New York, New York April 30, 2023
The Martha Graham Dance Company, celebrated its 97th year at the Joyce Theater with classic and newly commissioned works, showing off its devotion to Graham’s technique as well as its adaptability to new choreographers. In "Embattled Garden," (1958), the original Garden of Eden is portrayed by Noguchi’s colorful sculptured tree and spiked forest, as four characters: the Stranger, Lilith, Adam, and Eve, flirt, seduce, flail, tempt, and thrust in solos, duets and quartets, executing Graham’s distinctive technique with clarity and strength.

Xin Ying (Eve) cantilevers backwards, suspended from Lloyd Knight’s (Adam) grounded position. Dramatic music by Carlos Surinach and lighting by Jean Rosenthal, adapted by Beverly Emmons, showcase the extremes of passion as Leslie Andrea Williams (Lilith) jumps and leaps onto Lorenzo Pagano’s (Stranger) shoulders in one count. Graham ends the piece quietly, as it began, with the characters back in their original places, seeming to say that all that we have witnessed: passions, betrayal, loss of innocence, and gradual self awareness and resolution, are all a part of the normal human psyche and experience.

Baye and Asa, two contemporary choreographers with a hip-hop and African dance base created a new work inspired by Graham’s "Cortege of Eagles," which was about the carnage of the Trojan War. This new work opens onto a dark stage with six dancers on their knees in single file covered by a dark sheet, signifying the grave. They are dead. In the original story, Charon, the ferryman of Hades, escorts souls across the river from life to death. This modernized Charon, removes the cloth, dancers rise from the dead, to remember the grief, loss, separation, aggression, and agony of war.

In white pants and tops by costumer Caleb Krieg, these “souls,” joined in their humanity, travel in and out of the darkness to light, (lighting by Yi-Chung Chen), racing through time (expressed at one point by a ticking clock in the dramatic score by Ai)den Elias). The dance culminates with the modern Charon covering them up again in the grave, completing their exorcism, laying them to rest.

"Canticle for Innocent Comedians," consists of eight vignettes, all created by different choreographers, led by Sonya Tayeh who crafted the beginning and ending. Graham’s original joyful work, was exemplified in these nine dances depicting nature in the abstract: Sun, Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, Moon, Stars, Death/Rebirth.

Costumed in flowing one piece skirts (Karen Young, costumer), and showcased with stunning lighting by Yi-Chung Chen, the company seamlessly transitions from one dance to another making the entire work a profound song of praise. Canticle shows the beauty of collaboration at its best: the dancers and the designers all working together to create parts that add up to a greater whole.

Graham would be proud!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Mary Seidman


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