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Martha Graham Dance Company

Apr 19–21, 2007


Christophe Jeannot, Tadej Brdnik, and Elizabeth Auclair in Martha Graham's "Embattled Garden".
Photo by John Deane, © John Deane.

Every dance is a kind of fever chart, a graph of the heart. … The instrument through which the dance speaks is also the instrument through which life is lived … the human body.
—Martha Graham

The Graham canon continues to magnetize. In these fine performances it is as direct, as visceral, and as full of human pathos and joy as it ever was.
—The Philadelphia Inquirer

Take this rare opportunity to experience the work of Martha Graham, the seminal artistic force whose impact resonates throughout modern dance as well as theater. The MCA presents two distinct programs: one focusing on works made with her long-time collaborator, sculptor Isamu Noguchi, including the signature Appalachian Spring; and the second tracing the arc of her development through solo dance works, including the iconic Lamentation.

Recognized along with great shapers of the 20th century—Picasso, Stravinsky, James Joyce, and Frank Lloyd Wright—Graham rejected the studied movements of classical ballet. In more than 180 works created during a career of over fifty years, she developed an approach to expose depths of emotion through stylized movements that were intense, angular, direct, and primal.

Before working with Noguchi, Graham always danced on a blank stage. Revolutionizing stage space, Noguchi created organic, evocative worlds that were extensions of Graham’s “interior landscapes.” In a collaboration that lasted three decades, they made dance theatrical, laying the ground for the interdisciplinary art we look for from the artists of today.

For more information about Martha Graham Dance Company.

 Evening Program:

Focuses on Martha Graham/Isamu Noguchi collaborations

  • Appalachian Spring (1944)
    This is a breathtaking evocation of American determination and optimism, with the beloved score by Aaron Copland. The three collaborators considered this work to be their contribution to the war effort when it premiered in 1944. The ballet is named after a poem by Hart Crane.
  • Embattled Garden (1958)
    With an environment designed by Noguchi consisting of a forest of supple poles and a stylized tree, Graham created her own Garden of Eden for this ballet. This tragicomedy explores sacred and profane love in a frankly erotic romp involving Adam and Eve. Carlos Surinach wrote the score.
  • Errand into the Maze (1947)
    Errand is Graham’s quintessential ballet about the journey into self. Based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur (Graham replaced the male protagonist with a woman), the dramatic movement and organic set pieces create an inescapable metaphor for self discovery. The score was written by Gian Carlo Menotti.

Saturday Matinee: American Original

This program illuminates the origin, development, and fruition of Graham’s contributions to the birth of a new American art form: modern dance. The program begins with five solo works from the 1920s and thirties: Incense (1906); Serenata Morisca (c. 1920); Lamentation (1930); Satyric (1932); and Spectre (1937). Rather than presenting the works traditionally with formal entrances, exits, and pauses for bows, each work is interwoven with recently discovered films of four benchmark dances that span the same era. This treatment merges the dances in a variety of ways, even allowing dancers to travel into and out of a projection, or dance with the images of their predecessors. After intermission, the audience views dancers performing Appalachian Spring. Diversion of Angels completes the afternoon, a short piece inspired by a Wassily Kandinsky painting that Graham viewed at the Art Institute here while on tour with the East Village Follies.
Works on film: Flute of Krishna (1926); Heretic (1929); Lamentation (1930); Steps in the Street (1936).

Artists Up Close

Martha Graham Dance Company
Sunday, April 15, 4–6 pm
$15 registration or $10 with performance ticket
At Jane Addams Hull-House (800 S Halsted St)

Don’t miss this once-in-a lifetime opportunity to channel the formative early years of modern dance with an original company member of the primal artistic force Martha Graham. Dancer Sandra Kaufmann leads a class and conversation to introduce participants on Graham’s revolutionary “body language” technique. The class takes place in the original dining hall of the settlement house, founded by the social welfare pioneer and peace advocate, circa 1889, as part of a national movement. Newly-arrived immigrant residents, and natives alike, thrived from inexpensive public classes organized by such houses that celebrated folk and ethnic traditions and were taught by people such as Graham (in New York) and Doris Humphrey (at Jane Addams).

First Night Postshow Talk
Thursday, April 19

Engage in conversation with performers following the evening’s dance performance.

Master Class
Saturday, April 21, 11 am -12:30 pm
$15, or $10 with performance ticket; to register call 312.397.4010

For this master class, senior members of the Company work with advanced students and professionals on the Martha Graham technique and teach excerpts from the repertory performed at the MCA.