Nov. 5, 2007

Fall Dance Concert to feature
Martha Graham's “Primitive Mysteries”

DALLAS (SMU) – The Meadows Dance Ensemble at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts will present its Fall Dance Concert Nov. 7-11, featuring Primitive Mysteries, a 1931 masterwork by Martha Graham; End of Time Pas de Deux by Texas Ballet Theater Artistic Director Ben Stevenson; and the premiere of Umbra, a new work set to Duke Ellington music by faculty member Danny Buraczeski.

See related student blog from Sarah, one of the dancers.
The Dallas Morning News: Yuriko teaches Martha Graham masterpiece

The concert will be in the Bob Hope Theatre of the Owen Arts Center on the SMU campus. The performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for students, SMU faculty and staff. Free parking is available at Hillcrest and Binkley or in the garage under the Meadows Museum. To purchase tickets, call 214-768-2787.

In addition, a public panel discussion titled “Graham and Primitive Mysteries” will be held on Saturday, Nov. 10 from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Bob Hope Theatre. The panel discussion is free, and no tickets are required. Participants include:

  • Clive Barnes, former dance and theatre critic for The New York Times and currently dance and drama critic at the New York Post and a consulting editor for Dance Magazine
  • Mindy Aloff, former dance critic for The Nation and The New Republic and noted author and dance historian
  • Yuriko Kikuchi, former principal dancer and associate artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company and currently a leader in the preservation of Graham repertoire
  • Greg Presley, former Music Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company
  • Myra Woodruff, chair of the SMU Division of Dance
  • Shelley Berg, SMU dance professor and dance historian

Primitive Mysteries is considered by many to be Martha Graham’s greatest dance. Critic Marcia Siegel wrote, “Nothing in dance today remotely approaches the rigor and intensity of the vision in Primitive Mysteries.” The work was inspired by Graham’s exposure to the myths and rituals of the Indians of the American Southwest in 1931, and celebrates the coming of age of a young girl. Each of the work’s three sections, “Hymn to the Virgin,” “Crucifixus” and “Hosanna,” are linked by a processional, a favorite Graham choreographic device.

The dance cultivates an air of the timelessness associated with ritual. The Virgin, originally danced by Graham herself, is dressed in white, and interacts with her acolytes in a series of “living tableaus,” reminiscent of archaic icons and stylized primitivist art. The dancers serve as instruments of the “divine message” they are acting out. Seventy years after it was written, the work’s compelling originality and energy remain fresh.

The performance will be accompanied live by a trio led by pianist Greg Presley, former Music Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and will feature guest artist Jenny Rosanne Gillan, a 2007 SMU Dance graduate now performing in New York. Primitive Mysteries is presented as part of the 80th anniversary celebration of the Martha Graham Dance Company, America’s oldest dance company, and was made possible by a Meadows Foundation Grant and the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpiece: Dance initiative administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts with Dance/USA.

Ben Stevenson’s passionate pas de deux, End of Time, is set to Rachmaninoff’s lyrical Third Movement, Sonata in G minor, Opus 19, for Cello and Piano. The work suggests the connection between the last man and woman on earth. It was originally performed by Li Cunxin and Martha Butler at the 1984 International Ballet Competition in Tokyo, where both dancers received silver medals for their performances and Ben Stevenson his third gold medal for choreography. End of Time is a popular work and has been performed by numerous dance companies worldwide.

The Fall Dance Concert will conclude with Umbra, a dynamic new work that surges with life, mystery and rhythmic power, choreographed for four couples by faculty member Danny Buraczeski. It is based on two suites by Duke Ellington, The Afro Eurasian Eclipse and Latin American Suite, and will be accompanied live by the Meadows Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of jazz trumpeter Akira Sato.

“Duke Ellington was undoubtedly one of the greatest composers of the 20th century,” said Buraczeski. “The music we have chosen was composed during the last decade of his life, when he traveled abroad more extensively than ever before. It is exciting, impressionistic and exotic. Ellington never attempted to reinterpret the musical forms indigenous to the countries he visited; instead, he reproduced musically the impressions made upon him, translating them into music in his unique fashion.”

The 2007-08 Main Stage Theatre and Dance Season at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts is sponsored by The Dallas Morning News.

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