The Soraya Welcomes the Return of the Martha Graham Dance Company on Friday, November 19 to Celebrate the 77th Anniversary of “Appalachian Spring.”
- “Appalachian Spring” – choreographed by Martha Graham with music by Aaron Copland
- “Immediate Tragedy” – a “lost” ballet originally choreographed by Martha Graham and reimagined by Janet Eilber to music by Christopher Rountree
- West Coast premiere of Andrea Miller’s “Scavengers”
- Martha Graham’s classic “Division of Angels”
The world-famous Martha Graham Dance Company returns to The Soraya with the “most skilled and powerful dancers you can ever hope to see” (“Washington Post”). They bring the piece that NPR called “one of the milestones of the millennium:” “Appalachian Spring,” a celebration of the American spirit on the frontier set to the stirring Pulitzer Prize-winning music of Aaron Copland. Accompanying the dancers LIVE will be Wild Up, Christopher Rountree’s excitingly modern ensemble of classical musicians that play with raucous energy that “The New York Times” calls “irresistibly exuberant.”
The performance also includes “Immediate Tragedy, “originally choreographed by Graham and now considered “lost” and reimagined by Janet Eilber to music by Christopher Rountree. A digital version of “Immediate Tragedy” was commissioned by The Soraya and presented in June 2020 in an ongoing collaboration with Martha Graham Dance Company and the Los Angeles based Wild Up music collective. The November 19 performance at The Soraya also includes the West Coast premiere of Andrea Miller’s new “Scavengers” to music of Will Epstein, and Graham’s classic “Division of Angels” to music of Norman Dello Joio.
Thor Steingraber, The Soraya’s executive and artistic director said, “Martha Graham Dance Company invented 20th century dance as we know it today with works like “Appalachian Spring” and “Division of Angels” and is led by Janet Eilber who continues its legacy. As we celebrate our tenth, one of the collaborations I am most proud of is that between The Soraya, the Graham company, and Wild Up, one of today’s most important new music ensembles, led by Christopher Rountree. Our digital creation of “Immediate Tragedy” in June 2020 was inspired by Martha Graham’s now mostly lost work about the Spanish Civil War. Graham’s own words at the time ‘I was upright and determined to stay upright at all costs’ was inspirational in that moment when the pandemic and Black Lives Matter were dominating the news.”
Steingraber continued, “We are proud that a new creation ‘reimagined’ by Eilber and Rountree, is entering the Graham repertory. Wild Up has been a frequent guest at The Soraya, including participating in “The Age of Adams,” our 70th birthday celebration of John Adams, and inaugurating our intimate on-stage classical performances. And separate from The Soraya, as a result of our introductions, the Graham Company and Rountree collaborated on performances of “Appalachian Spring” and “The Rite of Spring” at Opéra National de Paris.”
As The Soraya starts its eleventh season in Spring 2022, Martha Graham Dance Company and Wild Up return March 19 with the world premiere of “Canticle for Innocent Comedians” to an original score by jazz pianist Jason Moran. This new “Canticle” is Inspired by the themes and format of Graham’s 1952 work, which was built around eight virtuosic vignettes that each celebrated a different aspect of nature and our relationship to it. Though the work was well received there is little record of it and it is considered lost. The new series of vignettes will be created by eight different choreographers of diverse dance backgrounds.
Martha Graham Dance Company
Janet Eilber, Artistic Director
Christopher Rountree, Conductor, Wild Up
“Immediate Tragedy” (solo piano)
“Diversion of Angels”
Friday, November 19 at 8pm
Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya)
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330
More about the program and collaborations between The Soraya, Martha Graham Dance Company and Wild Up
“Appalachian Spring” tells the story of a young frontier couple on their wedding day. Created as the war in Europe was drawing to end, the ballet captured the imagination of Americans who were beginning to believe in a more prosperous future, a future in which men and women would be united again. Themes from American folk culture can be found throughout the dance. Aaron Copland weaves a Shaker tune, “Simple Gifts,” throughout his luminous score, while Martha Graham’s choreography includes square dance patterns, skips and paddle turns and curtsies, even a grand right and left. The spare set by Isamu Noguchi features a Shaker rocking chair. With its tale of a new life in a new land, the dance embodies hope. Critics called Appalachian Spring “shining and joyous,” “a testimony to the simple fineness of the human spirit.”
Previously The Soraya, Wild Up and Martha Graham Dance Company commemorated the 70th Anniversary of “Appalachian Spring,” the centenary of women’s suffrage (the 19th Amendment) with “The EVE Project,” a program choreographed by Pontus Lidberg and Pam Tanowitz — featuring female protagonists and “Chronicle,” Graham’s unforgettable 1936 anti-war masterpiece. In 2017, the three companies presented “Martha Graham and American Music” featuring works by Graham with commissioned scores by Carlos Chavez, and Samuel Barber, and Norman Dello Joio.
In June 2020, The Soraya, Martha Graham Dance Company and Christopher Rountree, acting as composer, premiered a collaborative digital dance to critical acclaim inspired by archival remnants of Graham’s Immediate Tragedy. This program will include the newly reimagined stage version of the solo itself.
Graham created this dance in 1937 in reaction to the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War. We see the woman in “Immediate Tragedy” as a universal figure of determination and finally, resilience. The dance was notable and well received, but when Graham stopped performing it in the late 1930s, the solo was forgotten and considered lost.
Janet Eilber reimagined the choreography for Immediate Tragedy using recently discovered photos of Graham in a 1937 performance, and many other archival references. A new score was created by Christopher Rountree inspired by pages of music hand-written by composer Henry Cowell, which were found in the Graham archives. Martha described her inspiration for this dance in a letter to Cowell, “… whether the desperation lies in Spain or in a memory in our own hearts, it is the same. I felt in that dance I was dedicating myself anew to space, that in spite of violation I was upright and that I was going to stay upright at all costs …”
The company also performs the west coast premiere of choreographer Andrea Miller’s new work “Scavengers,” which has its world premiere October 26 at the Joyce Theatre. The in-demand Miller, known for her visceral and evocative style, has created an intimate work of four duets and one solo., The piece is performed by nine Graham dancers to a soundscape by Miller’s frequent collaborator Will Epstein; costumes are by Oana Botez.
The Soraya evening culminates in the lyrical “Diversion of Angels,” originally titled “Wilderness Stair,” which premiered at the Palmer Auditorium of Connecticut College on August 13, 1948. The title, as well as a set piece designed by Isamu Noguchi suggestive of desert terrain, was discarded after the first performance, and the dance was reconceived as a plotless ballet. “Diversion of Angels “is set to a romantic score by Norman Dello Joio and takes its themes from the infinite aspects of love. The Couple in Red embodies romantic love and “the ecstasy of the contraction”; the Couple in White, mature love; and the Couple in Yellow, a flirtatious and adolescent love.
Martha Graham recalled that when she first saw the work of the modern artist Wassily Kandinsky, she was astonished by his use of color, a bold slash of red across a blue background. She determined to make a dance that would express this. “Diversion of Angels” is that dance, and the Girl in Red, dashing across the stage, is the streak of red paint bisecting the Kandinsky canvas.
The Martha Graham Dance Company has been a world leader in the evolving art form of modern dance since its founding in 1926. Today, the Company is embracing a new programming vision that showcases masterpieces by Graham alongside newly commissioned works by contemporary artists. With programs that offer a rich thematic narrative, the Company creates new platforms for contemporary dance and multiple points of access for audiences.
Since its inception, the Martha Graham Dance Company has received international acclaim from audiences in more than 50 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Russia, and the Middle East. The company has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, the Paris Opera House, Covent Garden, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as well as at the base of the Great Pyramids in Egypt and in the ancient Herod Atticus Theatre on the Acropolis in Athens. In addition, the company has also produced several award-winning films broadcast on PBS and around the world.
The dancers of the Martha Graham Dance Company are So Young An, Alessio Crognale, Laurel Dalley Smith, Natasha M. Diamond Walker, Lloyd Knight, Jacob Larsen, Lloyd Mayor, Marzia Memoli, Anne O’Donnell, Lorenzo Pagano, Anne Souder, Richard Villaverde, Leslie Andrea Williams, and Xin Ying.
About Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya)
The 2021-22 Season marks the 10th Anniversary for the celebrated Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya) located on the vibrant and diverse campus of California State University in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.
Under the leadership of Executive and Artistic Director Thor Steingraber, The Soraya continues its vigorous commitment to innovating, exceling, and amplifying access by offering a wide variety of performances that reflect LA’s many distinctive communities and featuring new and original work from the Los Angeles region as well as artists from around the world. In 2020, The Soraya’s online programs garnered attention from around the globe and from media such as “The New York Times.”
In addition to its LEED Gold certified venue—a rarity among performing arts centers—the 1700-seat Soraya has been nationally recognized for its environmentally sustainable practices and programs.
After enduring a year without live performances, the 2021-22 season will offer a joy-filled reunion featuring a vibrant program of nearly 50 classical and popular music, dance, theater, family, and international events that will further establish The Soraya as one of the top arts companies in Southern California that uplifts and inspires its audiences.