REVIEW: Martha Graham Performance

The Martha Graham Dance Company’s performance last Friday night was fantastic. The four pieces which the troupe performed were a fascinating combination of new and old, literal and abstract, light and dark. The first piece was easily my least favorite. It was described as a rare comical piece choreographed by Martha Graham but I just personally didn’t enjoy the narrative which felt a little literal to me, and I will never understand artists’ obsession with Greek mythology and philosophers. However, the second piece was creepy and gripping. I loved the witchy, demonic feel of it all. I could have easily been convinced that I was witnessing a secret, pagan ceremony where the devil was being summoned. The second dance was also supposed to be based on Greek mythology and the story of Persephone, but it was not an obvious or literal translation. Deo was the recently premiered piece which was co-sponsored by UMS and I was quite impressed with it. After the intermission we came back to a similarly interesting and sometimes dark piece. The third dance was creepy in different ways though. The first movement featured three women in bland, grey uniforms which reminded me of communist East Europe dancing in and out of a strip of light. It was such a gripping effect, really displaying the power of lighting. When the women were not in this strip of light they ceased to exist on the pitch black stage. The third movement of this dance was not my cup of tea. It featured the full dance crew in prom dresses or little black dresses and the men in shirts and trousers which instantly set a strange tone to me. My boyfriend best described the dancing itself as being reminiscent of mannequins. However, the fourth piece was another Martha Graham original and it sold the show. The first movement featured a sole dancer in a black and red cape-skirt-thing, reminding me of a witch meets a flamenco dancer. She then danced with various parts of the female part of the dance crew, eventually wearing a black and white dress which had me instantly thinking of stormtroopers from Star Wars. The story behind this piece was interesting. Graham choreographed it after denying the chance to dance for the Third Reich leading up to WWII. It played well with the general theme of the show which was focused on women. Her piece in particular dealt with the consequences of war and the way women play into that narrative. I expected to be able to draw comparisons between this performance at that of Ballet Preljocaj, the modern ballet company. However, I found the two so different in tone that they can’t really be compared. If forced, I think I would end up saying I preferred the ballet, but it didn’t take quite as long for me to get into the Martha Graham performance as it took for me to be convinced that I liked ballet preljocaj.

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