On March 19th, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance showcased three works at Lincoln Center by modern dance pioneers, from 1948 to 2002. This show not only provided a great tribute to Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, but also exemplified the evolution of modern dance over the years.
The first piece, Martha Graham’s “Diversion of Angels”, featured classic Graham elements, including constrictive costumes on the women (leotards with gaucho pants underneath), open arms, walking in circles, and drawing the eye to paired duets. Though Graham might have choreographed angels, I saw the dancers more as fairies forever stuck in autumn, as the men were shirtless with brown pants, and the women were wearing auburn, red, yellow, brown, and white costumes, respectively.
Body and space-wise, Graham loves to incorporate symmetrical spacings between her dancers. Another key element of hers is the usage of stillness, better known in the dance world as stasis. This was evident towards the end of the piece, when two dancers would be moving in the middle while the rest were kneeling around them in a circle, appearing statuesque. Graham really emphasized that every dancer be clearly seen by the viewer, something that Cunningham did not do as well in “Summerspace”, in which dancers were often positioned towards the wings and far apart from each other. Time-wise, her choreography lent itself perfectly to the music. Even though I would not have guessed the title by watching this piece, I still saw a story being told through the intertwining of the movement and music. As mentioned before, the action in “Diversion of Angels”, displayed her famous technical style- open arms, circular motions, and the transferring of weight between partnerships. Energy-wise, the dancers appeared light yet strong, with their landings from leaps being particularly light.
It was interesting to me to notice how balletic these movements appeared, even though modern dance was developed as an antithesis to ballet technique. Only Taylor’s piece, the most recent of the three, clearly stood out as its own form.Seeing as Graham was one of the pioneers of modern dance, perhaps it was more difficult to construct a piece that had light energy that greatly diverted from ballet.