New York City weather might not have decided, but Spring had definitely sprung at Cedar Lake on Wednesday, May 19. Patrons of dance gathered for the annual Martha Graham Dance Company Gala dressed in festive florals, vibrant jewel tones, and sparkling rhinestones to enjoy a preview of the Political Dance Project. Waiters flitted like hummingbirds with trays of wine and hors d’oeuvres.
Cedar Lake, a performance space tucked in the forest of art galleries in Chelsea, played host to the gala this year. The cavernous room had a deconstructed aesthetic with exposed brick walls, concrete floors and the metal skeleton of an industrial lighting system covering most of its high ceiling. Janet Eilber, Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and LaRue Allen, Executive Director (left to right, above), greeted everyone attending the event. Over 150 guests mingled around a square of polished wood floor in the middle of the room, sipping from their glasses and chatting gaily between performances. Katherine Crockett and Samuel Pott (photo at top) performed a duet from “American Document (2010),” a modern version of Graham’s classic 1938 work that used iconic American documents like the Declaration of Independence to comment on the U.S. political experience. The 21st century reinterpretation of the classic dance was directed by Obie Award-winning theater director Anne Bogart and created in conjunction with SITI Company. As dancers appeared on the floor to perform each piece, the lights and conversation gently lowered.
At first, the light-hearted atmosphere seemed at odds with performances which ranged from Sophie Maslow’s ” I Ain’t Got No Home,” with Lloyd Knight (above), to the sultry duet from “American Document (2010).” Isadora Duncan’s “The Revolutionary” was particularly stirring as principal dancer Tadej Brdnik (below) depicted one individual’s perseverance despite the overwhelming weight of oppression upon him. It was quite a somber theme to explore amidst a sparkling society party where guests feasted on smoked salmon and pate. As the evening evolved, however, it became clear that these seemingly divergent elements combined into one cohesive motif.
Just as the roots of plants provide strength by reaching deeply into the ground, the Political Dance Project gained gravitas by reaching back to the cultural activism of the 1930s. The previewed season also reaches upward towards the future like branches toward the sky. New and reinterpreted works reframe the cultural dialogue of a bygone era into modern terms to show the continuation of the struggle to solve complex social issues. Like flowers in the sun, the brightly dressed guests basked in the brilliant performances.
Adding to the theme of looking forward while honoring the past, were two dances featuring high school students (above). One dance, entitled “Our Own American Document,” was created by the students after they studied the original choreography by Martha Graham in 1938. Their respectful treatment of a seminal work and ability to tackle such difficult subject matter showed a wisdom beyond their years. It was a heartening affirmation that children are indeed the future.
(Photo above, LaRue Allen, left, with fashion designer Doo-Ri Chung).
All photos by Costas Cacaroukas
The Political Dance Project will be performed at the Joyce Theater from June 8-13. For tickets, call 212-242-0800 or visit www.joyce.org.
For more information about the Martha Graham Dance Company, visit www.marthagraham.org.
For more information about Cedar Lake, visit www.cedarlakedance.com.