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Martha Graham Dance Company - Embattled Garden, Deep Song, Diversion of Angels, Night Journey

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 29, 2003
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800

About the Author:

Martha Graham Dance Company - Embattled Garden, Deep Song, Diversion of Angels, Night Journey

(www.marthagrahamdance.org)

Martha Graham: Founder, Dancer, Choreographer
Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin: Artistic Directors
Marvin Preston: Executive Director
Isamu Noguchi and Arch Lauterer: Scenery Design
Beverly Emmons, Jean Rosenthal, David Finley, Steven L. Shelley: Lighting Design
Aaron Sherber: Music Director/Conductor
Kate Elliott: General Manager
Michael Stewart: Production Stage Manager
Paul B. Ziemer: Production Manager
Beverly Emmons: Lighting Supervisor
Russell Vogler, Jeffrey Wirsing, Karen Young: Costumers
Kenneth Topping: Director, Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance
General Strategic Marketing, Ltd., Martha Thomases: Publicity

Presented at the Joyce Theater
www.joyce.org

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 29, 2003

(See previous reviews, photo essays and interviews about the Martha Graham Dance Company)

Embattled Garden (1958): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Carlos Surinach, Set by Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Miki Orihara, Tadej Brdnik, Elizabeth Auclair, Christophe Jeannot. This is a most expressive piece about love, which "does not obey the rules of love, but yields to some more ancient rule of law". The brightly colored Noguchi set, against a black backdrop, provides the framework for the complicated relationships, between Adam and Eve, Lilith and the Stranger.

With stark, muscular elongations and torso contractions, Tadej Brdnik is a memorable Adam, with taut, expressive hands and arms, to Miki Orihara's Eve, who, held by her thighs, stretches back, during a symbolic lift. Christophe Jeannot, who has amazing agility and stage presence, was perfectly cast as the Stranger, and Elizabeth Auclair, a tremendously focused and magnetic dancer, was exquisite as Lilith. The demonstration of anguish, inherent in most of Martha Graham's works, was on view, as characters wandered through mazes, as if lost in the forest of internal ambiguities and conflicting emotions.

Deep Song (1937): (See January 22 Review). On second viewing, Ms. Prosperi seemed even more tortured, more centered, more in control of the bench set, which is ever so versatile and effective in contrast to the more symbolic and surreal Noguchi sets. She moved from the hips, the stomach, the shoulders, with her body externally and internally in equal catharsis, through her dance of sadness.

Diversion of Angels (1948): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Norman Dello Joio, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Katherine Crockett, Martin Lofsnes, Fang Yi Sheu, Maurizio Nardi, Erica Dankmeyer, Ari Mayzik, and the Company. With the classic Graham, one leg lifts, these dancers, in triangular postures and group formations, make full use of the stage, in effervescent and energetic leaps, prancing and dashing in various stages of love. The three sets of partners, in white (for mature love), red (for erotic love), and yellow (for adolescent love), create emerging, and merging combinations with the remainder of the Company.

Katherine Crockett and Martin Lofsnes, as mature love, are always poised, calm, and centered in this role. Erica Dankmeyer and Ari Mayzik, as adolescent love, are throwing kisses and dashing to and fro, but in Martha Graham's signature style. Fang Yi Sheu and Maurizio Nardi, as erotic love, were glistening and trembling with passion. The beige costumes of the male partners enabled the three flowing costumes, in yellow, red, and white to be extremely showcased, underscoring the symbolism.

Night Journey (1947): Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by William Schuman, Set by Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Christine Dakin, Kenneth Topping, Gary Galbraith, Alessandra Prosperi, and the Company. With angular lines and sweeping movements, with stone sculpted sets, a ladder, tiny branches, held by the Chorus, and completely figurative choreography, representational of ancient Greek drawings and hieroglyphics, the audience was prepared for the tale of Oedipus, Jocasta, Teiresias, the Leader, and Chorus. Christine Dakin, an enormously famous dancer and Martha Graham disciple, in her own right, gives this Season at the Joyce her every breath and every ounce of energy and focus. She is a mature dancer, in absolutely superb shape (also Co-Artistic Director of the Graham Company), and she does not only DANCE Jocasta, she BECOMES Jocasta, who eventually kills herself, upon learning that her husband is actually her son.

Oedipus, perfectly performed by Kenneth Topping, who is also a longtime member of the Graham Company, blinds himself, upon learning the truth of his marital union, and wanders the earth. Mr. Topping (also Director of the Graham School) has developed a most masculine and magnetic persona and is fully capable of commanding an array of emotions and wild, erotic embraces. He ties Jocasta to a symbolic umbilical chord, he writhes in desire and anguish, he walks on his heels, legs in military lifts, and he spins and sculpts his body, as if he is another natural, Noguchi, stage formation. Gary Galbraith, as the blind seer, Teiresias, knows how to create Greek tragic personas, with his long, heavy stick, that keeps propelling him forward, across the stage, as the messenger of doom.

The Chorus wears amazing headpieces and moves in unison with a dark, driven choreography. Every motion and head turn and every hand and leg contraction are in perfectly timed harmony. This work is almost 60 years old, and its message and method are as clear as if it were recently created. Martha Graham was a genius.

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