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MARTHA GRAHAM ENSEMBLE

by Jennifer Wesnousky
June 4, 2005
Marymount Manhattan College
221 East 71st Street
New York, NY 10021
(212) 517-0400

MARTHA GRAHAM ENSEMBLE

Theresa Lang Theatre
Marymount Manhattan College

Artistic Director: Marnie Thomas

Ensemble Members: Sophie Bortolussi, Nya Bowman, Patricia Catenne, Jaqueline Devaud, Jacquelyn Elder, Stacey Kaplan, Oliver Tobin

Apprentices: Kerville Cosmos Jack, Elizabeth McDonald, Ana Padron, Joshua Thrower, Carmela Torchia

DARK MEADOW (excerpt)
Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham
Music by Carlos Chávez
Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal
Lighting Adapted by Nicole Pearce
Reconstruction by Marnie Thomas with special direction from Mary Hinkson, Linda Hodes, Pearl Lang and Ethel Winter

APPALACHIAN SPRING (excerpt)
"Ballet for Martha"
Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham
Music and lighting by Aaron Copeland
Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal
Lighting Adapted by Nicole Pearce

STEPS IN THE STREET (from the suite Chronicle)
Devastation- Homeless- Exile
Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham*
Music by Wallingford Riegger
Lighting Adapted by Nicole Pearce
Original reconstruction of the dance by Yuriko
Production Directed by Yuriko
Rehearsal Assistants: Miki Orihara, Marnie Thomas, Ellen Graff

QUIET INTERLUDES
Choreography by David Wood
Music by Claude Debussy
Costumes by Warren Travis
Original Lighting by James Brentano
Lighting Adapted by Nicole Pearce

CELEBRATION
Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham
Reconstruction: Marnie Thomas and Ellen Graff
Music by Louis Horst
Original Lighting by Beverly Emmons
Adapted by Nicole Pearce

* Costume construction underwritten by Beth Elliott, Martha Graham School Committee

By Jennifer E. Wesnousky
June 4, 2005

(See other Martha Graham reviews.)

As a choreographer, explained the program for the Martha Graham Ensemble's performances at the Theresa Lang Theatre between June 2 and 5, 2005, Martha Graham "was as prolific as she was complex" as, drawing upon such diverse influences as modern painting, the American frontier, Native American religious ceremonies and Greek mythology, she created 181 ballets. Indeed, both her complexity and diversity were apparent in this delightful potpourie of her work, featuring reconstructions of four of her original pieces plus an additional number created by her long-time rehearsal assistant and company member, David Wood. Dancing with clean, crisp lines, the twelve ensemble members allowed the audience to appreciate both a taste of Martha Graham's vast repertoire and the energetic enthusiasm with which they delivered it.

The ensemble's initial three numbers depicted diverse scenes which appeared to glean inspiration from the history of our nation. The evening's opener, "Dark Meadow," seemed a serenely regal homage to Native American ceremonies and nature itself. Feauturing three male and three female dancers dressed in a rich, dark brown hue, the dancers stomped their feet with simultaneous intensity and elegance throughout movement ranging from tribal to balletic.

Graham's vision of the American frontier ensued with one of the evening's emotional and technical highlights, an excerpt from "Appalachian Spring" (originally titled "Ballet for Martha"). While touted in the program as a celebration of springtime in the wilderness "with joy and love and prayer," the piece revealed emotional complexity as The Revivalist outwardly displayed his inner torment in a dance of raw rage before assuming his initial, serenely brave stance before his society, offering a visual demonstration of the extent to which even the most strong and devout among us must often hide our internal angst. Performances by the high-kicking, elegantly maternal Pioneering Woman and especially the Male Soloist, who at times evoked fear in the audience as he fought against his own violent tendencies, were among the evening's strongest.

"Steps in the Street" (from the suite Chronicle), subsubsequently painted a picture of the "devastation of spirit" left in war's "wake" through an ensemble piece which featured movement which went from military to utterly mechanical as a female soloist seemed compelled to move machine-like through the mindless masses, despite her resistance to the fight.

Whereas earlier pieces were wrought with psychological and societal torment, the ensemble's final two numbers were lighter in tone. Wood's "Quiet Interludes," featured a male soloist in the midst of a delightful circle of dancers, decked in stunning blues and purples. After awakening each dancer individually, all embarked upon a beautiful, nymph-like lyrical study.

To end the evening, "Celebration," was just that as the dancers displayed their delight through Graham's geometrically joyous motion, giving the audience a peek into the developmental years of her choreographic journey. As the curtain closed upon the brightly clad dancers jumping repeatedly up and down in unison, it was clear that the Martha Graham Ensemble had delivered a performance which, like Ms. Graham's repertoire itself, "exposed the depths" and diversity "of human emotion."

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