As you assemble your gratitude list for this Thanksgiving, stop and consider some of the works that paved the way for the diverse dance world we enjoy today. Whether they introduced a radical new style of movement, controversial subject matter or a particularly poignant message, these five works broke choreographic barriers and have withstood the test of time.
Martha Graham in Deaths and Entrances (1943). Photo by Chris Alexander, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives
Martha Graham was the "Mother of Modern Dance," influencing generations of dance artists with her incomparable choreography and technique that featured the pioneering concept of contraction and release. But did you know...
Photo by Esta McKayle, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives
This past week, the University of California, Irvine, Etude Ensemble paid tribute to Donald McKayle, with a performance of Journey of the Heart: A Celebration of Works by Donald McKayle. The renowned choreographer created the student performance group in 1995 when he was an active professor in the dance program. The tribute included audience favorites, Death and Eros (2000), Crossing the Rubicon (2017) and Songs of the Disinherited (1972).
Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III in Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of New York City Center
To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Damian Woetzel's leadership at the Vail International Dance Festival, a new four-day event will be held in New York City, November 3–6. Vail Dance Festival: ReMix NYC brings three programs to New York City Center, along with a special lecture/demonstration focused on footwork, hosted by Woetzel. Featured performers include: Lil Buck, Michelle Dorrance, Wendy Whelan, Robert Fairchild, Matthew Rushing and Yo-Yo Ma. Works by George Balanchine, Alexei Ratmansky, José Limón, Martha Graham, Larry Keigwin and Christopher Wheeldon will be performed. Vvf.org/arts/vail-international-dance-festival
For 12 years, Italian choreographer Caterina Rago studied Graham technique with Elsa Piperno at the Accademia Nazionale di Danza in Rome. Piperno taught her to be comfortable taking risks.
"She encouraged us to push beyond our limits to understand what our limits were. I remember her saying, 'Even if you fall on the floor, you know the floor is not too far away from your body. Eventually you will fall and you will recover. No problem!'"
See Caterina Rago Dance Company perform Labir Into (“labyrinth”) at New York Live Arts tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 pm.
“I see dance being used as communication between body and soul, to express what is too deep to find for words.” —Ruth St. Denis
“Dancing is bigger than the physical body. Think bigger than that. When you extend your arm, it doesn’t stop at the end of your fingers, because you’re dancing bigger than that. You’re dancing spirit.” —Judith Jamison
Graham principal Blakeley White-McGuire in costume for Cave of the Heart
At the 2015 Harkness Dance Festival at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, audiences can delve into the creation of Martha Graham’s Cave of the Heart. The Martha Graham Dance Company will perform March 13–15 as part of the festival’s Stripped/Dressed performance concept, designed to illuminate the creative process behind a piece before it is performed.
During the opening “stripped” portion of the evening, audience members will learn about Graham’s codified technique and the movement motifs she created for different characters in this retelling of the Greek myth of Medea. These could be useful discussions for aspiring dancemakers and modern dance students. Attendees can also explore the set pieces up close, designed by sculptor Isamu Noguchi.
Then, dancers get “dressed” and perform the work in its entirety. Other performers at this year’s Harkness Dance Festival have included Adam Barruch, The Bang Group and Vicky Shick Dance, with Sally Silvers still to come, March 20–22.
Additionally, K–12 teachers attending the Dance Education Lab (DEL)/Harkness Dance Festival Intensive take a four-hour master class the Saturday after each Friday-night performance to explore the choreographic strategies of each artist and make connections to NYC's Department of Education dance curriculum guidelines. More on that program here.
Sections of Fall to Rise were filmed at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City.
The impending retirement of New York City Ballet’s 46-year-old star Wendy Whelan (who this morning announced her final performance date), has, over the past few months, sparked many discussions about the inevitable impact of age on a dance career. Fall to Rise takes a dark look at similar themes.
In the film directed by Jayce Bartok, Martha Graham Dance Company’s Katherine Crockett (currently thrilling critics in Queen of the Night) plays the established star and new mother who feels forced out of the spotlight and into domesticity when her artistic director, played by Desmond Richardson, forces her to take time off due to her increasingly troublesome injuries. Throw in an emotionally unsound former company member with a vendetta—Daphne Rubin-Vega, who played Mimi in the original Broadway cast of RENT—and you’ve got the makings of a creepy dance thriller that would make Darren Aronofsky proud.
Fall to Rise premieres this weekend in New York City as part of the First Time Fest. Nine other films will compete, including ballet documentary Getting to The Nutcracker. For more information and tickets, visit firsttimefest.com.