Martha Graham dancers talk shop

A promo photo for the Martha Graham Dance Company's production of Appalachian Spring.

Nineteen dancers from the Martha Graham Dance Company who gathered Feb. 5 for a Clowes Conversation agreed it was their passion for Graham's technique and repertoire that drew them to the company she founded.

Hosted by David Hochoy, artistic director of Dance Kaleidoscope, the dancers - who hail from nine different nations - shared stories of their journeys to the company. Some started out at the Martha Graham school and worked their way from Company II to the "elite" Company I. Others auditioned for a spot after training elsewhere and being a member of other companies.

The dancers talked of taking a mutual delight in, as one dancer put it, "bring[ing] to life a timeless and uniquely American style of dance" for audiences worldwide. They shared as well what motivates them to work through personal and collective challenges to carry forward Graham's pioneering work of, according to another dancer, "expand[ing] contemporary dance's vocabulary of movement" through "a variety of platforms."

The dancers spoke movingly about bringing to audiences today Graham's avant-garde works rooted in "social, political, psychological and sexual contexts" that have retained their relevancy across the decades since the company's founding in 1926. The dancers shared how developing a character becomes transformative for them and how communicating this to audiences becomes fulfilling.

The Company will conclude its weeklong residency as part of Clowes Memorial Hall's 50th anniversary with a public program on Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. The program opens with the 70th anniversary presentation of Graham's signature Appalachian Spring (music by Aaron Copland). 

It is followed by a preview of the upcoming New York debut of a re-imagined Clytemnestra (music by Halim El-Dabh). The dance originated in 1958 as Graham's contemporary view of the Greek tragedy centered on the Trojan War. Expect to be caught up in Clytemnestra's unmitigated grief over their daughter Iphigenia's sacrifice by Agememnon (her husband), and what transpires as she seeks and gains revenge. Janet Eilber, artistic director of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, spoke movingly of what this dance meant to Graham.

The program will close Graham's final choreographed work, 
the 1990 Maple Leaf Rag (music by Scott Joplin). It is described as Graham's "humorous and loving tribute" to her choreographic muse.

A pre-concert discussion at 7:15 p.m. on Feb. 7 includes David Hochoy and Susan McGuire. Go to Clowes on Demand for the recorded Feb. 5 event.


Recommended for you