Northrop Dance at the University of Minnesota brings the 50th anniversary production of Clytemnestra from the Martha Graham Dance Company. Demonstrating Graham's pioneering approach to time and space on stage, the psychodrama is deemed a masterpiece of 20th Century American modernism. Using her longtime collaborator, Isamu Noguchi (a legend in Japanese/American sculpture), the shapes and structures of the set evoke the inner spaces of mind and memory, accentuating the dramatic emotional action. This production also features the modernist sounds of Egyptian composer Halim El-Dabh and classic lighting by Jean Rosenthal.
Clytemnestra is Graham's only full-evening work, with three acts, and a cast of 21 dancers bringing to life classic characters Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, Electra, Orestes, Cassandra, Iphigenia, and Helen of Troy. The piece premiered at the Adelphi Theater in New York City on April 1, 1958. Critic John Martin called it "an epic full evening work by a modern master." Told from the perspective of Clytemnestra, the Queen of Mycenae, it unfolds like the rivers of blood that flowed from generation to generation in the doomed House of Atreus.
For Graham, the action took place in the theater of the mind. Moving back and forth across time and space, Clytemnestra relives scenes of betrayal, revenge, murder, and finally reconciliation, in a dance that ends as it begins in the Underworld. She remembers the events that have brought her to this moment in time; the seduction of her sister Helen by Paris of Troy, the armies of her husband Agamemnon and Menelaus, husband of Helen, that gather at Aulis to set sail but were stalled; the brutal sacrifice of her beloved daughter Iphigenia, by Agamemnon, exacted as the prIce The Gods demanded for changing the winds and allowing the army to set forth. She imagines the rape of the women of Troy and sees Helen, walking the battlements, watching it from above. The dance then shifts to the present where Clytemnestra, left alone at Mycenae, rules "like a man," taking a lover and plotting her revenge against Agamemnon. When he returns victorious from Troy, she seduces him, then leads him into the royal palace where she murders him. Cassandra, the mistress he has brought back with him from Troy, shrieks the prophecy of his death and of her own. Having the gift of infallible prophecy, Cassandra is cursed because no one who hears her believes her.
Although it relives this bloody path, Clytemnestra is about rebirth and redemption. The Queen and the piece as a whole demand answers from the Gods themselves - answers to questions that loom today: how can the bloodshed, the generational offenses, the cycle of revenge be ended? What responsibility does the individual have to the greater good? How can the past be forgiven, redeemed and reborn in future generations who can build anew?
Thu, Nov 12 from 6:45 - 7:15 pm
All ticket holders are invited to attend a performance preview between Northrop Director, Ben Johnson and Artistic Director, Janet Eilber will be held in the basement of Northrop in Studio Four from. Seating limited to capacity.
About the Company
Founded in 1926 by dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, The Martha Graham Dance Company is the oldest and most celebrated contemporary dance company in America.
Since its inception, the Martha Graham Dance Company has received international acclaim from audiences in over 50 countries. 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 of Egypt and in the ancient Herod Atticus Theatre on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. In addition, the company has also produced several award-winning films broadcast on PBS and around the world.
Though Martha Graham herself is the best-known alumna of her company, having danced from the company's inception until the late 1960s, the company has provided a training ground for some of modern dance's most illustrious performers and choreographers. Former members of the company include Merce Cunningham, ERick Hawkins, Pearl Lang, Elisa Monte, Paul Taylor, and Pascal Rioult. Among celebrities who have joined the company in performances are Mikhail Baryshnikov, Liza Minnelli, Katherin Turner, Margot Fonteyn, and Betty Bloomer (who later became better known as First Lady Betty Ford). The Martha Graham Dance Company has commissioned works from Twyla Tharp, Robert Wilson, Susan Stroman, Lucinda Childs, and Maurice Bejart, which have been enthusiastically received by audiences and critics worldwide.
Martha Graham | Founder
Born in 1893 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Martha Graham is recognized as a seminal artist of the 20th Century. In 1998, TIME Magazine namEd Graham as the Dancer of the Century, and People Magazine named her among the female "Icons of the Century." As a choreographer, she was as prolific as she was complex. She created 181 ballets and a dance technique that has been compared to ballet in its scope and magnitude.
Graham founded her dance company and school in 1926, living and working out of a tiny Carnegie Hall studio in midtown Manhattan. In developing her technique, she experimented endlessly with basic human movement, beginning with the most elemental movements of contraction and release. Using these principles as the foundation for her technique, she built a vocabulary of movement that would "increase the emotional activity of the dancer's body." Graham's dancing and choreography exposed the depths of human emotion through movements that were sharp, angular, jagged, and direct. The dance world was forever altered by Graham's vision; it continues to be a source of inspiration for dance and theatre artists.
From 1929 to 1938, Graham worked with an all-female company, refining her technique and crafting her approach to choreography under the demanding gaze of her mentor and lover, the composer Louis Horst. Early work reflected a decorative style, but later transformed to reflect her commitment to the contemporary world. She then created classic works during her years with Horst, and was later influenced by Fascism and world conflicts, reflecting her fears for the world.
In 1938, the company expanded to include men; ERick Hawkins, who would later become Graham's husband, was the first. The arrival of the male protagonist permittEd Graham to experiment with dramatic narrative in her choreography. Between 1938 and 1944, Graham composed a number of works exploring the American condition, with influences from Emily Dickinson poetry and the three Brontë sisters. This era was followed by her Greek mythological work. Clytemnestra was created in this period, demonstrating her mastery of total world theater, synthesizing elements of classical eastern theater forms such as Noh and Kabuki, while making the experience of the female protagonist central.
As an artist, Graham conceived each new work in its entirety - dance, costumes, and music. Over her 70 years of creating dances, Graham collaborated with such artists as sculptor Isamu Noguchi; actor and director John Houseman; fashion designer Calvin Klein; and renowned composers including Aaron Copland, Louis Horst, and William Schuman.