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Dance review: Larger-than-life Martha Graham personified in layered performance

Published on Aug 22, 2014 12:27 PM
 

Dance history as meticulous drag act, Martha@... The 1963 Interview reveals volumes about the late modern dance doyenne Martha Graham. This re-enactment of a 1963 conversation between Graham and dance critic and historian Walter Terry is based on an audio recording discovered in New York in 2010.

Graham's larger-than-life diva persona is perfect drag material, along with the exaggerated makeup, impeccable high bun and long velvet robe. But performing artist Richard Move plays her with the careful calibration of a long-time devotee, giving life to Graham's pregnant pauses and meanderings in the interview. Through the imitation of the solipsistic lilt of her speaking voice, Move captures a hint of the late pioneer's essence - visionary at times, seemingly ludicrous at others.

Move himself has mentioned that the interview text is a brilliant, rare find. Terry's questioning evinces an ardent fan enamoured by Graham's presence. Actress Lisa Kron, also in drag as Terry is inevitably overshadowed, but nevertheless provides much of the work's humour in her posing of Terry's long questions and encouraging applause from the audience.

Graham is led to analyse the dizzying array of characters in her oeuvre and the motivations behind her movement. A contraction is "an entire enfolding of the body" rather than a button-push reaction in the navel. The conversation is esoteric at times, but that is to be expected of Graham speaking of herself. Dancers Catherine Cabeen and Suzzanne Ponomarenko perform excerpts of Graham's work, serving as a reminder of how new her choreography must have been to audiences decades ago.

 
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