The Martha Graham Dance Company will celebrate its first season at the New York State Theatre with a gala opening night benefit on February 28 highlighted by the world premiere of Martha Graham’s “The Rite of Spring.” The Graham season will run from February 28-March 18.
Marking the Company’s 58th New York City engagement, the three-week State Theater season, a major event in the tribute year to Martha Graham, will present a panoramic view of Miss Graham’s classics created over the past fifty-four years—from 1930-1984.
“The Rite of Spring” represents Miss Graham’s first use of a Stravinsky score, although Miss Graham herself danced the role of the Chosen One in the American premiere of the Nijinsky ballet in 1930. The opening night gala benefit, which will also include “Seraphic Dialogue” (1955) and “Acts of Light” (1981), will be chaired by Mrs. Gerald R. Ford; Halston; Liza Minnelli and Gregory Peck.
On the following evening (February 29), the Graham Company will present the first American performance of “Phaedra’s Dream,” which had its world premiere at the Athens Festival last July. The eroticism of Miss Graham’s first “Phaedra” ballet in 1962 sent shock waves through certain government circles inciting two U.S Representatives to suggest that censors ought to prevent such overtly sexual works from United States cultural export. Life Magazine reacted with an article headlined: “Is Martha Too Sexy for Export?” What was Miss Graham’s response? Twenty-one years later she has choreographed yet another “Phaedra” ballet in which she the Phaedra tale fraught with as much sexuality and poetry as the original; except rather than a group dance, this time Miss Graham has chosen to focus on the love triangle of Phaedra and two men: Hippolytus and The Stranger. The original Phaedra music was by Starer; “Phaedra’s Dream” uses music by George Crumb. The scenery is by Isamu Noguchi, and the costumes by Halston, who commissioned the new ballet.
Rudolph Nureyev, who will have made his debut in the work during the Graham Company’s performances at the Paris Opera this month (January), will perform the work during the Company’s third and final week at the State Theater. Nureyev’s first performance is scheduled for March 13, the night of the Company’s second benefit, an event chaired by Mia Farrow and former Graham student Woody Allen.
Graham Classics scheduled for revival this season include the full-evening “Clytemnestra,” which was first performed in 1958, as well s “Deaths and Entrances,” premiered in 1943; “Diversion of Angels,” premiered in 1948; and “Embattled Garden,” which was first performed in 1958. The season will also include “Cave of the Heart” (1946); “Andromache’s Lament” (1982); and “Primitive Mysteries” (1930).