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Subject: "Martha Graham at the Barbican, May 25/26" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #8
Reading Topic #8
Jane Simpson

28-05-99, 06:38 AM (GMT)
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"Martha Graham at the Barbican, May 25/26"
 
   A brief report:

I'd never seen the company live before, and was looking forward to it very much: one of life's minor pleasures is seeing a piece you've read about and seen photos of over twenty or thirty years, and invariably finding that it's nothing like you expected; and Martha Graham, like her or not, had a greater influence on the dance we see today than almost anyone else. 'Appalachian Spring' was a mixed experience - a brilliant score, but recorded, and not particularly well; some wonderful choreography, not well enough danced. The men in particular looked underpowered and underacted, but I felt the whole thing wouldn't have looked much different danced by a ballet company. Even so, there are some gorgeous moments that made me long to see a better perormance.

The middle section started with two of Graham's own solos. The first, 'Deep Song', was one of the tragic ones, and although done with absolute sincerity by Terese Capucilli, it needs a blazing theatrical personality to make it live again. Fang-Yi Sheu was more successful in the much lighter 'Satyric Festival Song' and made it look almost easy - an impression dispelled by her successor the next night. 'Errand into the Maze' is probably the most typical, in this programme, of what we think of as 'Martha Graham' - the myth of Ariadne and the Minotaur used to show a woman facing and conquering her fear (probably of sex). Christine Dakin, on the first night, and Miki Orihara on the second both revealed aspects of the role , but again neither had the sheer magnetic power to stun and shock as Graham apparently did. What I missed from both of them - perhaps it isn't there? - was a sense of the actual moment at which Ariadne conquered her fear. But I was thrilled to see it, even imperfectly done.

The big surprise of the programme was the last section, three fragments from the 1936 piece 'Chronicle'. The first section had Capucilli again, magnificent in a black and red dress at the onset of war, but it was the next two scenes that really astonished. 'Steps in the Street' brings on 12 women, dressed in black, who at first walk through a moving sequence accompanied only by the sound of their footsteps; then, when the music starts, they are unleashed in a torrent of fast, high energy movement, quite unlike anything I imagined Graham ever did. Even if the anti-war message isn't always clear, it is wonderfully exciting to watch and moving in the dedication and spirit of the dancers. On both the nights I saw it was greeted with huge enthusiasm - lots of cheering and prolonged applause, leaving the audience to go home feeling they had finally seen something still with genuine theatrical life.



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