seating arrangements a non-issue. This run of Martha at Mother is sold out, but next time around -- Martha holds forth at Mother a couple of evenings most months -- do yourself a favor and get out to see this. This night made me remember why I live in New York City.

(Editor's note: Romy Reading is a New York City-based dancer and writer. For more on Martha at Mother, see Flash Review 2, 3-2: Merce, Dancing. For more on Misha and Modern and Rainer, see Flash Report, 3-28: Celebrity Dance Match. For more on Rainer dancing, see Flash Review 1, 4-8: True Confessions.)


Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home