Walter’s World: Graham Company Fall and Recovery Benefit

smpott_schultz_nardi_bulnes copyBy Walter Rutledge

The Martha Graham Dance Company Fall and Recovery benefit took place last night, Tuesday, February 26 at the Joyce Theater. It was an evening of artistic camaraderie as the best of the dance world came out to support the Graham Company rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. The storm surge flooded the Graham warehouse leaving the irreplaceable collection of costumes and sets, and technical equipment submerged for over six days. It took another week to pump out the forty-thousand cubic feet of floodwater.

The damage was devastating. Original costumes, many designed and worn by Martha Graham; sets, props and jewelry created by renowned Graham collaborator sculptor Isamu Noguchi ; and technical equipment, which included the lighting board were damaged. The arts community literally leaped into action. The Smithsonian Institute and Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) came to assist with the costume restoration. American Ballet Theatre and the Joffery Ballet loaned sets and costumes from their respective repertoires, and Electric Company replaced the lighting board.

The Graham Company goal of raising one million dollars in cash contributions and services by this summer has surpassed the half way mark. To date over three hundred individuals including Andrew Mellow Foundation, have come forward. The Capezio Foundation donated dance attire and took on the role as lead sponsor of the Fall and Recovery benefit. The foundation made sure the one hundred percent of the evening’s ticket proceeds went directly to the restoration efforts.

The Fall and Recovery benefit was an elegant performance with an exciting multiplicity of dance styles and world-class performers. The first act consisted of solo and duet performances. Tap dancer Michelle Dorrance opened the evening with high-energy fun; followed by New York City Ballet (NYCB) principal dancer Wendy Whelan and (NYCB) soloist Ask la Cour, who moved seamlessly through an excerpt of Christopher Wheeldon’s After The Rain. Graham Company’s Lloyd Mayor was a rock star Achilles and Katherine Crochett the stoic Helen of Troy in Richard Move’s The Show. Choreographer/performer Francesca Harper and Eriko Iisaku powerfully performed Harper’s 2.2, while Maria Kowroski and Martin Harvey were rapturous in Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. Miki Orihara and Abdiel Jacobsen spellbound the audience in Graham’s Moon from her 1952 Canticle for Innocent Comedians. Dave Neumann charmed us in his quirky solo Dose; and American Ballet Theatre principal Irina Dvorovenko was poetically mesmerizing in Fokine’s classic Dying Swan.

The second act presented works performed by members of the Graham Company. Blakeley White-McGuire channeled the spirit of Martha Graham in Imperial Gesture, a recently reconstructed solo from 1935. Dancers Tadej Brdnik, Abdiel Jacobsen, Lloyd Knight Maurizio Nardi and Ben Schultz weaved and intertwined like a human ball of string in a preview excerpt of Nacho Duato’s Rust. The world première of From The Grammar of Dreams by Luca Vegetti was a psychologically study danced by PeiJu Chien-Pott, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Blakeley White-McGuire, Xiaochuan Xie and Ying Xin. The performance appropriately concluded with Graham’s Panorama featuring thirty-five young stars of tomorrow. High school students from the five boroughs were introduced to the marvels and legacy of Martha Graham through this work from 1935.

The Fall and Recovery benefit was more than an artistic success. The performance was another example of the arts community rallying behind a worthy cause. For information on how you can contribute to the Graham Company’s fund raising efforts visit http://marthagraham.org/support/.

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