Spring,' 'Satyrical Festival Dance,' 'Lamentation,' 'Errand into the Maze,'
'Maple Leaf Rag'
November 2003 --
Sadler's Wells, London
The Martha Graham Dance Company
has had to survive a conflict as traumatic as anything the great lady
of modern dance ever choreographed in one of her ballets, and after what
seemed an eternity of legal wrangling that ended only last year, the company
is now able to perform her works in the manner it deems fit.
The first work in the second programme shown this week at Sadler's Wells
was “Appalachian Spring”, perhaps the Graham work I am most familiar with.
This depiction of the American past is blessed with such an instantly
recognizable score by Aaron Copeland that its classic status has long
been assured. It was excellently danced by its cast of eight, dominated
by the presence of Katherine Crockett as The Pioneering Woman, gazing
into the distance with a dignified serenity, aperfect foil to that uptight
looking Revivalist, whose religiosity seems to mask a troubled nature
as he postures self-consciously before his nubile female Followers.
The middle section of the programme was made up of what were basically
four female solos, the two most notable being “Satyrical Festival Dance”
and “Lamentation”. The first was a light-hearted piece danced in
fun manne by Blakeley White-McGuire to the gurgling of a solo flute.
The second was an outpouring of almost regal grief. Although I never saw
her dance it, whenever I see “Lamentation” I always recall images of Martha
Graham in this role. The photographs that exist of her explicitly convey
the sense of tragedy she must have brought to this short piece.
“Errand into the Maze” comes very close to parody from my point of view,
a feeling endorsed by some audible giggles from the audience when Christophe
Jeannot as the Minotaur made his entrance sporting a pair of bull’s horns
on top of his head. If “Lamentation” conjured up old pictures of Martha
Graham, then I’m afraid this work conjured up memories of her wicked impersonator,
Richard Move. Somehow it just didn’t work.
The final work of the evening, “Maple Leaf Rag” was an absolute delight.
Graham’s final and least characteristic work, it was danced to the familiar
music of Scott Joplin, who, I seem to remember, inspired another great
choreographer to move away from habitual gloom to explore dance’s sunnier
pastures. The entire company was on stage for this cheerful piece inhabited
by merry lovers and angst ridden females who emoted outrageously in glamorous
costumes by Calvin Klein no less. Clearly Graham was capable of sending
herself up rotten, and although one always thinks of her creations as
exercises into delving the depths of the human soul, its nice to think
that she wound up that illustrious career by giving us all a good laugh.
Edited by Holly Messitt
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