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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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Martha Graham
New York City Center
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Martha Graham Dance Company - Opening Night with a Live Orchestra

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 14, 2004
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

About the Author:

Martha Graham Dance Company - Opening Night with a Live Orchestra


Martha Graham: Founder, Dancer, Choreographer
Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin: Artistic Directors
Marvin Preston: Executive Director
Isamu Noguchi and Ming Cho Lee: Scenery Design
Beverly Emmons, Jean Rosenthal, David Finley, Steven L. Shelley: 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, Halston, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren: Costume Design
Kenneth Topping: Interim Director, Martha Graham School
General Strategic Marketing, Ltd.,
Jonathan Marder/Martha Thomases: Publicity

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

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 14, 2004

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).

Satyric Festival Song (1932): (See January 22, 2003 Zlokower and Abrams Reviews). Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Original Music by Imre Weisshaus, Music for Reconstruction by Fernando Palacios, Arranged by Aaron Sherber, Lighting for Reconstruction by David Finley, Performed by Fang-Yi Sheu, Flute: Elizabeth Mann. The Graham Company has never been in better shape. What a joy to see them at City Center with a sold-out audience. Fang-Yi Sheu danced in a characteristically engaging manner with confidence and ecstasy. Her seductive and knowing glances to the audience were disarming. Her tight, colorfully striped dress was a second character on stage, as it bounced and wiggled and jumped to Ms. Mann's lyrical flute.

The Owl and the Pussycat (1978): Choreography by Martha Graham, Music by Carlos Surinach, Set by Ming Cho Lee, Assistant Designer Karen Shulz, Original Lighting by Gilbert V. Hemsley, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Costumes by Halston, André Leon Talley's costume by Ralph Lauren, Storyteller: André Leon Talley, Performed by Miki Orihara as Pussycat, Martin Lofsnes as Owl, Gary Galbraith as Turkey, Christophe Jeannot as Pig, and by the Company and by Students of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance as Dolphins and Mermaids.

This was my first experience with Graham's The Owl and the Pussycat, and Ming Cho Lee's adorable sets, designed in Noguchi's style, were perfect for campy themes that unfolded onstage, as Mr. Talley dramatically recited the poem to Mr. Surinach's score. Mr. Talley, a formidable figure from Vogue, was dressed in tweedy clothing and hat. Ms. Orihara's black pussycat and Mr. Lofsnes's fringed owl were perfectly matched, both in costume and in theatricality and dance, as he carried her to the "pea green boat". This is a Company with charisma, in full Graham style, whether the work is comedy or tragedy, and this work riveted the audience as much as would have a dark myth.

Dolphins in gray leotards swirled in remarkable wave-like motion, Mermaids in peach dragged bottomless dresses that resembled fins, and Mr. Jeannot as Pig made his first appearance for the season as an intriguing and beguiling dancer to watch. He sold his ring for the wedding of Owl and Pussycat, and there was nothing clumsy about this muscular pig. Mr. Galbraith as Turkey was marvelous, and, at the end, the Dolphins multiplied into families, as the young student dancers became young dancing Dolphins. What a delightful piece.

Cave of the Heart (1946): (See November 2, 2003 Review of Kozlova Ballet). Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Samuel Barber, Set by Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting Design by Jean Rosenthal, Adapted by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Terese Capucilli as Medea, Kenneth Topping as Jason, Erica Dankmeyer as The Princess, and Katherine Crockett as The Chorus. Terese Capucilli never ceases to amaze, and tonight her Medea was taught, obsessed, and seething with jealousy, betrayal, and rejection, as her internal organs seemed to pulsate in agonizing contractions. Her killing of The Princess, Ms. Dankmeyer, with the help of a burning crown of thorns, tightly placed onto Ms. Dankmeyer's head, was a mesmerizing scene.

Ms. Dankmeyer, as Medea's husband, Jason's, lover, was more ingénue than seductive, and this interpretation seemed to make her death all the darker and more dramatic. Mr. Topping, as Jason, is in amazing form, and he portrayed the conflicted and doomed, mythological character with perfection, whether lovingly lifting his Princess or following her lifeless body, wrapped in the same black material that wound round Medea. His contrasting moods and athleticism were indicative of his seasoned professionalism.

Ms. Graham conceived The Chorus as one figure, and Ms. Crockett displayed all the requisite emotions for a one-woman chorus. Ms. Crockett has a warm and elegant manner and was well suited in red, black, and horns to dramatize the foreboding emotions here. Ms. Capucilli was primordial and primitive, and the sight of her slithering on the stage, like a snake in the grass, hiding in a Noguchi, brass tree, or fingering a thick red string was unforgettable. Ms. Capucilli was mentored in this role by Martha Graham, and she is virtuosic in her skill and interpretation.

Sketches from Chronicle (1936): (See February 1, 2003 Review). Choreography and Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Wallingford Riegger, Music for Spectre-1914 and Prelude to Action arranged and orchestrated by Stanley Sussman, New Orchestration for Steps in the Street by Justin Dello Joio, 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, Performed by Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch and the Company in Steps in the Street, Performed by Elizabeth Auclair, Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, and the Company in Prelude to Action.

Ms. Auclair, in her red and black endless dress, which covers a stage set with flowing velvety brilliance, has the intensity and fluidity to project this work about the times of war. This is not a work about war itself, but a work for the women in the Company about the emotions of war. It illustrates agony, strength of mind, determination, perseverance, and mourning. Ms. Auclair's rearrangement of her burning red dress, as inside color becomes outside fire, was magnetic. The long, silent and sliding steps of the Company of women in long black dresses, horizontal elbows, and silhouetted hands and faces were part myth/part reality, as the tragic themes unfolded. Ms. Ellmore-Tallitsch was at once forceful and feminine.

Kudos to Martha Graham. Kudos to Martha Graham Dance Company 2004.

Graham Company VIP Reception at City Center, Opening Night, City Center

Martha Graham Dance Company hosted a lovely Pre-Concert Reception at City Center in the exquisite mezzanine lobby for VIP guests. Delicious hors d'oeuvres and champagne were served.

Mikhail Baryshnikov
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Graham Company Reception
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Graham Company Reception
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Graham Company Reception
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Graham Company Reception
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Graham Company Reception
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Kathleen Banovich
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Graham Company Reception
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Graham Company Reception
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

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