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Martha Graham Dance Company: Embattled Garden, Deaths and Entrances, Sketches from Chronicle

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 8, 2005
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
212.247.0430

About the Author:

Martha Graham Dance Company: Embattled Garden, Deaths and Entrances, Sketches from Chronicle

Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Company Website)

Martha Graham: Founder, Dancer, Choreographer
Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin: Artistic Directors
Marvin Preston: Executive Director
Isamu Noguchi and Riccardo Hernandez: Scenery Design
Beverly Emmons, Jean Rosenthal, and Christopher Akerlind:
Lighting Design
Aaron Sherber: Music Director/Conductor
Kate Elliott: General Manager
David Pini: Company Manager
Melissa Caolo: Production Stage Manager
Beverly Emmons: Lighting Designer
Martha Graham, Oscar de la Renta, and Donna Zakowska:
Costume Design
General Strategic Marketing, Ltd.,
Jonathan Marder/Martha Thomases: Publicity
Guest Artist: Martha Clarke
Music Director/Conductor: Aaron Sherber
Guest Composer: Franco Piersanti

Presented at City Center
(City Center Website)
(See other Graham Company Interviews, Reviews and Photos)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 8, 2005


Martha Graham, Founder, Dancer, and Choreographer of the Martha Graham Dance Company, was one of my greatest heroes. She and I actually shared the same birthday. She was a pioneer and a pillar of strength and encapsulated basic human emotions, especially those of female characters from the frontier and from mythology, drawing inspiration from friends who painted, sculpted, and composed 20th Century music. In 1988, Time Magazine named Martha Graham the Dancer of the Century. During her 70 years as a choreographer, Ms. Graham created 181 ballets and a Modern Dance technique that has been compared to ballet, due to its complexity and depth.

Martha Graham considered herself, first and foremost, a Dancer. I remember seeing her dance. She danced at a point of maturity, when many dancers have retired. Ms. Graham never retired, in my mind, and I recall her accepting Bravura audience acclaim, onstage, in her expansive, golden, Asian styled, Halston gowns. Her black hair was a severe as her dances. She continued to exude the same, studied presence and poise that have been recorded in photos and films of her earliest performances. Ms. Graham founded her dance company and school in 1926 in Carnegie Hall. In Ms. Graham's own words, "In all of us who perform there is an awareness of the smile which is part of the equipment, or gift, of the acrobat. We have all walked the high wire of circumstance at times. We recognize the gravity pull of the earth as he does. The smile is there because he is practicing living at the instant of danger. He does not choose to fall." (Company Notes).


Live Orchestra

Embattled Garden (1958): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Carlos Surinach, Set by Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Virginie Mécène as Eve, David Zurak as Adam, Katherine Crockett as Lilith, Martin Lofsnes as The Stranger.

Another scorned woman, Lilith, Adam's first wife (Ms. Crockett), is as serpentine as The Serpentine Stranger (Mr. Lofsnes) in her loathing of Eve (Ms. Mecene) and Adam (Mr. Lofsnes). Ms. Crockett lies in wait, as still waters run deep, and Ms. Mécène has the seasoned Graham virtuosity to exude the sexuality and seductiveness of Eve. Isamu Noguchi's sets were designed with the sharpness and starkness requisite to the violently passionate motif. Mr. Lofsnes possesses in his brimming physicality and energy the power of Adam, the biblical figure of mystical masculinity.

Deaths and Entrances (1943): Music by Hunter Johnson, Set by Arch Lauterer, Costumes Designed by Oscar de la Renta, after originals by Edythe Gilfond, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Lighting for Reconstruction Beverly Emmons, Performed by Miki Orihara, Virginie Mécène, and Katherine Crockett as The Three Sisters, Jennifer DePalo-Rivera, Blakeley White-McGuire, and Catherine Lutton as The Three Remembered Children, Christophe Jeannot as The Dark Beloved, Tadej Brdnik as The Poetic Beloved, and Maurizio Nardi and Gelan Lambert, Jr. as The Cavaliers.

This is a dance about the female psyche, about rejection in love, loss in life, a small death of the spirit, a subsequent rejuvenation. This is a dance for all women who have known the pain of a wounded heart and the joy of surmounting despair. It reminds me of a walk in an attic, looking at icons of one's past, here a vase, a wine goblet, a shell. Although this dance was inspired by the Brontë sisters, it also seemed reminiscent of the Broadway musical, Little Women, and the Alcotts' attic (March sisters in the novel). With past and present inter-mixed, as well as moods of innocence and tragedy inter-twined, Deaths and Entrances is an abstract work that haunts the viewer long after the curtain has fallen. Ms. Orihara, Ms. Mécène, and Ms. Crockett, as The Three Sisters, articulated the impassioned moments, present and past, with internalized and appropriate gesture. Ms. DePalo-Rivera, Ms. White-McGuire, and Ms. Lutton, as The Three Remembered Children, exuded the innocence of youthful buoyancy. Mr. Jeannot, Mr. Brdnik, Mr. Nardi, and Mr. Lambert, Jr. each created a significant male character in the scheme of their lives.


Martha Graham Dance Company - Deaths and Entrances - Miki Orihara and Tadej Brdnik
Photo courtesy of John Deane


Sketches from Chronicle (1936): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Wallingford Riegger, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Steps in the Street Lighting for Reconstruction by David Finley, Spectre-1914 and Prelude to Action Lighting for Reconstruction by Steven L. Shelley, Performed by Elizabeth Auclair in Spectre-1914, Erica Dankmeyer and the Company in Steps in the Street, Elizabeth Auclair and the Company in Prelude to Action.

Ms. Auclair's initial role, in the outsized red-black robe, with minimal Noguchi stage box and haunting, pulsating score, was staccato and surreal. She re-appears in the third section, with the entire Company in black, sometimes silent, heel-toe sideways walks offstage, then back through the curtains. The primitive dance gesture, somewhat akin to that on Greek vases, gives this anti-war statement the simplicity and timelessness that the cause implies. Ms. Dankmeyer is featured in the second section, leading the all female ensemble in proud theatrical dance marches, in long, black, form-fitting dresses in repeated dance gestures and multiple images.

Sketches from Chronicle is a work of which one never tires, season after season. Ms. Auclair and Ms. Dankmeyer presented powerful performances.

Kudos to Martha Graham. Kudos to Martha Graham Dance Company 2005.

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