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Martha Matinees: Dark Meadow

Martha Graham Dance Company / New York / Stage

I have been seeing the Martha Graham Dance Company for decades, and I must confess, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the 1946 work Dark Meadow. It sounds Freudian, doesn’t it? A silent twilight expanse in the subconscious. In fact, it is danced to a score that was commissioned in 1942 from Carlos Chávez, a Mexican composer, with the request that he tell the story of Medea. Graham was keen on Medea in those days. Her 1944 masterpiece Appalachian Spring was originally meant to be about Medea. It ended up focusing on a Sunday afternoon in mid-1800s Appalachia. Graham accepted the Chavez score, but complained that “this music is without stage awareness.” Rather than attempt the Medea myth, she made Dark Meadow, a dance that has mystified audiences and critics, but holds a powerful place in the repertory. It is iconic in its roles: She Who Seeks, He Who Summons, She of the Ground; the ensemble is They Who Dance Together. Agnes de Mille called it “astonishing,” and writes in her 1991 biography Martha, “What is the ballet about? No critic has brought this point out, but in a sense Dark Meadow was Martha’s first version of Le Sacre du Printemps. The dedicated victim, the Chosen One, is the artist.” This program, with clips of Graham dancing the role of She Who Seeks, plus a performance of the current company in Dark Meadow Suite, is now online for permanent viewing. —L.J.

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Martha Graham Dance Company 55 Bethune St, New York, NY 10014, USA
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