|Misty Copeland & Lloyd Knight, At Summer's Full. Photo: Brigid Pierce|
Martha Graham Dance Company is celebrating its 89th year with a two-week run at the Joyce, with the theme Shape&Design. Misty Copeland guest starred on the opening night gala program in At Summer's Full (1940), a joyful dance that is part of Letter to the World, with new costumes (the originals were destroyed in Hurricane Sandy). While Copeland is not a native Graham dancer, her natural luminous stage presence and fully-articulated lines sang the choreography beautifully.
|Michelle Dorrance's Lamentation Variation. Photo: Christopher Jones|
|Steps in the Street. Design by Frank Gehry. Photo: Brigid Pierce|
Dance-theater artist Annie-B Parson was commissioned to create a premiere, The Snow Falls in the Winter. Her work is based on the Ionesco play The Lesson, and it fits surprisingly well within the Graham canon. Much of the movement is mime, or stage direction-type bursts (such phrases comprise part of the ample spoken text), but Parson puts the highly-trained dancers' skills to use in deep lunges, layouts, and extended legs held high (XiaoChuan Xie even waves a hand fan with her foot at one point). Technique aside, the company is comfortable with dramatic demands.
In a direct line to Graham's work, Tadej Brdnik repeats some of the Minotaur's steps from Errand into the Maze, which had preceded Snow Falls on the program. The short-act tempo makes for lively viewing. Various props are clues to an admittedly absurdist affair—children's furniture, mics, a mysterious package, a dropped book, the fan. The Eagles' "Hotel California" is, intriguingly, played backwards (music is credited to David Lang), lending another element both familiar and disarming.
|Annie-B Parson's The Snow Falls in Winter. Photo: Brigid Pierce|
Artistic director Janet Eilber is succeeding in honoring Graham's legacy, enlisting artists to add to the repertory, resurrecting damaged sets and costumes, and engaging audiences with her pre-performance notes, which have become a familiar element at the company's performances. It's a positive takeaway as the Graham season closes on the eve of the first Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance season, which is promoting the incipient inclusion of works by choreographers who are not Paul Taylor—this year, Doris Humphrey and Shen Wei. To be continued.
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