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Martha Graham Dance Company


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#31 Simon G

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 03:45 PM

A more honest rendering of events would be to ask whether or not the Graham repertory, as a whole, was ever as great as its most ardent propagandists told us it was. (Macaulay himself states that the works she made between 1960 and her death in 1991 aren't worth watching.) In other words, were critics of Martha Graham's day responding to her (and her forceful and magnetic stage personality) or were they responding to the works themselves, some of which (particularly Graham's Post-WWII "Greek phase" works) seem more like performance art than actual dances? Just wondering . . .



Miliosr,

I really have to take exception with the notion that Graham's genius, contribution and repertory aren't great, nor the work of a true genius, that it was Graham's personality not choreographic genius that was the main draw. But yes, I do agree that the company is in an atrocious state.

Macauley unkindly suggests that her last three decades of achievement were worthless but in that time she choreographed "Acrobats of God", Phaedra, and many beautiful works such as Acts of Light, which demonstrated that while the main thrust of her creativity was spent, she still had it, she knew how to construct thrilling, beautiful, technically demanding dance that leaves many of the dancemakers today in the dust.

I last saw the company in 2003 and they were bad, the quality of dancers was mediocre to downright poor and it's sad that Janet Eilber seems to not trust the legacy of Graham enough to speak for itself, but trusts Richard Wilson, the egregious Richard Move etc to provide the main body of an evening while programming around them second rate Graham works.

Macauley also takes out of context De Mille's "Wagner Picasso" statement, in that the argument is that Picasso & Wagner created out of an existing art form, progressing it to the next level, whereas Graham literally remade the world in her image precisely because there was nothing there.

It's a tragedy that Graham's contribution to the world theatre is so underappreciated now, but the Graham technique which provided the cornerstone of contemporary dance training for decades trains dancers in matchless core strength. Also the main body of Graham's rep is just a catalogue of beautiful, riveting, awesome dance - it's just a pity that no one is dancing the works, or at the very least with no awareness of what they actually are.

Seeing old films of Heretic, Frontier, Appalachian Spring, Diversion of Angels, created on those matchless dance personalities her genius is irrefutable, the works speak for themselves, the tragedy is that now they're entrusted to dancers and a company so battered and flailing for identity they lose all meaning.

Someone asked why Graham's works aren't controlled by a trust, they are just as Balanchine's, the sad fact is that no one wants to dance them anymore, no ballet company wants to train its dancers to dance Appalachian Spring, Diversion those works which could be staged on ballet dancers (Paris Opera, ABT both once danced selected works). Because Graham technique is hard and ruthless but absolutely magical and beautiful.

Even in Graham's lifetime people complained that from about the mid to late 70s on, the ascension of Protas, that Graham dance and dancers were losing their identity, but if you look at the company then they're all virtuosos, albeit very balletic, as compared to that pale imitation of Graham we have now.

I don't disagree that the company is now a sad pale shadow, but I absolutely disagree with anyone who may suggest that Graham was anything less than one of the greatest dance geniuses who ever lived. Her contribution to what we have is beyond immense and her best work are masterpieces. However, seeing what they are now, makes me realise that Cunningham's decision is the best one, rather than have his company and work head down this same route.

#32 miliosr

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 04:32 PM

I really have to take exception with the notion that Graham's genius, contribution and repertory aren't great, nor the work of a true genius, that it was Graham's personality not choreographic genius that was the main draw.

That's fine . . . but I reserve for myself the right to cut across the grain of received wisdom which holds that Graham was/is/will always be a genius.

Macauley unkindly suggests that her last three decades of achievement were worthless but in that time she choreographed "Acrobats of God", Phaedra, and many beautiful works such as Acts of Light, which demonstrated that while the main thrust of her creativity was spent, she still had it, she knew how to construct thrilling, beautiful, technically demanding dance that leaves many of the dancemakers today in the dust.

I saw the Graham company perform Acts of Light in October 2006 and, with the exception of the concluding section, I thought most of it was laughable. Maybe it was a performance problem but I loved "Steps in the Street" from Chronicle on the same program and thought the company was excellent in it.

I last saw the company in 2003 and they were bad, the quality of dancers was mediocre to downright poor and it's sad that Janet Eilber seems to not trust the legacy of Graham enough to speak for itself, but trusts Richard Wilson, the egregious Richard Move etc to provide the main body of an evening while programming around them second rate Graham works.

ITA w/ you here. I found the October 2006 performance very disrespectful to Graham -- the dancers making fun of her in prepared remarks, etc.

I don't disagree that the company is now a sad pale shadow, but I absolutely disagree with anyone who may suggest that Graham was anything less than one of the greatest dance geniuses who ever lived. Her contribution to what we have is beyond immense and her best work are masterpieces.

I guess here's where you and I will have to part company. I believe the greatness of performance works should peak through even in the face of inadequate or just plain bad performance. I say Miami City Ballet give an ultra-boring performance of Balanchine's Apollo but the greatness of the work still peaked through to me. I can't say the same about most of the Graham repertory I've seen, including Appalachian Spring.

However, seeing what they are now, makes me realise that Cunningham's decision is the best one, rather than have his company and work head down this same route.

I'm going to see Limon's company in June (in a college auditorium!) -- I'll let you know how it goes.

I've missed sparring w/ you buddy!!! :wink:

#33 LiLing

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 05:51 PM

I think the problem lies with the direction. The decision to replace Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin was a disastrous mistake IMO.

#34 Simon G

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 06:43 PM

I've missed sparring w/ you buddy!!! :wink:


Oh, you wish. Now, as ever you are punching way above your weight. I'm the Casey Heynes of Ballet Alert.

#35 miliosr

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 02:22 PM


I've missed sparring w/ you buddy!!! :wink:


Oh, you wish. Now, as ever you are punching way above your weight. I'm the Casey Heynes of Ballet Alert.

It wouldn't be the the first time and I'm certain it won't be the last. I go on in my quixotic way . . .

#36 miliosr

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 03:56 AM

Gia Kourlas is more positive about an all-Graham program (although she is more enthusiastic about the 40s works than the 1958 work and most enthusiastic of all about the Noguchi sets):

http://www.nytimes.c....html?ref=dance

#37 miliosr

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 03:47 PM

If you were wondering how the five slumming socialites fared, New York Social Diary is on the case!

http://www.newyorkso...om/node/1905649

Interesting that Muffie Potter Aston and Grace Hightower DeNiro were a part of this since they were heavily involved with ABT not so long ago.

And, since I'm in a carping mood, the titular description should more accurately read 85th year instead of 85th season . . .

#38 papeetepatrick

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 04:29 PM

I thoroughly freakin' loved it. How nice to get to know Muffie's children and parents! I hadn't known to whom Robert De Niro was married, and he approved of his wife appearing in the 'genius' 'Maple Leaf Rag'. Oh man, this made my day, and it was already doing all right.

Love the pic of Ms. Eilber, she's so 'E.T'. I knew the company was going to emerge from all the interference.

I had tea and brioches with a 'Muffie' myself in Paris, yes indeed-- on the RUE D'ASTORJ! a cote de l'Opera. This was in the home of Mrs. Stickney Hamilton, who at that time was the Paris Editor of Harper's Bazaar. Who could ask for anything more? (well, she did get me into the Givenchy Spring Collections Show, so there's that...)

#39 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 07:16 PM

To add to the conversation, Kathleen O'Connell - a familiar writer here, subbed for me on the opening night at The Post while I was in the UK last week.

#40 Helene

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 07:20 PM

To add to the conversation, Kathleen O'Connell - a familiar writer here, subbed for me on the opening night at The Post while I was in the UK last week.

:clapping: Kathleen O'Connell!!!!

#41 atm711

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Posted 22 March 2011 - 06:41 AM

I haven't seen the Graham Company in many years----the last time was with Nureyev in Appalachian Spring :flowers: I saw them once again last Sunday at the Rose Theater in NYC--and I can now understand all the negative talk about the Company. "Embattled Garden" came across extremely well with a beautiful Miki Orihara who had excellent support from Tadej Brdnik, Katherine Crockett and Maurizio Nardi. (I never knew that Adam supposedly had another wife before Eve!). A memorable 20 minutes. It was followed by "Snow on the Mesa" by Robert Wilson---how this 70 minute yawn has survived since 1995 I will never understand. It was intended to be a 'tribute to Martha'---what audacity. :helpsmilie:

#42 miliosr

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Posted 22 March 2011 - 10:53 AM

Tobi Tobias weighs in:

http://www.artsjourn...dern_times.html

#43 miliosr

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 09:07 AM

Robert Gottlieb has a more positive take on the Graham company:

http://www.observer....ion-out-graham#

#44 miliosr

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 07:34 AM

The 'Can Modern Dance Be Preserved?' thread seems to have migrated to the Graham thread, so I am posting this here:

http://www.nytimes.c...l?_r=1&ref=arts


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