The oldest of American dance troupes, the Martha Graham Dance Firm weathered the early phases of the pandemic higher than most. Its digital choices drew treasures from the corporate’s nice archive and experimented with various reframings, successfully making the case for the continued relevance of Graham’s work in these instances.
On Tuesday, the corporate returned to the Joyce Theater for per week of in-person reside performances, and though the pandemic will not be over, the primary program felt in some ways like those earlier than the world modified: uneven renditions of basic repertory, a mediocre premiere, an intriguing experiment in reconstruction. The custodians of Graham’s legacy soldier on.
The premiere was “Scavengers,” by Andrea Miller, who’s having a second, debuting her first piece for the Graham firm on the heels of her first work for New York City Ballet. Began earlier than the pandemic and completed after an 18-month break, the work appears to handle human connection. 4 duets precede a solo interrupted by blackouts.
In introductory remarks, Janet Eilber, Graham’s inventive director, characterised Miller’s work as “elemental, or primal.” In “Scavengers,” these qualities manifest primarily as childish. Women and men cling to one another. Within the first duet, a lady in a deep squat cradles a person; within the second, the lady is sort of a little one, cradled and dragged and swung.
Later companions crawl below bridges made by the opposite’s physique and cradle one another, too, earlier than forces pull them aside. The blackouts within the closing solo — the type that confuse an viewers into applauding too quickly — direct consideration to how the torqued, twisting soloist (the supple Anne Souder) retains going.
That’s what the entire dance does: stream on attractively, if ineffectually. Would possibly the title discuss with the bits of choreography that echo Graham vocabulary you may see elsewhere in this system? Pam Tanowitz’s “Untitled (Memento),” on this week’s alternate program, samples Graham much more wittily. And, anyway, these dancers don’t have to scavenge. They’re in command of the shop.
That job is difficult sufficient. It’s been a protracted pandemic, and in “Diversion of Angels,” Graham’s 1948 celebration of various varieties of affection, many dancers didn’t fairly look as much as the total rigor of Graham method. (The steely exception: So Younger An.) In “Appalachian Spring,” Graham’s canonical wartime evocation of pioneer resolve, the distinctive groundedness of Leslie Andrea Williams because the Pioneering Girl shifted the gravity of the work away from the central couple. Greater than normal, her character appeared the one holding up everybody else.
The soloist in Graham’s “Speedy Tragedy” has nobody however herself to maintain her upright. The work, made in 1937 with the Spanish Civil Warfare raging and fascism on the rise, was misplaced. However Eilber not too long ago reconstructed it from descriptions and images. (It was additionally the supply materials for one of the company’s 2020 virtual experiments.)
The consequence appears to be like a bit like a collection of pictures strung collectively, however the connective tissue of Graham method binds it right into a convincing dance. A brand new rating by Christopher Rountree highlights hints of Spain within the choreography: a bullfighter stance and a model of a bent-backed flamenco flip with the emphasis on the bent backbone to precise an unbreakable spirit.
With the stark readability of Graham’s Nineteen Thirties work, the solo (excellently danced by Xin Ying) reveals a two-fisted lady advancing, then contracting or hinging to the ground, then advancing once more. It’s much less about a direct tragedy than a protracted slog within the face of adversity. In different phrases, its abstraction makes it fully present, a dance for the state of the corporate and the state of the world.
Martha Graham Dance Firm
By way of Sunday on the Joyce Theater, Manhattan; joyce.org.