By Walter Rutledge
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. Clytemnestra created in 1958 is Graham’s only full-length evening work. The work, which features a score by the Egyptian-born composer Halim El-Dabh, consists of two acts with a prologue and epilogue. The Martha Graham Dance Company premiered Clytemnestra on April 1, 1958, at the Adelphi Theater in New York to critical acclaim. Many consider the masterwork her definitive artistic achievement.
Clytemnestra based on an ancient Greek tale, and has all the plot twists and intrigue worthy of a Graham work. It tells the story of Queen Clytemnestra the wife of King Agamemnon. When the King learns of her adultery with Aegisthus, Agamemnon exacts his revenge by offering their daughter, Iphigenia, to be sacrificed. Clytemnestra murders Agamemnon on his return from the Trojan War, later by son Orestes murders her.
Rite of Spring choreographed by Graham in 1984, when the artist was eighty-nine years young. The audiences at New York State Theater at Lincoln Center experienced a totally original interpretation of the Stravinsky classic. Graham’s vast and deep understanding of ritual was on full display, coupled with her command of the music produced remarkably memorable imagery.
Anna Kisselgoff’s review of the opening published on February 29, 1984 stated, “It is a ”Rite” that is totally elemental, as primal in expression of basic emotion as any tribal ceremony, as hauntingly staged in its deliberate bleakness as it is rich in implication.” Revived in 2013 the work had not been previously seen since 1993. This remount of The Rite of Spring will include the work’s original costumes by Halston.
The season will also feature works by Nacho Duato and Andonis Foniadakis. These works are part of the continuing effort by the company to expand the repertoire with new works that compliment the Graham aesthetic. The works have strong visual imagery and physiological undertones, which challenge both the dancers and the audience.
Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased through City Tix at (212) 581-1212 and online at nycitycenter.org. For more information about the Martha Graham Dance Company visit marthagraham.org.