Special thematic programs have emerged out of the Martha Graham Dance Company’s experiments with new forms of presentation. These projects often include narration and media and create a larger context in which to view not only the Graham classics, but also works of other choreographers and commissioned artists. New curriculum, cultural and educational partners, and media initiatives have also evolved from these contextual themes.
The Martha Graham Dance Company is currently developing “Inner Landscape,” our theme for the 2011-2012 season. It explores the psychological aspects of dance through a great range of performances, partnerships and educational activities. New pieces created by Lar Lubovitch and Yvonne Rainer will be featured, along with classic masterworks by Martha Graham and other choreographers.
In 2011, the Martha Graham Dance Company began collaborating with Italian director Antonio Calenda to create a world of Graham movement for a new theatrical event about Pablo Picasso, starring Giorgio Albertazzi. Graham dancing, performed by nine women from the Company, evokes Picasso’s dreams, inspirations and writings. To create this world, Janet Eilber, the Company’s artistic director, has taken sections from different classic Graham ballets and “remixed” them using new music and costumes and adding original material in the Graham style. Cercando Picasso was so successful in its initial run in 2011 that it will tour Italy for several months in 2012.
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The theme of social activism in dance has allowed the Martha Graham Dance Company to embrace an important repertory of classic works from the 1930s. In addition, the Company has commissioned a new theater work in collaboration with SITI Company and avant-garde director Anne Bogart.
Dance is a Weapon is a multimedia montage that highlights the 1930s, when the nascent art form of American modern dance was fueled by political and social activism. It connects six dances of that era with projections and narration that provide political context of that period. Featuring work from seminal female choreographers of the 1930s—Jane Dudley, Eve Gentry, Isadora Duncan, Sophie Maslow and Martha Graham—Dance is a Weapon explores the issues of that time and how they reverberate today.
American Document (2010) is not a dance by Martha Graham, but it is closely tied to her 1938 seminal work of the same name. This new American Document (2010) is a theatrical piece directed by Anne Bogart for six actors from SITI Company and 10 Graham dancers. Using filmed excerpts, written descriptions and Graham’s handwritten notes, Bogart and playwright Charles L. Mee have reinvented American Document for the 21st century by incorporating text from a variety of sources including Walt Whitman’s poetry and blogs from American soldiers stationed in Iraq. The work, which includes speaking and dancing by all the performers, probes the same question as Graham’s original: What is an American?
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Prelude and Revolt is a multimedia performance that charts the era when Martha Graham burst on to the scene, revolutionizing dance and theater. It begins with dances from her Denishawn beginnings and continues to the stark, explosive imagery of her early radical works. Narration and media connect a suite of dances tracing the emergence of Graham’s unique theater and distinctive movement vocabulary. Created in 2006, the work has been a popular approach to presenting dance throughout the Company’s domestic tour dates.