How do dancers continue to perform together without a stage or studio? For Martha Graham Dance Company, one answer has been to enter into a digital stage, where the performers and viewers can share the same virtual space.
Earlier this week, the famed modern dance company released a video titled “Sharing the Light,” composed of snippets from company members in self-isolation collaged together. The video, posted Sunday, features excerpts of Martha Graham’s 1981 “Acts of Light,” set to music composed by Carl Nielson. The three-act piece, according to the Graham website, “celebrates the dancer as an exquisite instrument of expression.”
The dance company created the at-home performance to raise money for the Martha Graham Dancer Relief Fund, a crowdsourced initiative established to help see the performers through the COVID-19 closures. Earlier this month, Graham canceled tours, studio sessions and its highly-anticipated 2020 season at New York City Center.
“Our tours and beloved New York City season have been canceled/postponed with many challenges and uncertainties ahead, leaving us without the steady income we heavily rely on to survive,” the company said on its GoFundMe page. “In order to continue our dedication to the arts and its vibrant community, we humbly ask for your aid during these turbulent times.”
Along with the emergency relief fund, the company launched a series of online programs, including a host of Graham technique classes to be taught by dance members on Instagram Monday through Saturday. “Hoping to unite Graham dancers worldwide,” the site reads, “we want to continue to move, breath, and express through these difficult times.”
Another component of the company’s new online efforts is “Martha Matinees.” Billed as an “interactive viewing experience” and hosted by Artistic Director Janet Eilber, the series draws from the Graham Archives to present a curated slate of films every Wednesday and Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on the company’s YouTube channel. The matinee program kicks off this Saturday with four films that explore the Martha Graham technique. Eilber will be joined by Oliver Tobin, director of Martha Graham Resources, to discuss the works with viewers who join the live chat.
The company is also continuing its “19 Poses for the 19th Amendment” Instagram challenge. To participate, simply pick a famous Graham pose and share your recreation with the hashtags #19poses and #marthagraham. Find some inspiration for the challenge (which runs through Aug. 18) below.
Top Image: Martha Graham, "Deaths and Entrances." Photo by Cris Alexander.