People, people, people –
Get to PTDC to see Martha Graham’s Diversion of Angels danced to the most exquisite interpretation of Norman Dello Joio’s score by the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and you will fall in love again. It is, after all, Martha’s ode to love: young love, hot love, mature love. The foremother of Paul Taylor’s company could not have wished for a better safe in which to stash her gold.
Haglund became acquainted with this dance long after the original interpreters left the Graham company. Some 30 years ago, the statuesque Peggy Lyman as the woman in The Couple in White brought such balletic tone and dramatic depth to the idea of mature love that it almost made one want to bypass the other two types of love. Peggy and Suzanne Farrell were/are the best ballet dancers ever to come out of Cincinnati. (She was Peggy Moerner in those days and embodied technique and style that reminded everyone in town of Cynthia Gregory.) Here are two Martha Swope photos of her in Diversion - click on each for a better view:
Last night Laura Halzack and Michael Trusnovec were wonderful as The Couple in White representing mature love. The style was easy on them and on the rest of the cast – all of it seeming so natural because they were, in a sense, going back to their roots. The strong body cores, the contract and release of the dancers’ centers, and the generous spiraling of their spines has always been indigenous to their home style. Mr. Taylor’s style will forever be linked to and reflect Martha Graham’s, but it mostly saves us from the angst and heavy moods that permeated so much of her work.
The Couple in Red (Parisa Khobdeh and Sean Mahoney) and The Couple in Yellow (Eran Bugge - a former student of Peggy Lyman, and Michael Novak) offered pitch-perfect characterizations of their erotic love and young love, respectively. Ms. Khobdeh was all ready-for-anything in her hot red dress. Her glide steps – those steps that look like fast crosscountry skiing – sizzled, and her sideways penches with arms extended were striking images. The ensemble dancers Michelle Fleet, Heather McGinley (a former Graham dancer), Christina Lynch Markham and the Fourth Man George Smallwood (a former Graham dancer who, over the past year, has found new and vibrant technical strength) all brought tremendous life, energy, and neatness to their phrases.
We wish that Mr. Taylor would ignore Alastair Irrelevant’s obnoxious knocks for including quotations in program notes and print the Ben Belitt poem that was the source of inspiration for Graham’s masterpiece. Belitt, a New York poet, was a fan of Graham’s and she of his poetry. In fact, Diversion of Angels premiered under the title Wilderness Stair in reference to a Belitt collection. We’re going to help out here on the blog and give you the verse, although we’re not sure of the line breaks:
“It is the place of the Rock and Ladder, the raven, the blessing, the tempter, the rose. It is the wish of the single-hearted, the undivided; play after the spirit’s labor; games, flights, fancies, configurations of the lover’s intention; the believed Possibility, at once strenuous and tender; humors of innocence, garlands, evangels, Joy on the wilderness stair; diversion of angels.”
We could not be more happy to see this dance live on and thrive at PTDC. To see it performed to music so lovingly conducted by Donald York was heavenly.
Last night’s program included Three Dubious Memories, a 2010 Taylor creation wherein two men fight over a woman and eventually discover that they, sans the woman, were made for each other. She returns to find them together and has a little hissy fit. Sean Mahoney, Robert Kleinendorst, and Eran Bugge were the trio supported by James Samson’s major contribution of dance power and drama as the Choirmaster.
The latest Taylor documentary, Creative Domain, covers the creation of this work. From the documentary, one did not get the feeling that this work had all the comic elements in it that were apparent last night. It was that same wonderful mix of darkness, lightness, humor (both dark & light) all shining through purposeful and delightful choreography.
The program closed with Spindrift, a 1993 composition that Taylor preambles in the program with John Donne’s famous quote “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of main…” Michael Trusnovec was the featured artist - his assigned choreography was rippling with difficulty, tension, drama and at times a sense of resignation as he bent to his knee in a profile that reminded one of a Rodin sculpture. The dance opened to the sound of ocean waves spraying as they were blown by winds followed by Schoenberg’s String Quartet Concerto (after Handel) played beautifully by four members of the Orchestra of St. Lukes.
Ensemble members often approached Trusnovec trying to engage him but then disappeared. Madelyn Ho, who reminds us more and more of Mary Cochran every time we see her, seemed to make the strongest contact with our protagonist. Haglund doesn’t really know what this dance is about but its content coupled with the Schoenberg and the sound of waves has always tended to leave him somewhat emotionally spent.
We are having the best time at PTDC this season, and there’s lots more delight to come. On a somewhat related note, the restoration of the gardens in Damrosch Park continues. More trees and shrubs were delivered this week. A while back we mentioned that it would be so great to see an ice skating rink in front of the bandshell during December instead of the circus. We probably won’t get our way, but we happened to notice that the evergreen grassy shrubs being planted are named “Ice Dance” — just sayin', maybe there’s someone else out there on our side.
Take a look at the park on your next visit to Lincoln Center which hopefully will include either next Wednesday or the final Sunday when the company once again dances Diversion of Angels – recipient of the H.H. Pump Bump Award: