Thursday, January 21, 2021

Dance Review: Martha Graham Dance Company at The Joyce Summer 2010

SITI Company and Martha Graham Dance Company-American Document (1) I’m a Jersey boy, loud and proud.  It wasn’t until I moved to London at 19 to study dance did i begin to question or understand my heritage.  I would tell people,”oh ya know, I’m 1/4 French, 1/4 Italian, a little German etc.. and my English friends would say, “Are you baking a cake? A little of this a little of that? What are you talking about? YOU’RE AMERICAN!”

So what is it to be American?  Martha Graham asked this question over 80 years ago, and never found an answer.  The Martha Graham Dance Company revisited this question with their newest work in collaboration with SITI Acting Company, American Document (2010) and through this mind blowing, brave new work came to many beautifully interesting and thought provoking conclusions that Martha herself would have been proud to see come to life.

The stage is bare except for a drum and a briefcase.  The curtain is raised long before the house lights go out, and, without warning, an actor walks on stage directly to the briefcase, takes out some paper work, dons a pair of glasses and begins to read to the audience as actors and dancers begin to harmoniously fill the stage with the all too familiar shapes and floor patterns specific to the Graham vocab.  You can barely tell which are the actors and which are the dancers.  The execution is totally flawless.

Become a Member of iDANZ.  Join iDANZ Today! American Document (2010) unfolds through poetry of Walt Whitman, writings of Jack Keroac, letters from soldiers of the Iraqi War, being followed by gorgeous selections of choreography that intertwine each monologue or conversation, seamlessly flowing from one minute into the next until you reach the emotional end of a very probing ride.

American Document (2010) makes you surrender to the hidden thoughts we all have, surrender to answering questions maybe we’re too afraid to ask ourselves, surrender to accepting that, good or bad, Americans are a people of a rich diversity with blood on our hands and love in our hearts. We are a social contract and we are a melting pot of immigrants.  Illegal or not, we are all American.   Quite honestly, I am afraid to say anymore about some of the sections without giving too much away.  American Document (2010) is absolutely not to be missed.  It is a PHENOMENAL and important contemporary work.  It is sure to be a new masterpiece for the Graham repertory.

The next selection of the evening is Sketches from ‘Chronicle‘ which I discovered from the artistic director, Janet Eilber’s post intermission speech, is a piece that was created in a response to an invitation to perform in Germany during the turbulent pre WWII era when so many of her friends, people she knew and artists she respected, were being persecuted.  She declined the invitation…  Well this season at the Joyce, this work ferociously stands up to its meaning and its devastatingly reverent history.  I have never seen such power, such unity, and such strength as I see in these women. Jennifer DePalo is fiercely insane in her control and abandon; not to mention, her army of women are nothing short of Goddesses of dance in Steps in the Street and Prelude to Action.   Watching these ladies perform this piece, I can only imagine that it must be a real privilege to be apart of such beauty, power, and grace.  Their artistic interpretation and scientific precision is incomparable!  LOVE LOVE LOVE!!

What is it to be an American?   What is it to be a Graham dancer?  The answers can only be found by experiencing WHAT IT IS in which this outstanding company has to offer.

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Official Dance Review by Dante Puleio
Performance:  Martha Graham Dance Company
Venue:  The Joyce Theatre
Show Date:  June 8, 2010
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