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Martha Graham Dance Ensemble

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 3, 2004
Marymount Manhattan College
221 East 71st Street
New York, NY 10021
(212) 517-0400

About the Author:

Martha Graham Dance Ensemble

(www.marthagrahamdance.org)

Martha Graham: Founder, Dancer, Choreographer
Marvin Preston IV: Executive Director
Mary Ann Wall, Ensemble Manager
Marnie Thomas, Director,
Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance
Kenneth Topping: Artistic Director,
Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance
Elizabeth Auclair: Associate Director
Terese Capucilli, Christine Dakin, Janet Eilber, Linda Hodes, Stuart Hodes, Pearl Lang, Marnie Thomas, Yung Yung Tsuai, and Yuriko: Artistic Consultants
General Strategic Marketing, Ltd.,
Jonathan Marder and Martha Thomases: Publicity

Ensemble Performers
Sophie Bortolussi, Nya Bowman, Jacquelyn Elder,
Jason Ignacio Garcia, Ritza Mavrokefalou, Kumiko Nasu,
Jeffrey Smith, Sadira Smith, Oliver Tobin, Sharonda Young,
Alejandro Chavez Zavala

Presented at Theresa Lang Theater
Marymount Manhattan College
New York, NY

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 3, 2004

(See Related Interviews, Reviews, Photo Essays)
(See May 29, 2003 Graham Ensemble Review)

Adorations (1975): Choreography by Martha Graham, Music by M. Albeniz, Domenico Cimarosa, John Dowland, and Girolamo Frescobaldi, Costumes by Halston and Martha Graham, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Restaged by Kenneth Topping, Performed by the Ensemble. This lovely program opened with the recorded voice of Martha Graham, with reference to the preparation of her students. This was the quintessential touch for such a program that enables pre-professional students from the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance to perform in a theatre for an audience that is familiar with traditional Martha Graham dance techniques and motifs.

This lyrical work, which evoked visual imagery from company performances of one of Ms. Graham's disciples, Paul Taylor (upward arms in expansive leaps and buoyant prancing), was brilliantly staged in shades of orange, browns, and golds. According to Program Notes, Ms. Graham said of this work, "It is fundamentally without story, and it is built around the technique that we teach in the school to prepare a dancer for his life". This piece is said to be a precursor to Acts of Light (See May 29, 2003 Review).

El Penitente (1940): (See May 29, 2003 Review). Choreography by Martha Graham, Music by Louis Horst, Costumes by Martha Graham, Lighting after Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Jason Garcia Ignacio, Alejandro Chavez Zavala, and Jacquelyn Elder. In contrast to Adorations, El Penitente is based on teachings of a South American religious sect that purifies the body from sin through ritualistic penance. The three characters, as Penitent, Christ Figure, and (Virgin, Mary as Magdalen, and Mother), deliberately walk slowly in a primitive manner, through the stage, bearing sets of ropes, crosses, masks, tent coverings, and other props that are reminiscent of old mystery plays.

The energy level is high, with self-flagellations, the bearing of the cross, and the Festival Dance. Jason Garcia Ignacio has incredible stage presence and physical skill. Alejandro Chavez Zavala at once exuded force and suffering through superb agility and exuded angst. Jacquelyn Elder, in all the mother of Christ roles, used the right amount of severity mixed with seduction and sadness. This is a powerful piece for a student performance, with costume and set changes right onstage, and the cast handles it with sophistication and confidence.

La Guinguette de la Marne (World Premiere): Choreography by Virginie Mecene, Music by Jean Gabin, Marie Jose, Jacques Bolognesi, and Leo Petit, George Guetary, and Lina Margy, Sound by Ben Lawrence, Set by Jeffrey Martinez and Jim McWilliams, Lighting by Joe Novak, Costumes by Virginie Mecene and Karen Young, Performed by the Ensemble. The surprise of the night was an uplifting and joyful new work with Parisian motif, costumes, and music, that transports the audience to a bistro scene near the river. Guinguettes were meeting places near the river for Parisians to drink and dance and celebrate, and many famous performers became known through such appearances. Pierre-August Renoir was inspired to paint the action at Guinguettes (Program Notes). His paintings can be seen in most major museums.

In this Premiere, the Graham Ensemble, dressed in black and white striped shirts (males) and ruffles and ribbons (females), danced cartwheels, seduction scenes, and casual togetherness with gleeful abandon, still adhering to classic Graham figures, but in a fresh, new style and remarkably rarified mood. This was a dance of new love and flirtation, immature emotions, and maximizing the moment of bliss. This experiment worked very well, as the audience is caught off-guard, and the choreographer is celebrated for including inherent Graham technique, while introducing unique concepts and characters. Ms. Mecene is a soloist with the Graham Company and a faculty member of the Graham School. Ms. Mecene originally studied and taught Jazz and Modern Dance in Paris, before moving to NYC. (Program Notes).

Duet from A Dancer's World (Premiered on Film in 1957): Choreography by Martha Graham, Music by Cameron McCosh, Costumes by Martha Graham, Restaged by Kenneth Topping, Pianist: Pat Daugherty, Performed by Sophie Bortolussi and Alejandro Chavez. This work, to dissonant piano, enabled the youthful energy and created passion of Ms. Bortolussi and Mr. Chavez to be directly experienced. They were well partnered and mastered the stage and the psychology of Ms. Graham's film, from which this was excerpted.

Diversion of Angels (1948): (See May 29, 2003 Review). Choreography by Martha Graham, Music by Norman Dello Joio, Costumes by Martha Graham, Lighting after Jean Rosenthal, Performed by the Ensemble. The Couples in White, Red, and Yellow, representing mature love, erotic love, and adolescent love, were elegant, graceful, and exhibited a fresh youthfulness that adds a great deal of authenticity to this work, about young love. This is a much more symbolic and stylized piece than La Guinguette de la Marne, also about young love, and is developed through couples, with the Ensemble as an enhancement, rather than with the entire Ensemble in collective interaction. With split-timing and effective partnering, the couples and the Ensemble intertwined through this "imaginary garden of love".

Kudos to Kenneth Topping and Elizabeth Auclair. Kudos, as always, to Martha Graham.


Kumiko Nasu in Martha Graham's Diverson of Angels
Photo courtesy of Julie Lemberger



Snezana Adjanski in Martha Graham's Diverson of Angels
Photo courtesy of Julie Lemberger



Ritza Mavrokefalou and Ernest Gonzales in Martha Graham's Acts of Light
Photo courtesy of Julie Lemberger



Snezana Adjanski in Martha Graham's Diverson of Angels
Photo courtesy of Kristin Lodoen



Snezana Adjanski and Eng Kian Ooi in Martha Graham's Acts of Light
Photo courtesy of Kristin Lodoen



Snezana Adjanski in Martha Graham's Acts of Light
Photo courtesy of Kristin Lodoen



Ritza Mavrokefalou and Ernest Gonzales in Martha Graham's Acts of Light
Photo courtesy of Kristin Lodoen

A lovely Reception followed this performance at the new Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance on the East Side.


Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Ensemble Reception Candids
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

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