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Flash Review 1, 8-18:
Keeping Martha's Spirit Alive
Graham Dancers Without Graham Dances
By Nolini Barretto
Copyright 2000 Nolini Barretto
This is not really a
review, just as the free performance at Union Square Park Wednesday
by the dancers of the Martha Graham Dance Company was not so much
a concert as it was a statement of the dancers' position, and a
celebration of their unity. Fourteen dancers and seven choreographers
from the Graham Company and Ensemble presented their own work to
a large and enthusiastic audience of dancers, students, board members,
Graham supporters, curiosity seekers and random Union Square wanderers.
Tadej Brdnik, Graham
Company member and the curator for the evening's performances said
the idea and impetus for the concert was not political. However,
the title of the evening ("Keeping the Channels Open"), and the
opening statement on the program ("We, the dancers of the Martha
Graham Dance Company, are determined to continue to do what we know
and love best -- dancing. This performance is an act of faith for
each of us. It represents our collective effort to build a future,
in spite of the fact that we have lost our artistic home, are without
studio space and lack financial support"), clearly suggests otherwise.
The audience was there
to support the dancers and to happily meet and greet Graham people
they hadn't seen in years. I must confess that I was one of them
-- I knew all the dancers on that stage, and many of the ones sitting
on the damp grass that evening. It was worth the muddy discomfort,
and like the rest of the audience, I am glad the dancers are finding
For those of you who
still want to know about the performance, the bodies were magnificent,
the dancing ferocious, and the choreography -- umm, lets say it
was uneven. Not all the Graham dancers make good choreographers.
And, with no lights (6 p.m. showtime), no wings, a mediocre sound
system and little or no prior rehearsal, the circumstances in which
the works were presented were admittedly less than perfect.
Nonetheless, a few pieces
managed to leave a favorable impression on this viewer. Jacqulyn
Buglisi's 1988 dance, "Sospiri," reminded everyone there why they
love Graham work. The tragic love story was a strong and tender
theatrical piece, rooted in the Graham movement tradition. It was
made that much fiercer by the electric intensity between dancers
Virginie Mecene and Kevin Predmore. Kun-Yang Lin's excerpt from
his "Land of Lost Content" was one of the most individual voices
amongst the dancer/choreographers. It reflected Lin's personal cultural
baggage while acknowledging Graham's influence in its sense of formality,
weightedness and attack. And did so without having to recourse to
familiar Graham gestures and movement vocabulary. It was danced
with intensity by Lin, Brdnik, Mecene, Jennifer Binford, Gary Galbraith,
and Nai-Yu Kuo.
In other pieces, Erica
Dankmeyer, Kathleen Crockett and Alessandra Prosperi danced with
consummate strength and abandon, gobbling up the stage space in
huge, thirsty gulps. Some of the choreography in those and other
pieces was inevitably derived from the Graham vocabulary. It's tough
-- these dancers have trained for years to perfect Graham's particular
movement logic. They ache to perform in the way their bodies have
been trained to do. If, due to current circumstances, they are unable
to do so, can you completely blame them if they make work that resonates
with Grahamisms? The Union Square Park audience did not think so.
The concert also included
Javier Dzul's "Y'ltz Ka'anil, " Errol Grimes's "As I Lay Lying,"
Gary Galbraith and Karen Potter's "The Burghers of Calais," Erica
Dankmeyer's "Forest Incantation," and Buglisi's "Red Hills."
Nolini Barretto is the
former administrative director of the Graham school. She is currently
marketing and public relations director of Dance Theater Workshop.
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