MARTHA GRAHAM STILL LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
“I’d rather go on than go back . . . than sit in a rocking chair and cry about or recall what’s past,” Martha Graham said a few days ago, in looking ahead to the 60th anniversary season of the Martha Graham Dance Company.
In fact, the season, which is due to open here May 27 with a three-week engagement at City Center, is to include three rare solos danced by Graham in the earliest part of her long career. They are: “Incense,” a 1906 dance by one of Graham’s greatest influences, Ruth St. Denis; Ted Shawn’s “Serenata Morisca,” in which Graham made her professional performing debut in 1921 with the Denishawn company; and Graham’s “Tanagra,” which she performed in her own company’s debut program in 1926.
However, in addition to these and revivals of well-known Graham works, the coming season also is to include two world premieres--set to the music of Bela Bartok and Norwegian composer Klaus Egge--and, according to Graham, “different from anything I’ve done before, stronger and more energetic.”
After a scheduled European tour this summer, the Graham company is due to tour this country in the fall, with a scheduled appearance in Los Angeles, at Royce Hall, UCLA, on Nov. 8 and 9.
Graham, 91, announced the 60th season at a press conference Thursday in a Spartan studio of the Graham Center for Contemporary Dance. It was the eve of the anniversary of her company’s first performance, on April 18, 1926, at New York’s 48th Street Theater.
Although Graham humorously referred to the prospect of meeting the press as “terrorizing,” she was at ease in recalling her early days with St. Denis and Shawn and her evolution into the more dramatic style with which she is associated. Of St. Denis, whose work Graham first saw as a young girl living in Santa Barbara, she said: “The discipline, the professionalism, the mystery, caught me, and I was caught forever.
"(But) I had to have something else to dance about ,” said Graham. “I knew I was a rebel, and I was called a revolutionary--although I wasn’t trying to shatter anything, only to build something else. I didn’t set out as an evangelist seeking to send a message, but to simply make the great energy that is life pass through me as best I could. I had such confidence in myself.
“This is what I want from my dancers today,” she added, “to be grounded firmly in a technique, but not to be imitations of me.”
Graham, who also reflected on the current state of the world, said the young, “energetic” dancers in her company had inspired her to try to explore “the truth of the time” in the two works to be seen in the new season.
“There are things that are almost outside the realm of dance, but they are what is in the world today--the surge, the restlessness, the need to live completely that I think all our young people feel.
“This is a precarious time,” Graham said, referring both to the economic pressures on the arts and to world tensions.
Noting that she would not want to embark on the company’s scheduled European tour if world tensions remain at their current heights, Graham said: “We are all deeply affected (by the current situations). We fear for ourselves, for life, for our own future.”