The new face of the Martha Graham Dance Company is the result of artistic direction by Janet Eilber (since 2005) who is bent on bringing new audiences to see classic works and to introduce a spin on some. In 2015, for instance, Eilber invited four younger choreographers (Kyle Abraham, Liz Gerring, Sonya Tayeh and Michelle Dorrance) to make their own version of the iconic Lamentations (1930), and because of that, audiences have come to see another side of Graham. At the top of the evening (February 22), Eilber gives a lay person’s breakdown of the masterwork on the program—Act 2 of Clytemnestra (1958), inspired by Aeschylus’ trilogy, the “Oresteia.” As just one from Graham’s series of drama-ridden, Greek theatre inspired works, this is the first and only evening-length one. From signature cupped-hands, calculated lines and curves in the Graham technique, there is no loss for drama and solid dancing from the ensemble in Clytemnestra. PeiJu Chien-Pott goes all out as Clytemnestra, Lorenzo Pagano is tops as Aegisthus and the original set designer, the late Isamu Noguchi, deserves equal billing. New on the program was Annie-B Parson’s I used to love you (world premiere) a re-imagining of Graham’s 1941 comedy Punch and The Judy. Black and white video footage ran concurrently across the back during Parson’s wild and funny version. Throughout, in really bright skirts made from a whole lot of materials and moving around the space on wheeled-office chairs to loud music, Anne O’Donnell, Leslie Andrea Willams and Laurel Dalley Smith are perfect, dancing narrators, commentators, chorus all at once; they truly carry the story. More humor came from Graham’s Maple Leaf Rag (1990. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s lyrical Mosaic, was the other contemporary work on the program. The evening’s gem was Ekstasis (1933) by Graham, reimagined by Virginie Mecene (Program Director and Director of Graham 2) and danced by Chien-Pott. Eilber explains that Ekstasis was pivotal for Graham because after “...using a more static form…she discovered another way…a pelvic thrust gesture.” Alone, Chine-Pott’s figure is outlined in a gold, tube-like dress, she slithers her pelvis, her shoulders, her head and ever-so-slightly her feet from here to there and she is breathtaking. Ekstasis must be revered as the work that captures Graham’s “…embrace of the sensual and the erotic in all manifestations…whether physical or spiritual…” Ekstasis personifies the season’s theme—“Sacred /Profane.” The company of dancers are: So Young An, Chien-Pott, Laurel Dalley Smith, Abdiel Jacobsen, Lloyd Knight, Charlotre Landreau, Jacob Larsen, Lloyd Mayor, Ari Mayzick, Marizia Memoli, O’Donnell, Pagano, Ben Schultz, Anne Souder, Williams, Konstantina Xintara and Xin Ying.
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I am a performer, historian, consultant and dance writer. I am a Empire State College's online program Center for Distance Learning. I am also a former faculty member at The Ailey School and the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University dance major program, Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College (Guest), Kean University and The Joffrey Ballet School's Jazz and Contemporary Trainee Program. I write on dance for The Amsterdam News, Dance Magazine and various publications. Click below to read more about me at my home page - "About Me."