Martha Graham Dance Company

‘Deep Song,’ ‘Diversion of Angels,’ ‘Errand Into the Maze,’ ‘Embattled Garden,’ ‘Chronicle’

by Dean Speer

October 23, 2003 -- Meany Theater, Univesity of Washington, Seattle

I am a Graham acolyte to the Nth degree, so it was especially thrilling to be at the opening night performance of the Graham Company's first tour and major performance outside of New York State since the company's 2000-02 hiatus. Presented by the University of Washington's "World Dance Series," the Martha Graham Dance Company presented samplings of works that have been revived over the course of the past few months, following the court decision regarding ownership of Martha's works. These dances ranged from the 1936 “Chronicle” to the 1958 “Embattled Garden.” Also included were the solo, “Deep Song” (1937), “Errand Into the Maze” (1947), and the 1948 group work, “Diversion of Angels.”

When the curtain went up on Christine Dakin (principal dancer and co-AD) for “Deep Song,” the audience broke out into welcoming applause. This was applause representing gratitude and appreciation for Martha's work combined with thanks for the Company's survival and hope for its future. Ms. Dakin performed this powerful reaction to the Spanish Civil War with a kind of intensity, technique and commitment that was most pleasing to see and on the level that I would expect of this long-time Graham dancer and current co-director.

Surprisingly, the least effective piece on the program was the one that is considered the most kinetic – “Diversion of Angels.” The dancers looked nervous and the piece appeared under-prepared and a little sloppy. This is a tough piece and requires the same kind of rigor as the "masterpieces" do. Part of this may be opening night jitters and less experienced dancers. However, in terms of interpretation, I would have liked Katherine Crockett (white) to have been more like herself. She impressed me (and this may not be correct or fair, but it's what I saw), as a pale Peggy Lyman imitation. Katherine Crockett doing Peggy Lyman doing Mary Hinkson. How to effectively pass along roles is an issue. I would have liked Virginie Mécène (red) to have lit up the stage more and it was disappointing that the Yellow Couple missed a lift. Even so, the piece was a joy to look at and I overheard many murmurs amongst enthusiastic audience members who clearly stated they really like "that!"

I think the evening really began to come into its own and the Graham theatre with “Errand Into the Maze.” This Minotaur and Labyrinth metaphor for a woman conquering her fear, really deploys the Graham components well, including the whipping of the back for the woman and shows Martha's great sense of theatre, drama, and compositional sense -- extremes mixed together deliciously. Alessandra Prosperi and Christophe Jeannot gave their all as Ariadne and the Minotaur.

”Embattled Garden” was just that! One of the very famous Graham works that I had not previously seen, it was fresh and exciting and very well danced and composed. I really enjoyed the depiction of how Lilith and the "Stranger" (serpent?) seduced Eve and ultimately brought down Adam. One of Martha's best, group works and danced very, very well by Miki Orihara as Eve, Tadej Brdnik as Adam, Lilith portrayed by Elizabeth Auclair and The Stranger by Christophe Jeannot. The calibre of this quartet I thinks represents some of the strongest and most mature dancers in the makeup of today's Company.

”Chronicle” addresses contemporary issues of the 1930s that are with us today, including homelessness, and is one of Martha's most stark, desperate and grim works. Danced by Elizabeth Auclair, Miki Orihara and corps with power and commitment and the kind of attack that I associate with the Graham work.

Missed most of all, was live music. It's just not the same kind of visceral and immediate response and theatre. I'm very pleased to have heard that the MGDC's April season at City Center in New York will be have completely live music. Hopefully, this will be more and more the case, even on tour.

It was exciting and thrilling to know and see that Martha's vision and work and continuing and what good shape the Company is in and how warming received they were in Seattle.

Edited by Jeff.

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