Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

CLYTEMNESTRA revival - Graham CompanyDec. 9 - 10 at KennCenter, DC


  • Please log in to reply
24 replies to this topic

#16 jsmu

jsmu

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 173 posts

Posted 17 November 2009 - 11:42 AM

Miliosr, there are some Graham vehicles from the Sixties in which she did nothing but stand onstage
as a totem/symbol/deity while dancers surrounded her. At least Clytemnestra doesn't fall into that
category...
As a semi-Balanchine 'cultist', I admit you have a point about the Gospel of George; he himself referred
to his ballets as 'butterflies' and was famous for such remarks as 'there are no mothers-in-law in ballet';
'la danse, Madame...c'est une question morale'; and 'God creates: I only assemble'--clearly he put on
no airs about his own work. He also had the advantage over Graham of being an artist who did NOT
like to perform (by every account a great dancer who did not like to dance himself) and who was not
indelibly linked with the performance of virtually every great role he created. Graham, even on film,
burns up the stage and comes right through the camera; she was undoubtedly one of the great presences
and dancers of her time, and it has always put subsequent dancers of the caliber of Elisa Monte,
Mary Hinkson, Yuriko, Matt Turney (to name only a few of many stellar Graham company members) at
a huge disadvantage to be inevitably, and unfavorably, compared with Graham herself.
Graham was of the artistic and esthetic stature of a great classical actress; they have great roles in which
to express their gifts--she did not, and in attempting to make such roles she turned to classical mythology
and, indeed, classical theatre (Phedre, for example), as well as the lives of great female artists like
Dickinson. alas, some of the information she asked dancing to impart is beyond the scope of the art form,
as you say, but what a magnificent creator she was.

#17 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 17 November 2009 - 11:58 AM

Graham, even on film,
burns up the stage and comes right through the camera; she was undoubtedly one of the great presences
and dancers of her time, and it has always put subsequent dancers of the caliber of Elisa Monte,
Mary Hinkson, Yuriko, Matt Turney (to name only a few of many stellar Graham company members) at
a huge disadvantage to be inevitably, and unfavorably, compared with Graham herself.


Mostly agree, and do think she 'comes right through the camera'. The exception I would want to point out, which I think is pretty obvious, is in the film of 'Appalachian Spring'. Not only was she not statuesque enough to do the Pioneer Woman herself and seem the one partially immortal character in the dance, Turney clearly dominates the film, perhaps along with Stuart Hodes. Graham is marvelous as the Bride, but she is obviously old and has lost some physical flexibility--not that I don't think her Bride is fantastic, I do. But I think, at least in that film, that Matt Turney quietly and without surely thinking to do so, dominates and owns that filmed performance. Whether I would think this onstage I'm not sure, so do agree with D. Jowitt in her film that 'the camera loves her', referring to Turney--just guessing, but Turney so incredibly beautiful both of form and grace of movement, I can't imagine not adoring her euqally onstage--would give anything to have seen that live back then. I also saw Virginie Mycene (I believe that's the name) in the Bride in 2005, and thought she was quite as powerful in the role, if not more so, that Graham. But it is true, I can't imagine anybody inhabiting roles like Jocasta or probably Herodiade, although she's not on film with the latter, as does Martha herself. She didn't try to escape from the horrible things as fast as others do; she could stay with pain and agony long enough to capture it, at least that's how I see why she is so great at the tragic roles she made for herself.

#18 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,597 posts

Posted 17 November 2009 - 05:04 PM

Graham was always candid about making dances for herself to dance in. It may well be that for Graham the choice was not between making dances for her fading gifts or creating on other dancers, but continuing primarily to make works for herself or make no works at all.


I can't help but think of the famous exchange which occurred between Graham and Antony Tudor:

Tudor (to Graham): "How do you want to be remembered, as a dancer or a choreographer?"
Graham: "As a dancer, of course."
Tudor (springing his trap): "I pity you."

If only she had thought differently . . .


Graham, even on film, burns up the stage and comes right through the camera; she was undoubtedly one of the great presences
and dancers of her time


And this, to me, is precisely what plagues Clytemnestra (and later period Graham more generally.)

By all accounts, Graham was a fearsome and formidable dancer/performer. My guess is the sheer force of her own charisma lulled audiences of that time (i.e 1958) into thinking the dance was doing the heavy lifting when it wasn't. Or, her Herculean and quixotic onstage bid to hold old age and reality at bay transfixed audiences and diverted attention away from the structural problems inherent in Clytemnestra. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this . . . and it undoubtedly made for fascinating theater.

The trouble for the current Graham company is that there is no one in the company who can match that grandeur and, as a result, the structural flaws in the work come surging to the forefront in performance. Without the great star holding forth "in the grand manner," Clytemnestra devolves into an incomprehensible mess.

#19 jsmu

jsmu

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 173 posts

Posted 17 November 2009 - 07:06 PM

... The exception I would want to point out, which I think is pretty obvious, is in the film of 'Appalachian Spring'. Not only was she not statuesque enough to do the Pioneer Woman herself and seem the one partially immortal character in the dance, Turney clearly dominates the film, perhaps along with Stuart Hodes. ...

Indubitably. That's the one Graham role which was not quite typical--not a cauldron, not epic in scope--and I think it was less suited to her than any of the others. Matt Turney, a goddess, indeed dominates and owns that performance. I would give anything to have seen her live in many roles (She of the Ground, Errand into the Maze, whichever role she danced in Diversion of Angels...the list just goes on) she danced. I believe the stage probably loved her too--who wouldn't? miliosr, I think you're right--sadly, something like Clytemnestra requires the great star, in fact perhaps the sacred monster, to hold it together. It isn't Primitive Mysteries or Letter to the World--it's no masterpiece.

#20 LiLing

LiLing

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 205 posts

Posted 17 November 2009 - 09:10 PM

Not having seen this revival, I am wondering if the problems some of you have described have more to do with the current production than the original choreography. After Martha gave up the role, Clytemnestra was performed to great critical acclaim by Pearl Lang, Mary Hinkson, Takako Asakawa and Yuriko Kimura. I also wonder if the supertitles (sounds like a horrible distraction to me) aren't resulting in an expectation of a very literal depiction of what they describe, preventing one from being caught up in the drama. There was definitely an assumption on Graham's part that the audience has a basic knowledge of the myth, although when Clytemnestra was performed in Asia, audiences were very enthusiastic, and they for the most part don't have Greek Mythology as a reference. Perhaps their theatre forms prepare them to be open to an experience that can't be taken in all at once and there is an expectation of understanding more on repeated viewings.

I guess I shouldn't be ranting on when I haven't even seen this production, sorry!

#21 Kathleen O'Connell

Kathleen O'Connell

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 799 posts

Posted 18 November 2009 - 10:22 AM

I also wonder if the supertitles (sounds like a horrible distraction to me) aren't resulting in an expectation of a very literal depiction of what they describe, preventing one from being caught up in the drama.


I found the surtitles more of a help than a hindrance; they don't suck you into the story, but then that's something that shouldn't be left up to surtitles in the first place. Graham's "Clytemnestra" is difficult to follow even if you know the Oresteia backwards and forwards and have braved Graham's own program notes to boot. The original score (composed by Halim El-Dabh) includes chanted text for a man and a women to provide some context, but it's not much of a road map if you get lost. The work is structured as a non-linear series of flashbacks with multiple takes on the some of the incidents. The cast is very large; there are about a dozen named parts and not all of the characters are easy to identify. Keeping track of who's doing what to whom and why is a challenge and I think it can make it difficult to experience the work as a drama. The big solos and set pieces are plenty vivid, but would be an eyeful even if they were presented as excerpts. If you worked them up as a trailer, everyone would want to go see the show.

#22 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,597 posts

Posted 18 November 2009 - 05:41 PM

I guess I shouldn't be ranting on when I haven't even seen this production, sorry!


No need to apologize. You've actually raised some interesting points.

Not having seen this revival, I am wondering if the problems some of you have described have more to do with the current production than the original choreography.


In the pre-performance chat, Janet Eilber said that the current production of Clytemnestra is a hybrid -- incorporating several versions Graham had supervised during her lifetime. She did say that they went back to the original costumes for this revival; thereby ditching the Halston replacements.

I didn't get the sense there was anything wrong with the production per se. For me, the concept just didn't work as a dance event.

I also wonder if the supertitles (sounds like a horrible distraction to me) aren't resulting in an expectation of a very literal depiction of what they describe, preventing one from being caught up in the drama.


The supertitles were distracting. I was constantly looking up and then looking back at the stage. Still, I would argue that the supertitles were more a symptom of a problem than the problem itself.

There was definitely an assumption on Graham's part that the audience has a basic knowledge of the myth


True enough. But given the general decline in literacy since the 1950s, those works which presumed a preexisting knowledge on the part of the viewer can no longer count on the viewer to fill in the blanks.

#23 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 18 November 2009 - 05:47 PM

True enough. But given the general decline in literacy since the 1950s, those works which presumed a preexisting knowledge on the part of the viewer can no longer count on the viewer to fill in the blanks.


Indeed, and although I consider myself well-read and -educated, I haven't thought myself 'up on a lot of those blanks' until relatively recently, and still not all of them! including some of the basic ones. I hadn't even read the first two plays of the Oedipus Cycle till about 6 months ago.

#24 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,728 posts

Posted 20 November 2009 - 11:49 AM

I also wonder if the supertitles (sounds like a horrible distraction to me) aren't resulting in an expectation of a very literal depiction of what they describe, preventing one from being caught up in the drama.


I found the surtitles more of a help than a hindrance; they don't suck you into the story, but then that's something that shouldn't be left up to surtitles in the first place. Graham's "Clytemnestra" is difficult to follow even if you know the Oresteia backwards and forwards and have braved Graham's own program notes to boot. The original score (composed by Halim El-Dabh) includes chanted text for a man and a women to provide some context, but it's not much of a road map if you get lost. The work is structured as a non-linear series of flashbacks with multiple takes on the some of the incidents. The cast is very large; there are about a dozen named parts and not all of the characters are easy to identify. Keeping track of who's doing what to whom and why is a challenge and I think it can make it difficult to experience the work as a drama. The big solos and set pieces are plenty vivid, but would be an eyeful even if they were presented as excerpts. If you worked them up as a trailer, everyone would want to go see the show.


Thanks, Kathleen. Great post.

#25 Watabbr

Watabbr

    New Member

  • New Member
  • Pip
  • 1 posts

Posted 20 December 2009 - 06:05 PM

I am sorry to report that Matt Turney died today. She went peacefully and had the love and support of her wonderful son Adam, his loving wife, Jennifer and their three beautiful children. Her best friend, and my aunt. Mary Hinkson is still living in New York. I hope the next time Clytemnestra is performed, these gorgeous dancers will be acknowledged.


Miliosr, there are some Graham vehicles from the Sixties in which she did nothing but stand onstage
as a totem/symbol/deity while dancers surrounded her. At least Clytemnestra doesn't fall into that
category...
As a semi-Balanchine 'cultist', I admit you have a point about the Gospel of George; he himself referred
to his ballets as 'butterflies' and was famous for such remarks as 'there are no mothers-in-law in ballet';
'la danse, Madame...c'est une question morale'; and 'God creates: I only assemble'--clearly he put on
no airs about his own work. He also had the advantage over Graham of being an artist who did NOT
like to perform (by every account a great dancer who did not like to dance himself) and who was not
indelibly linked with the performance of virtually every great role he created. Graham, even on film,
burns up the stage and comes right through the camera; she was undoubtedly one of the great presences
and dancers of her time, and it has always put subsequent dancers of the caliber of Elisa Monte,
Mary Hinkson, Yuriko, Matt Turney (to name only a few of many stellar Graham company members) at
a huge disadvantage to be inevitably, and unfavorably, compared with Graham herself.
Graham was of the artistic and esthetic stature of a great classical actress; they have great roles in which
to express their gifts--she did not, and in attempting to make such roles she turned to classical mythology
and, indeed, classical theatre (Phedre, for example), as well as the lives of great female artists like
Dickinson. alas, some of the information she asked dancing to impart is beyond the scope of the art form,
as you say, but what a magnificent creator she was.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):