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Martha Graham company has a date at SPAC

Thursday, January 16, 2014
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Xiaochuan Xie dances The Chosen One and Ben Schultz is The Shaman in this performance of Martha Graham Dance Company’s “Rite of Spring.”
Xiaochuan Xie dances The Chosen One and Ben Schultz is The Shaman in this performance of Martha Graham Dance Company’s “Rite of Spring.”

Two iconic Martha Graham works, each marking major anniversaries in 2014, will share the bill on June 12 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

“Appalachian Spring,” created jointly by Graham and composer Aaron Copland in 1944, and “The Rite of Spring,” created in 1984 to Stravinsky’s groundbreaking work, will each have their SPAC debut when the Martha Graham Dance Company returns for a one-night-only engagement. The two classics will be joined by a third to-be-announced new work from the company’s spring season in New York.

The Martha Graham Dance Company is the oldest contemporary dance company in America and one of its most celebrated. Since its founding in 1926, the company has been informed by the expansive vision of pioneering choreographer Graham, who created a new movement language that eventually became the foundation of the modern dance vocabulary.

Ahead of her time

“Martha Graham was a creative genius and an artist truly ahead of her time,” SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia J. White said in a press statement. “ ‘Appalachian Spring’ and ‘The Rite of Spring’ — while very different works — are each considered Graham masterpieces and underscore the breadth of her talents.”

“Appalachian Spring,” marking its 70th anniversary this year, premiered at the Library of Congress on Oct. 30, 1944. Choreographed and composed as the war in Europe was drawing to an end, it captured the imagination of Americans with its simple tale of a new life in a new land. Copland’s score earned him a Pulitzer Prize. The Shaker-themed set was designed by Isamu Noguchi.

Forty years later, when Graham was 90 years old, she presented the world premiere of “The Rite of Spring” at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center to a standing ovation. Choreography for the work was revived last year after a 20-year absence in commemoration of the centennial of Stravinsky’s famous score.

New costumes

The restaged “Rite” features new costumes, inspired by the originals that were created by fashion designer Halston for the 1984 premiere, as well as a new digital set design.

Although the originals had been slated for use in the revival, plans changed after flooding from Hurricane Sandy destroyed the costumes and sets, which were stored in the basement of the company’s headquarters.

 
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