4/14/16 O&A NYC DANCE: The Martha Graham Dance Company Begins 90th Anniversary Season Today

By Walter Rutledge

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The Martha Graham Dance Company begins their 90th anniversary season today at New York City Center (131 West 55th Street). The company will present four extraordinary programs on Thursday April 14, Friday April 15, Saturday April 16 and Monday April 18, featuring four of Graham’s most acclaimed masterworks Chronicle (1933), Appalachian Spring (1944) Cave Of The Heart (1946), and Night Journey (1947). In addition to the Graham works company will present premieres by internationally acclaimed choreographers Marie Chouinard, Mats Ek, and Pontus Lidberg, and recent works by Nacho Duato and Andonis Foniadakis. Continue reading

4/15/15 O&A REVIEW: Dance Theatre Of Harlem

By Walter Rutledge

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The Dance Theatre Of Harlem presented their New York City season April 8 through 11 at New York City Center. This is the third season since the much heralded return of the company in 2012, and for the 2015 season Artistic Director Virginia Johnson curated two programs, a total of seven works, presented over four performances. Aside from the two neoclassical Balanchine works the repertoire reflected a new direction for the company.

Many have anticipated the return of the barrier breaking dance institution that literally evolved, under the direction of founder Arthur Mitchell, from Afros to ballet buns. The 2015 New York City season introduced a svelte company of eighteen young dancers that has evolved into a formidable contemporary ballet company. Johnson tapped an eclectic array of choreographers to challenge the dancers showcasing the strengths of each young artist.

The three highlights of the season were Nacho Duato’s Coming Together, Ulysses Dove’s On The Front Porch Of Heaven and The Mirror In Her Mind by Christopher Huggins. These works provided the dancers the opportunity to transcend the physical limitation of the stage. The dancers reached beyond the footlights to touch the audience.

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Nacho Duato’s Coming Together kept us on a suspense filled movement roller coaster from beginning to end. This master craftsman skillfully heightened the work’s intensity through strong choreographic structure. His reliance on design produced a kinesthetically stimulating ensemble dance.

Virtuoso dancing performed at a breakneck pace enhanced the choreographic design and brought the company’s technical prowess to the forefront. Here the company was at its best! They performed with verve, vigor, and a strong assured attack- “balls forward”. They were not just dancing; instead the company was in the moment- living through the movement.

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Da’Von Doane’s solo courageously “throw caution to the wind”. His risk taking paid off, at one point creating a catalyst effect that seemed to draw the dancers back to the stage. Dylan Santos also distinguished himself with clean execution; his firecracker attack revealed an exciting inner fire.

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Christopher Huggins’ The Mirror In Her Mind was a visually satisfying quartet also danced with great aplomb by Ashley Murphy, Da’Von Doane, Anthony Savoy and Samuel Wilson. The dance was filled with sumptuous partnering executed with daring and precision. Leaping, turning and yearning with great abandon, Murphy’s male trio moved her effortlessly around the stage. Her compelling interpretation combined the right amount of strength and vulnerability.

If Huggins had designed a pure movement/abstract work the quartet would have been truly dazzling. As a narrative it lacked the needed character development to create a complete scenario. This dance felt like an excerpt, possibly the middle section from a larger work.

We never knew who the three men really were and what led Murphy on her path. To equate it in more visceral terms it was like sex without foreplay or afterglow- definitely satisfying just not totally fulfilling. A work with this much potential deserves a beginning section to establish the relationships and an ending section for a real resolution.

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Ulysses Dove’s haunting allergy Dancing On The Front Porch Of Heaven made its Dance Theatre of Harlem premiered in 2014. The acquisition of this work helped set the tone for the company’s present and welcomed aestheticism. The work set to Arvo Part (Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten) featured dancers in white unitards designed by Jorge Gallardo.

DANCESTL, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Anthony Savoy and Fredrick Davis, Photo by Sharen Bradford

The centerpiece of the work is a male duet performed by Anthony Savoy and Frederick Davis. The ethereal nature of the duet created a noble sojourn. Davis’ stoicism balanced Savoy’s brave journey into the unknown. The ensuing performance became a profound conversation between brethren. The final upstage ascent into the darkness was not an ending, but a peaceful walk into “the next”.

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Throughout the season there were additional performers and performances that should be mentioned. In the opening section of Robert Garland’s Return, and the pas de quartre in Duato’s Coming Together Jenelle Figgins danced with the appropriate command and temperament. Chryrstyn Fentroy was a beacon of hope in Agon. Her performance in the second pas de trios section displayed technical proficiency, and a sense of confidence and élan. And Keenan English’s clean line and inmate style allowed him to standout in the corps. English has that God-given quality that makes you want to look at him.

As Dance Theatre of Harlem moves forward they will have to decide whether to recreate the Company of old or to move into a new future. Presently it seems they are trying to do both with a modicum of success. It would be a brave and bold move to honor the Company’s 45 year legacy by pursuing a direction more in tune with the present.

This new company could have a bright future if it redefines as oppose to confine itself to a past image and standards. The great response from the large and enthusiastic audience at New York City Center shows the public supports the new direction and has embraced this Dance Theatre Of Harlem. Hopefully they will get the proverbial “800 pound Neo-classic Gorilla” out of the room.

4/8/15 O&A Profiles: Da’Von Doane and Ashley Murphy- Partners

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Partners form one of the most rewarding and lasting bonds between dancers.  Partnerships such as Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn, Richard Cragun and Marcia Haydee and Ivan Nagy and Natalia Makarova thrilled audiences with their cooperative commitment to excellence. This season Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Da’Von Doane and Ashley Murphy continues the tradition.

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Far But Close (excerpt)

In partnering the man is usually subservient, he becomes the platinum setting that invisibly reveals the ballerina’s “diamond” brilliance. Doane and Murphy first danced together in the 2009- 2010 season production of Billie Wilson’s Concerto In F. Doane explained their onstage relationship,”I guess the saying is true, that iron sharpens iron. To work with someone who never sacrifices the quality of their work for not even a second is truly inspiring. Working with Ashley makes me want to be a better dancer and partner because I know she is doing the same.”

Da’Von Doane and Ashley Murphy

For the 2015 Dance Theatre Of Harlem New York City season Doane and Murphy will dance together in Balachine’s Agon, Robert Garland’s Return, Coming Together by Nacho Duato, Vessels by Darrell Moultrie and Christopher Huggin’s In The Mirror Of Her Mind. For more information about the 2015 Dance Theatre of Harlem New York season, April 8-11 at New York City Center, or to buy tickets visit dancetheatreofharlem.org. 

2/17/15 O&A Reposted: Lloyd Knight 2012 Conversation

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LLOYD KNIGHT

During the 2012 New York City season of the Martha Graham Dance Company soloist Lloyd Knight was recovering from an injury. His name was listed in the program, but Knight was unable to perform. After a year of rigorous therapy his persistence and patience paid off and by the summer of 2012 Knight was again in rehearsal. Continue reading

2/13/15 O&A Shall We Dance: Lloyd Knight – A Dancer’s World

Shall We Dance

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One of Martha Graham’s most memorable quotes, “It takes ten years, usually, to make a dancer. It takes ten years of handling the instrument, handling the material with which you are dealing, for you to know it completely.” This year marks Lloyd Knight’s tenth year with the Martha Graham Dance Company. His ascent through the ranks of the company culminated with Knight becoming a principal dancer prior to the 2015 New York City season. Continue reading

2/6/15 O&A Martha Graham Dance Company Returns To The Joyce

By Walter Rutledge
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Martha Graham had a fondness for Greek literature and mythology, and utilized these larger than life characters and themes as a source for inspiration. If we were to describe the present Martha Graham Dance Company using a figure from antiquity it would definitely be the Phoenix. The death of Graham, a nasty legal battle for control of work and the changing public attitude toward “how modern was modern dance” seemed to predict the final curtain call for the venerable dance company.

So many institutions struggled to survive after the death of the company’s name sake and major artistic voice, unfortunately many were not able to redefine their mission and are now just a memory. The Graham Company has found a way to not only redefine, and like the Phoenix, to rise with a renewed vigor. Through innovative programming, thoughtful reconstructions and exciting new commissions the Martha Graham Dance Company is once again making a bold artistic statement.

After what can only be described as a triumphant return to New York City Center last year, the company will begin their 2015 New York Season Tuesday, February 10 at the Joyce Theater. The company pays tribute to Graham’s defining influence as an American Modernist with Shape&Design, a program highlighting the sculptural and architectural aspects of choreography by Graham and others. The expanded season, which runs through February 22, will offer 14 performances over twelve days. 

A Conversation With Janet Eilber- Artistic Director Martha Graham Dance Company

Panorama and Chronicle, Graham classics that set the standard for geometric force, are featured, along with Embattled Garden and Errand into the Maze, masterworks with evocative sets by Isamu Noguchi. Shape&Design includes recent works by renowned choreographers Nacho Duato, Andonis Foniadakis, and Annie-B Parson. The company celebrates the 85th anniversary of Graham’s iconic solo Lamentation with the world premiere of four new Lamentation Variations, choreographed by Kyle Abraham, Michelle Dorrance, Liz Gerring, and Sonya Tayeh.

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The performance schedule:

Program A: Feb 11, 15 at 7:30pm; Feb 12, 20-21 at 8pm; Feb 22 at 2pm – Satyric Festival Song, Embattled Garden, Lamentation Variations (including pieces by Kyle Abraham and Sonya Tayeh), Rust, Chronicle

Program B: Feb 17, 22 at 7:30pm; Feb 13-14, 19 at 8pm – Lamentation Variations (including pieces by Michelle Dorrance and Liz Gerring), Errand Into the Maze, The Snow Falls in the Winter, Echo.
Each B Program will open with Essential Shape&Design:
Feb 13 – Deep Song and Panorama
Feb 14, 17 – Frontier and “Steps in the Street”
Feb 19, 22 – Deep Song and Primitive Mysteries (Excerpt)

Program C: Feb 15, 21 at 2pm; Feb 18 at 7:30pm – Lamentation, Embattled Garden, At Summer’s Full, Errand Into the Maze, Diversion of Angels

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The Gala performance honoring Frank Gehry and Peter Arnell will take place on Tuesday February 10. The program will include Steps in the Street with stage design by Frank Gehry, Shape&Design- a film by Peter Arnell, Misty Copeland in At Summer’s Full and the World Premiere of all four Lamentation Variations by Kyle Abraham, Michelle Dorrance, Liz Gerring, and Sonya Tayeh. A Gala dinner will follow at IAC HQ, featuring Diane von Furstenberg’s Dress The Kick. For Gala tickets contact the Martha Graham Dance Company for tickets to the Gala Performance on Tuesday, February 10. For more information, email info@marthagraham.org or call 212-229-9200.

In Photo: 1)  PeiJu Chien-Pott in Lamentation 2) Xiaochuan Xie in Annie-B Parson’s The Snow Falls in the Winter 3) PeiJu Chien-Pott in Martha Graham’s Errand into the Maze

Photo Credit:  1&3) Hibbard Nash  2)Brigid Pierce

To view Graham’s masterwork Appalachian Spring click below:

Graham Letter to World 1

http://outandaboutnycmag.com/2615-shall-we-dance-friday-appalachian-spring/

 

 

Martha Graham: Appalachian Spring and Rite of Spring

By Walter Rutledge

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The recent all too-short season of the Martha Graham Dance Company at New York City Center was a resounding artistic success. The company performed two programs of Graham classics and stunning new works by Nacho Duato and Andonis Foniadakis. The Saturday March 22 evening program included two Graham classics Appalachian Spring (1944) and Rite of Spring (1984).  Both works reinforced the fact that Graham was not only as a master craftsman, but also as an artist with a strong sense of classic form, structure and design. Continue reading

Martha Graham Dance Company New York Season- March 19- 22, 2014

By Walter Rutledge

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The Martha Graham Dance Company will present their annual New York season, Wednesday, March 19 through Saturday March 22 at New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street. The season will celebrate two company milestones, the seventieth anniversary of the modern dance classic Appalachian Spring and the thirtieth anniversary of Graham’s The Rite of Spring. The season will also present two additional Graham masterworks Maple Leaf Rag and a new one-act production of Clytemnestra.   Continue reading