Graham School Ensemble satisfies with the basics

April 09, 1992|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

Like corn flakes and cotton sheets, often it's the basics that satisfy the most. Last night the Martha Graham School Ensemble ably confirmed that sentiment in a one-time performance at the UMBC theater.

This internationally flavored and talented company of young dancers under the artistic direction of Yuriko, a longtime pricipal dancer with Ms. Graham's company, performed a gratifying program of three of the late choreographer's dances with all the fundamentals of Ms. Graham's rigorous choreography intact.

The dancers, while still students of the Graham School and technique, are living archives of legendary choreography and their program gave a visible range to Ms. Graham's statements as a maker of dances with works spanning over 40 years of choreographic history.

Opening the evening was "Acts of Light," created in 1981. This work, a dance in three distinct sections, is like a synopsis of Ms. Graham's choreography. The first section, "Conversation of Lovers," a duet danced by Adria Ferrali and Marc Weiss, was mythic and larger than life with the dancers' hilly emotional topography providing hyper-dramatics.

Yet it was the details here and throughout the evening that drew one's eyes to the dancing. There is an economy of movement, no gesture is wasted and the dancing is balanced between a generosity of spirit and conservation of activity.

The second section, "Lament," recalls Ms. Graham's solo "Lametations."

"El Penitente," the second act on the program has been frequently mentioned but seldom seen. Created in 1940, the work does have an archaic appeal and the work's portrayal of the flagellants of the American Southwest was decidedly less somber than one would have expected. Often the three characters interacted as if they had escaped from a Punch and Judy show.

The evening closed with the 1948 work "Diversion of Angels," a spendidly seamless and lyrical dance to the music of Norman Dello Joio.

The dance was prefaced in the program with a quote from Thomas Traherne, and a note explaining that the dance explores the "quick joy of being in love for the first time." However, the theme is not to be taken literally, for the dance, with its sections that roll over one another, and the playful antics of the three couples are simply and purely kinetic abandonment delightfully bound within the framework of the music.

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