Vision, Faith, & Desire: Dancemakers Inspired by Martha Graham was a year long project honoring and celebrating Martha Graham, who was arguably the greatest modern dance choreographer of the 20th century.
In collaboration with Lizzie Leopold and the Leopold Group, we presented 3 major events in 4 venues and showcased the work of 12 midwest artists. Over 1,000 people attended these events, which included 7 performances, 7 premiere dances, including two new Lamentation Variations, 2 master classes, and 2 film premieres.
We are eternally grateful to the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance and Graham Company Artistic Director Janet Eilber for letting us take our idea and run with it.
Here is a summation of our amazing year exploring the influence of Martha Graham:
Vision, Faith & Desire I
September 27 – 29
Ruth Page Center, Chicago
Featured Artists: Ayako Kato, Lizzie Leopold, Winifred Haun
Lisa Thurrell, and Peter Sparling
Saturday, September 28 at Ruth Page Center
Graham master class taught by Lisa Thurrell
Sunday, September 29 at Northwestern University
World premiere of Peter Sparling’s film “Last Man at Willow Run”
Vision, Faith, & Desire II
February 6 – 9
Jay Pritzker Pavillion Theater in Millennium Park, Chicago
Featured artists: Randy Duncan, Jeff Hancock, Winifred Haun, Lizzie Leopold, and Paul Sansardo
Vision, Faith, & Desire III
April 12 & 13
Pleasant Home, Oak Park
Featured artists: Randy Duncan, Michael Estanich & Lucy Riner, Winifred Haun, Deb Goodman & Yuriko
Film by: Xan Burley & Alex Springer
Vision, Faith & Desire (VFD) began in early 2013 as a collaborative venture between Winifred Haun and Lizzie Leopold. The project’s goal was to provide a platform for artists to situate their choreographic voices within the rich historical lineage of modern dance. VFD II & III represented a continuation of this goal by presenting additional artists who are a part of a lineage to the technique and choreography of modern dance’s iconic leader, Martha Graham. In its September 2013 and February 2014 events, VFD had sold-out performances and garnered great critical acclaim, including features in the Huffington Post, WTTW’s new Artbeat: Inside the Arts Blog, Dance Teacher magazine, RogueBallerina.com, and many others.
Peter Sparling’s video-dance Patient Spider takes its title from Walt Whitman’s poem “A Noiseless Patient Spider,” evoking a soul’s yearning and ceaseless adventuring. Suspended on this tensile web of human movement and emotion, Sparling’s use of the digital medium simultaneously showcases his immense skills as performer, choreographer, videographer and video editor. Having served as Martha Graham’s choreographic assistant, Sparling’s technological embrace brings an important choreographic voice into a contemporary focus.
Winifred Haun, having studied with Graham master teacher Harriet Ross, Randy Duncan and others, premiered Don’t Linger Too Long, an episodic group work that traverses the expanses between Graham’s abstract narrative brand of modernism and the postmodern legacy of her most famous defector, Merce Cunningham. Straddling this boundary, Haun’s work reveals the interpersonal relationships innate to any movement construction. Like a collection of short stories, Don’t Linger Too Long is a beautiful compilation of seemingly disparate moments.
Lizzie Leopold, a student of Peter Sparling, premiered The Near Future, a trio work influenced by Graham’s use of stark and dramatic design elements. The Near Future finds the choreographic utility in linearity, color contrast, and props. With the steady, building repetition of Ravel’s Bolero, the wave-like charge and retreat of the choreography points to the tricky temporality of a dance history. The Near Future is always, almost here.
Ayako Kato, a graduate student of Peter Sparling, presented a solo work that is a part of her Untitled series. Digging into the human unconsciousness to reveal the simplicity of human existence, the dance is balanced precariously between composition and improvisation, like each moment in life.
Lisa Thurrell, former dancer with the Graham Company and co-Artistic Director of Kanopy Dance, presented The Maw, a group work premiered in 1997 and hailed by critics as “soulfully fearless.” During the Middle Ages the Maw, into which lost souls were led on Judgement Day, was an elaborate station constructed just outside of the church. Just as Graham often drew on historical, mythic, and religious stories for thematic or narrative structure, Thurrell’s work is an homage to this mythic abstraction and modernist aesthetic.
In association with and using the creative structure provided by The Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, Lizzie Leopold choreographed a new “Lamentation Variation.” Begun in 2007 as a tribute to the victims of 9/11, the Lamentation Variation Project invites choreographers to create short works inspired by Graham’s iconic 1930 solo Lamentation. Following the Graham Center’s choreographic guidelines, Leopold will create a short group work using the dancers of Leopold Group and Winifred Haun & Dancers.
Randy Duncan presented his award winning solo “Love Not Me,” choreographed in 1988 for Winifred Haun. Love Not Me is arguably Mr. Duncan’s most Graham-like work. It features a woman on a chair expressing anger, grief and psychological despair. Mr. Duncan studied Graham technique with Graham master teacher Harriet Ross.
Jeff Hancock, who studied Graham technique with former Graham Principal David Hochoy, choreographed and danced in his new solo, “Quilting Martha,” created especially for VFDII. Quilting Martha explores themes of isolation and is inspired by Graham’s use of costume and fabric as theatrical devices.
Winifred Haun re-staged an excerpt of her award winning full length work, “Promise.” Promise is inspired by John Steinbeck’s novel “East of Eden,” and will feature Company members plus 12 other dancers of all ages. Promise uses an opening sequence of Graham walks to illustrate the many dimensions of community and family. Ms. Haun studied Graham technique with Graham master teacher Harriet Ross and Randy Duncan.
Lizzie Leopold, a student of former Graham principal dancer, Peter Sparling, presented a solo, “Aftermath,” which premiered in 2005. Set to music by Arvo Part, Aftermath is a solo in the truest sense of the word, exploring ideas of solitude, scarcity, and longing.
Paul Sansardo Dancers, a dance company directed by former Graham principal dancer, Paul Sansardo, premiered a new trio “The Last Messenger,” choreographed and danced by Company member David von Ehrlicher. The work features Chicago dancers Amy Tye and Christina Eltvedt and music by Chinese American composer Zhou Long. The Company will also present a solo, “Youth of Asterion,” danced and choreographed by Mr. von Ehrlicher to music by composer Edgar Varese.
Randy Duncan reprised his award winning solo “Love Not Me,” choreographed in 1988 for Winifred Haun. Love Not Me is arguably Mr. Duncan’s most Graham-like work. It features a woman on a chair expressing anger, grief and psychological despair to original music by composer Allan Segall. Mr. Duncan studied Graham technique with Graham master teacher Harriet Ross.
Deborah Goodman, former dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, performed the award winning solo “Cry,” choreographed by Graham’s long time principal dancer Yuriko. Cry was created in 1963 and expresses feelings of monumental loss and grief. Cry will be performed in the large entranceway of Pleasant Home.
Winifred Haun re-staged her 2013 group work, “Don’t Linger Too Long,” in the dining room at Pleasant Home. Don’t Linger is an episodic group work that traverses the expanses between Graham’s dramatic modernism and the postmodern abstractions of Merce Cunningham. Straddling this boundary, Haun’s work reveals the interpersonal relationships innate to any movement construction. Ms. Haun studied Graham technique with Graham master teacher Harriet Ross and Randy Duncan.
RE/Dance presented their critically acclaimed work “Homeland” in the circular porch area. Choreographed and danced by RE/Dance Artistic Directors Lucy Riner and Michael Estanich, Homeland tells the story of a complicated relationship, driven by love but overwhelmed by obligation. Ms. Riner studied Graham technique in the 1990’s with Winifred Haun.
Alex Springer and Xan Burley premiered their newest dance film, “Horse.” Horse features 33 women traveling through a series of forgotten trails at the outer edges of Brooklyn, NY. The film is dedicated to the exquisite passage of a female mass through an ethereal site. Horse will be presented in the library. Ms. Springer and Mr. Burley were students of Graham principal dancer Peter Sparling.
In association with and using the creative structure provided by The Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, Winifred Haun choreographed a new Lamentation Variation. Begun in 2007 as a tribute to the victims of 9/11, the Lamentation Variation Project invites choreographers to create short works inspired by Graham’s iconic 1930 solo Lamentation. Following the Graham Center’s choreographic guidelines, Ms. Haun will create a short trio work exploring the grief and angst experienced by typical 11-13 year old children.