In just one hour of dancing and a few minutes of welcome and thanks, opening night for the Martha Graham Dance Company, February 10, was enough of a tease. After all, for this performance the roster included American Ballet Theatre (ABT) soloist Misty Copeland in an excerpt/new arrangement of the 1940 classic Letter to the World newly named At Summer's Full, a collaborative set design by architect cum artist Frank Gehry, and four of the recently commissioned Lamentation Variations to commemorate the 85th anniversary of Lamentation (1930). The season, titled Shape&Design, runs until February 22. Peter Arnell's film made from 2000 handsome photographs of the dancers opened, followed by At Summer's Full with Copeland partnered by company member Lloyd Mayor with the Company. There was a bit of anticipation to see Copeland in a Graham work (other ABT dancers have performed the work), but it was an absolute delight to see the Company in full-force Graham-style: drama, contractions, processionals and all. Copeland did a very good job. Graham dancing Lamentation on a larger-than-life screen covering the entire stage introduced the Lamentation Variations by Liz Gerring, Michelle Dorrance, Kyle Abraham and Sonya Tayeh. Nothing can surpass seeing Graham dance the work; thank goodness her performance was filmed. By far, Gerring and Abraham told the story in their distinct ways: Gerring offered sleek lines and shapes in space, and from Abraham, a delightful array of shape-shifting and partnering. Dorrance and Tayeh took a non-linear and questionable route. Other Lamentation Variations, not shown on opening night, are by Larry Keigwin and Bulareyaung Pagarlava. Fittingly, the evening closed with a throw-back and robust performance of Steps in the Street (1936) with stage design by Gehry. Signature Graham moments exploded on the stage: women is long, black dresses and tight buns traversing the stage in despair, bodies contorting in "pleadings," and arresting choral passes against Gehry's complimentary "dancing" lines across the back wall. The Shape&Design season also features Graham classics Panorama and Chronicle, dances from 1935–36 that set the standard for geometric and structural force onstage, along with Errand into the Maze (1947) and Embattled Garden (1958), masterworks with sets by sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Frontier (1935), Diversion of Angels (1948), and an excerpt from Primitive Mysteries (1931).
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."