Martha Graham Dance Company, 89 Seasons Young

The Martha Graham Dance Company gave a thrilling performance last night at Carolina Performing Arts. The program repeats tonight, 4/15/15. Dance fans will hate themselves in the morning if they miss the program’s final work, Echo.

Once Miss Graham died in 1991, there was a certain amount of dithering around about how her company would continue. When Janet Eilber, a former principal dancer with Graham, became the company artistic director in 2005, she continued to preserve and reconstruct Graham’s work, but also, as she said from the stage on the 14th, “to commission new work that resonates with Martha Graham’s legacy.” In 2014, the company premiered such a work by Greek dancer and choreographer Andonis Foniadakis.

Maintaining classic Graham style with full-powered grace. Photo: courtesy MGDC/CPA.

Maintaining classic Graham style with full-powered grace. Photo: courtesy MGDC/CPA.

His Echo, based loosely on the myth of Narcissus and Echo, is the most erotic, passionately charged dance I’ve seen in many a year. Danced by Lloyd Mayor as Narcissus and Lloyd Knight as his powerfully attractive reflection, and the ravishing PeiJu Chien-Pott as the nymph Echo, plus an ensemble of seven, this piece alone is worth the ticket. The mythic theme, the sexuality, the entrancing, propulsive music by Julien Tarride, the fabulous skirted costumes by Anastasios Sofroniou and the magical scenic and lighting design by Clifton Taylor are all highly resonant with Graham’s work. The dancing was big and precise at once, with lots of reversals of direction that let the costumes unfurl into fluid shapes, and some blink-inducing lifts and unusual intertwinings.  Although I thought the piece could have been edited to lose the final coda and end on a particularly astounding image, Echo is an astonishing dance, and does so well the aesthetic work that only dance can do. There’s some good video on the choregrapher’s site.

Narcissus and his double in Echo. Photo: courtesy MGDC/CPA.

Narcissus and his double in Echo. Photo: courtesy MGDC/CPA.

The program also includes works commissioned by Carolina Performing Arts. This concert features three new Variations on Graham’s famous Lamentation, one by Chapel Hill native tap artist Michelle Dorrance. It was curious to hear percussive hard-shod foot music as an accompaniment to, rather than a result of the dancing, and to see how Dorrance attempted to fuse her kinetic style with the Graham technique. Not altogether great, but it looks like there’s territory to explore here. The Gerring Variation is more in the Merce Cunningham tradition, and was a solid piece, and the Tayeh Variation was pretty exciting. I still like Miss Graham’s original best: a film of her dancing it precedes the new Variations (of which there are now 12 total, created since 2007).

The program’s first act includes Nacho Duato’s Rust, which CPA commissioned for the Graham company and which premiered in Memorial Hall April 26, 2013. It’s still ferocious, it’s still about torture. It still needs to be seen, and seen again.

It followed on the heels of Steps in the Street, a suite from Graham’s 1936 Chronicle, another overtly political dance. Sadly, the politics of the 2010s bear a strong resemblance to those of the 1930s, and keep this work as timely as Rust. The dancing was very fine last night, with all ten women in lockstep to Wallingford Riegger’s martial music. In long black dresses, moving backwards, clutching themselves, looking over their shoulders, they communicate a chill danger. Triangle dance fans will remember seeing it on the same 2008 ADF program with Lamentation.

The program is leavened by an absurdist dance-theater piece by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar of the marvelous Big Dance Theater. According to MGDC’s Janet Eilber, The Snow Falls in the Winter, which the Graham company premiered in New York in February of this year, was inspired by a Eugene Ionesco play, but, she said, Annie-B told her that “the play was awful,” and that she threw out the plot. “So don’t look for one,” Eilber cautioned the crowd. You couldn’t have found one if you were looking. But the series of shifting scenes and ridiculous goings-on had me giggling aloud. I didn’t even mind that there were microphones, and talking. Effervescent was the non-sense.

Advertisements

So Darn HOT: Tapping at the Carrboro ArtsCenter

 

Photo: Denise Cerniglia.

Teachers from the 2013 NCRT Festival, Michelle Dorrance, center. Photo: Denise Cerniglia.

 

“The Greatest Tap Show Ever” may not always hold that title, but the show I saw last night at the Carrboro ArtsCenter was certainly the most purely enjoyable tap show I’ve ever seen. Presented by the  North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble (celebrating 30 years, thanks to the buoyant leadership of Gene Medler) and the North Carolina Rhythm Tap Festival, the show featured half a dozen first-rate teaching tap artists in town for the 3-day festival/workshop, accompanied by the excellent dance band combo of John Hanks, Robbie Link and Jim Crew. Sadly, Medler was down in the back and not able to join the other dancers on stage, but otherwise the whole event had an insouciant air of mischievous fun, with everyone cracking jokes and peeking from behind the stage curtains.

Michelle Dorrance, local heroine now taking the world by storm with her company DorranceDance, performed short joyous dances, but also one longer work that hinted at what a very special performer she is. Along with a graceful style and complex sense of rhythmic progression, she brings powerful emotional intensity to the stage. I’ve seen some fine tappers, but I’ve never seen anyone choreograph tap as if it were avant-contemporary dance. She’s got some unusual moves, uses her arms and hands very expressively, and looks outward to the audience even while her feet draw intricate patterns making her shoes sing with textured tones. Whether you were or weren’t in the sold-out house at the ArtsCenter, you may wish to book tickets for Carolina Performing Arts‘ presentation of DorranceDance on Sept. 25-26.

Each of the other dancers–Derick Grant, Nico Rubio, Melinda Sullivan (who danced and sang “Too Darn Hot”) and Joseph Wiggan–was nearly as impressive as Dorrance, and each has a distinctive style and impressive credentials. All performed delightful turns, showcasing their special moves, and challenging and copycatting each other in the finale. It was just so charming–partly because it was on the tiny stage (well-miked for the dancers) of the tiny ArtsCenter where everyone’s practically on top of everyone else, and the waves of love flow unimpeded from stage to audience and back again.

As spectacular as the dancers were, and as solid as the band was, there was no doubt as to who was the diva. Ms. Yvette Glover–Savion Glover’s mama–commanded the proceedings with twinkling majesty. Having known most of the performers for years, and some since they were toddlers, she bossed them around and was fussed over by them in return. Between emceeing, she sang two songs in an enormous voice time has rasped but not ruined. Flying in, she said, she was so struck this time by the beauty of the trees, so she commanded the band to learn the music to accompany her on the sung version of Joyce Kilmer’s Trees (here’s Paul Robeson singing it.). Later she sang, a cappella, a heart-expanding version of “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” and you could have heard a pin drop between phrases, the house was so quiet. Then the thunder of tapping feet resumed, playing out the secret rhythms of the heart.

 

Dancing Durham: ADF Opens, and Local Dancers Provide Even More Action

Zoia Cisneros in UNDONE. Photo: Noah Rosenblatt-Farrell.

Zoia Cisneros in Nicola Bullock’s UNDONE.
Photo: Noah Rosenblatt-Farrell.

Each year it seems like a miracle, with this year being no exception–this difficult year of budget cuts and grant shrinkages. The American Dance Festival, one of the world’s great ones, continues to beat the odds and will once again open its performance season here in Durham–its 81st year of presenting great modern and contemporary dance. Beginning Thursday, June 12, 49 performances will occur over a six-week span in venues at Duke and in downtown Durham. There’s a very fresh feeling to this year’s schedule, with assorted new and experimental works by a wide variety of artists from around the world. But some of the freshest will come from Durham itself. On June 18, the ADF will present Here and Now: NC Dances–but check this out! All four choreographers–Renay Aumiller, Gaspard Louis, Diego Carrasco Schoch and Leah Wilks–chosen for this program are based right here in the Bull City. The Here and Now performances will begin at 7 pm and 9 pm in Reynolds Theater, for the one night only. Seats are cheap at $16.25. House is heavily sold for both shows–advance purchase recommended.

Performer and choreographer Nicola Bullock. Photo: Noah Rosenblatt-Farrell.

Performer and choreographer Nicola Bullock. Photo: Noah Rosenblatt-Farrell.

But ADF’s not the only dance game in town this year. Nicola Bullock, a dancer whose compelling stage presence and choreographic talent graced the recent Little Green Pig production of Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo, has been working for a year with six dancers on a project called UNDONE. Billed as an evening-length dance-theatre work on race, power and identity, UNDONE will open its three-day run in an un-airconditioned warehouse space at 305 S. Dillard Street at precisely the time the gracious opening-night speeches will begin in the well-chilled Durham Performing Arts Center a few blocks away.

“This piece developed from a desire to better understand how systems of domination, specifically racism, affect our relationships, worldview, dreams, and bodies,” says Bullock. A great deal of artwork, maybe more than is strictly necessary, explores questions of self-identity and otherness, but Bullock’s sensitivity and kinetic expressiveness make me expect real honest exploration of Durham’s favorite topic. The dance will include Leah Wilks, whose own work will be seen the following week. Go here for more on UNDONE. Tickets $15 at the door or online.

On June 14 at 7:30 pm, the Carrboro ArtsCenter will present something really special, for one night only. The Best Tap Show Ever will be danced by the tap stars who will be in town teaching at the North Carolina Rhythm Tap Festival. These include Chapel Hill native Michelle Dorrance, fresh from her highly-praised appearance at Charleston, SC’s Spoleto Festival with her company Dorrance Dance. Musicians Robbie Link (bass), John Hanks (drums), and Jim Crew (piano) will augment the song of the shoes. Tickets $15 advance, $17 at the door, if there are any.

Yet another one-night-only performance will take place the following week, when multi-disciplinary artist Kaitlin June premieres her solo work Lightyear in the PSI Theater of the Durham Arts Council at 7:30, June 20. The artist will probe at the workings of memory and time with a fusion of dance, acrobatics, live music and spoken word. Tickets $10 at the door.

The company rehearsing UNDONE, which will be presented June 12-14 in Durham. Photo: Noah Rosenblatt-Farrell.

The company rehearsing Bullock’s UNDONE, which will be presented June 12-14 in Durham. Leah Wilks (L) will also perform with her company, Vector, in ADF’s Here and Now program June 18.  Photo: Noah Rosenblatt-Farrell.

\\

Ocracoke Observer

Community newspaper of Ocracoke, NC

Artist Soapbox

Original audio fiction + a podcast about creative process

David Cecelski

New writing, collected essays, latest discoveries

Piedmont Trails

Genealogy and History in North Carolina and Beyond

Piedmont Laureate

Promoting awareness and heightened appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont Region

Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" -- Director's Blog

a countdown to the next performance, March 28-31, 2019

North Carolina Preservation Consortium

Preserving tangible and intangible heritage of enduring value

The Orange County Citizen

• Proudly Serving Orange County North Carolina Since 2018 •

Bamboo Wind

Video Poems, Dance, Sculpture & Photography

mhdekm

A topnotch WordPress.com site

peter harris, tapestryweaver

TAPestry And DESIgn

Backstrap Weaving

My weaving , my indigenous teachers, my inspiration, tutorials and more........

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Not At Home In It

collections/connections

inkled pink

warp, weave, be happy!

Peggy Osterkamp's Weaving Blog

"Weaving should be fun!"

SHUTTLE WORKS STUDIO

Studio Life of a Weaver, Spinner, Dyer

This Day in North Carolina History

The people and places of the Tar Heel state day by day.

Linda Frye Burnham

Writer and poet

%d bloggers like this: