WHITE LIES AND ROLLING TEARS FOR THE ELISA MONTE DANCE
Teatro Pergolesi, Jesi (Ancona), 22 February 2007
In studying Martha Graham’s dance world, a special attention need to be given to Graham’s dancers as their temper and exceptionality was a fundamental element for her dances to keep on living. Among them there is Elisa Monte who extensively talks about her experience as a Graham dancer in the book “Goddess – Martha Graham’s Dancers Remember”, edited by Robert Tracy. She danced with the company from 1974 to 1982, during the period when Graham started again to take care of her school and company after a period of illnesses and depression, following her decision to stop dancing. With her there was also her husband, David Brown, with whom she formed her own company in 1981, the Elisa Monte Dance. Since she has created more than thirty works that have been performed by many other companies, such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Boston Ballet and the Batsheva Dance Company. From Graham she probably learnt to create dances where every single aspect needs to be taken into consideration. Her dancers are technically very talented and her choreographies are often based on a collaboration with artists, photographers or composers.
In 2006 the company celebrated its 25th anniversary and its Italian tour has represented a kind of prolongation of its success. In Jesi, the programme included “Day’s Residue”, “Volkmann Suite”, “Tears Rolling” and “Light Lies”. The first piece was about “the small events of everyday life”. Set to Vladimir Godár’s music, it recalled both in the costumes and some of the movements, eighteenth-century dance, with bows between partners and gracious movements of the arms. The costumes by Karen Young were long and baggy skirts for women and tailed waistcoats for men. In spite of her subtle use of a colour for each couple, red, purple, yellow, and green, black was the predominant shade and it darkened the effect a bit too much. In the programme note the piece was supposed to have a psychoanalytical undertone, but it was not very clear from the choreographic device.
The second piece was a much clearer artistic statement. It was inspired by Roy Volkmann’s photographs of the company and was excellently performed by a trio, Tiffany Rea wearing a pair of black pants, and her two partners Matthew Fisher and Fabrice Lamego, both wearing similar pants too. This choice created a homogeneity in terms of shapes and colour that allowed their different body structure and movement approach to emerge. As Monte affirmed, she “set out to explore the paradox between the static image of a photograph and the continually self-transforming image of dance”. The lines of this piece are particularly clean and beautiful, the dancers perform solo phrases as well as group movements where they intertwine their bodies in challenging poses.
The third piece is a melancholic change. “Tears Rolling” is an all female trio set to the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. The costumes, a short beige dress, are by Monte herself. The three women, Rachel Holmes, Amber Mayberry, Maya Taylor often go and sit on a bench placed on the back stage left. They run forward, perform steps and solo pieces to then invariably return to the bench. They embody the three different emotional aspects of the same woman who is going through a reflection on herself. The tone of the piece is highlighted by the fluid movements of the three dancers and by the music with its switch from string instruments to piano.
The fourth piece is, like the first one, danced by the whole company. Commissioned by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, it is a homage to Josef Albers and to his theories on colour. This homage is mainly created through the very good lighting design by Clifton Taylor, who also took care of the lighting design in the other pieces. The costumes are white and manage to express an elegant contrast with “the sensuality and vibration of colour” given by the change of lights. In some of the choreographic pieces there is a quotation from Ailey’s “Revelations”, with the dancers grouped together, their arms and hands up and the lights from above. It is a powerful piece where the dancers run and jump and display all their technical proficiency.