In Motion

S1 E4 | FULL EPISODE

Martha Graham Dance Company at LIU Post

Join LIU Post dance students as they take on “Panorama”—a major work by groundbreaking modernist Martha Graham. It’s a crash course on the legend’s choreography and technique in this special arts residency.

AIRED: April 03, 2019 | 0:26:47
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TRANSCRIPT

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[ Drum rhythms play ]

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[ Up-tempo classical music plays ]

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Kikuchi: Change.

Ball change, change.

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And 5 and 6 and 7, 8.

Cara sent the e-mail over the summer,

and she was like, "We're having an amazing opportunity

to do residency with the Martha Graham Company."

Honestly, I cried.

I was like, "Wow. That is so awesome."

Kikuchi: 6, 2, 3, 4, and 5...

Ms. Graham is probably

one of the most important choreographers

of the 20th century.

So many people don't remember what she did,

how innovative she was,

what exactly her discoveries were

because they've been so absorbed

into dance and theater worldwide.

She was a very deep person,

and none of her dances were really frivolous.

And as a woman choreographer was a real pioneer.

[ Classical music plays ]

[ Drum rhythms play ]

Hi, I'm Cara Gargano,

chair of the Department of Theater, Dance, and Arts Management.

You know, there are a lot of dance schools

in the universities in the world

that have dance programs,

And, so, you know, I would say that the competition

can be somewhat fierce for really good dancers.

We've had the opportunity to have master classes

from some of the most major companies in the world --

Alvin Ailey Company and Dance Theater of Harlem,

of course, the Graham Company,

and all sorts of wonderful opportunities for our dancers.

The company will be rehearsing on our Tilles Center stage

throughout the semester,

so we are never losing sight of them.

We are going to stay with them

and they are going to stay with us

really for 3 months.

Sometimes it's easier

just to take it from the beginning,

but we'll get to know each other,

and you'll tell me.

The company will be setting a piece on us,

which is very special.

So we'll have a legacy piece

from one of Graham's earliest works.

And when they suggested doing "Panorama,"

I was so excited

because that was, of course,

one that I have longed for over the years.

[ Dramatic music plays ]

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My name is Susan Kikuchi.

I knew Martha all my life.

My mother joined

the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1944.

I'm on faculty.

I've been in the company,

and I often go to re-create works

for the Graham Company.

5, 6, hold, hold, 4,

change 3, hold 4, 5, 6,

change, 7, 8.

We go and we audition the students

to perform a work of Martha Graham,

and then we are responsible for putting the piece together.

-9 here. -16.

Here.

-7. -2.

Not a lot of colleges, like, get the opportunity

to be able to dance with, like, a professional dance company.

Up, 2, 3, 4, 5, up, 2, 3, 4.

To be able to learn one of their legacy pieces

and perform it onstage with them,

It's really incredible.

I think it's very important

because, especially as a dancer, networking is important.

So to be able to get the experience

with the Graham Company

and, like, have that in my pocket

and be able to say,

"Hey, you know, I danced with the Graham Company once,"

like, people recognize that.

People will know, like, "Oh, that's real serious.

Like, she really wants to dance."

So it's very important to me

to be able to present myself as that person.

Kikuchi: It's 90 degrees.

You're gonna go relevé, lengthen,

relevé, lengthen, relevé...

Gargano: Residency starts, essentially,

with this introduction to the Graham Company,

the Graham technique,

but also the history of the Graham Company

and Graham's aesthetic

and Graham's sense of political engagement,

which I think is terribly important right now.

"Panorama" was a dance for all women.

We have a fabulous dance from 1936

with a great anti-war statement

that was a cast of all women.

This was only 16 years

after we got the right to vote in this country,

so when she was making --

She created works that had a political voice,

that had a psychological voice,

that really allowed women to speak out on subjects

in the 1930s and '40s

that they wouldn't have using words.

She would often have you

enter into the mind of the lead character.

Eilber: I'm helping kick off this wonderful residency at LIU,

just talking to them about Martha.

She was determined to find this style of dancing

that would reveal our inner selves,

and she began to study how we move,

how we react,

how we hold our bodies when we're...

when we laugh or cry, when we're bored,

when we're agitated.

And she, through this study, found a completely new approach.

I think they're kind of amazed at her genius.

I mean, she really developed

a completely new style of dancing.

"Lamentation" starts with the figure just leaning forward

with her elbows on her knees and shaking her head, "No."

And that no --

You can let that rock your body a little bit.

So that's where you start, number one.

And then she went on to innovate

in terms of costuming and lighting design.

She taught at The Neighborhood Playhouse.

There's a whole generation of American actors

from Bette Davis to Gregory Peck

that say Martha Graham changed their lives.

So there are just some remarkable discoveries

that students and other people

who don't really remember what Martha Graham did

are kind of astonished at

what an amazing genius woman she was.

Stretch away, stretch away, stretch away, way away.

Hiraldo: Graham is so, like, contraction-heavy

and, like, athletic,

and it's like, always be thinking, like,

"Okay, I have to stay engaged,

but I can't be too engaged.

I can't be stiff.

I have to be calm and breathing but engaged."

Like, it's a lot going on mentally.

But, like, once it's in your body,

it feels so natural.

Stay, like, as down as you can here.

Travel, do your jump.

Gargano: One of our musical-theater students

is doing her thesis on women choreographers,

particularly in the 20th century,

and came to me to talk to me

about the possibility of focusing on Graham.

And I said, "Well, now that you mention it,

we're having this wonderful opportunity."

So she's actually in there taking the master class.

The goal is to create a thesis performance piece

based off of females in modern dance,

but specifically Martha Graham is the focus.

Kikuchi: This is a very early exercise

from Martha Graham's repertory.

There's no better way to research

than by actually going through the technique

with somebody like her

who obviously is very qualified.

1 and 2 and 3 and 4, and 5 and 6...

Kikuchi: My father used to say,

"I think it takes an audience member a while

to begin to understand what Martha is saying.

But after that, you begin to appreciate her a lot more."

My mother was in the company.

Kikuchi: That was excellent.

Okay. Let's do it from the top.

So it goes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...

It's been going good.

I really liked the warm up and everything.

The sequencing is kind of confusing me,

But I think, like, with time, I'll be able to get it.

2, 2, 3, 4, hold.

I was nervous.

I didn't know what to expect really.

But I feel comfortable now.

I think some of them are utterly terrified.

They've been in my office all week.

This has been a really special, special thing,

and our dancers are super excited about it.

[ Applause ]

[ Dramatic music plays ]

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Kikuchi: This is my first day back in the rehearsal space

for about a month,

and they have obviously been doing fantastic work

with Fritz and David

and within themselves

as groups of different people in the piece.

You can see that their technique has been cleaned up,

and now comes the fun part

of figuring out where -- what I call the stuffing,

the actual artistic elements

that we put into their dance, their piece,

and that has to come through the use of their imagination.

We want change...

for our lives.

So this is a very challenging

and important part of the process.

So that's what you need to do about choreography

that has some substance.

It's not just physical.

That's the use-your-imagination part.

Lockette: You can't just dance it,

and I think that'll be a really great component for my thesis

about how the work,

especially, like, in "Panorama" but in a lot of Graham's work,

is it's really socially, politically fueled.

There's a lot of meaning behind it.

Everything has a meaning.

[ Soft music plays ]

Kikuchi: I think that's unique to Graham.

From the beginning, Martha was very involved

in the human psyche and the drama.

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A lot of her pieces were not abstract.

They were story line, story-based like in ballet.

This one is abstraction,

but it has within the abstraction

a common human element of force,

so what causes people to come together as a group

and want to express a need for change.

And that can be any century.

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The original concept with this piece

is very, like, political in a sense,

and Susie told us to relate it to now.

I feel like we take on

a completely different energy in our bodies

once we're in a certain mind-set,

so knowing that, we're a lot more powerful,

a lot more together.

Stop, stop, stop, stop.

Wait, wait, wait. Stop. Let me feel this.

Up, Griffin looks -- Look at Griffin.

She's got a motivating thing.

See her face, her face? Yes.

See? That's the actor, the actor.

We need a little moreacting in this, okay?

And yet I feel her spine, whoop, up, up, up, up.

And if I gave her a note, I'd say,

"Your hand need to be saying something."

♪♪

Lockette: It's been really interesting to kind of see the connection

between what we're doing here

and my acting work that I do

because a lot of the intention that you do when you're dancing

comes from the same thing that you do when you're acting.

So it's been really interesting for me

to kind of see how those things work together

and how they can --

how the movement and the intention

can help each other.

[ Soft music plays ]

If you have the stuffing,

if you have the thought process inside,

and you all come together for whatever gesture

with a thought behind it, a common goal,

the audience will feel it.

Kikuchi: 16.

17.

18.

Okay.

Let me see this.

-How did you feel? -Good.

Kikuchi: Good! You're coming along.

I can see more connection to everything,

more awareness of each other.

You -- I think you can see

the light at the end of the tunnel.

I would like to take a half an hour now

with the adagio, 5 people.

1, 2, 3.

Use your back, 4.

Gillespie: We've been working really hard,

the 5 of us, to make it look good,

and I think we've really come a long way.

Work on your projection because you have the space now.

I was really honored to see that.

I was like, "What?"

I was like, "No way," because that's, like --

It's such a big part of it.

I remember when we had the audition

for the fourth-position part,

they were like, "Kijanna, you got it."

And I was like, "What?" I was like, "No way!"

I was like, "I'm a freshman, like, I should not be."

I was so nervous, and I'm still nervous.

I still shake.

I can feel my body, like, shaking.

And then how you move, whatever position,

the next, the next.

So it's those spaces in between you

is where the dialogue is happening.

So that is the --

That's how it feels like an adagio,

or I call it the tall-lady section,

but the adagio feel is that it's connected.

♪♪

Gillespie: I have had knee pain for 7 years now,

and I've been in and out of doctors

trying to figure out what's wrong.

I had the surgery.

I had Plica syndrome.

It's, like, extra tissue and cartilage in the knee

that causes pain.

It has been really hard,

and I've been marking and sitting out,

which is hard to watch everyone else do what I can't.

But now that I'm back

and trying to, like, do everything full out,

it feels good.

It's scary and very nerve-racking,

but I think I can do it.

Well, I hope. [ Laughs ]

♪♪

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I feel like I've taken a whole journey.

I've had to work a lot

outside of coming in here on Fridays

because I had a lot of, like, catching up to do

because I'm not a dance major.

I've had to kind of self-evaluate

and take the notes and be like,

"Okay, this is what I'm going to focus on right now."

So it's nice to kind of see that work playing out,

and now I can play a little bit more with the acting

and bring that out as well.

♪♪

Hiraldo: It's starting to get a little more real,

like, that we're performing with the Graham Company

and that we're performing this iconic piece

that so many people have seen before.

So now it's sort of like our turn

to, like, step up to the plate and perform this

and just really knock the ball out of the park.

Oh, I'm very excited.

Did that feel good?

It was like, "Whoa!"

I try and write down the good things, too,

so you remember.

That was a good one.

You know?

[ Applause ]

[ Drums play ]

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Gillespie: Everything that we'd worked so hard for

just came into my body,

and I just felt so overwhelmed

but overwhelmed in a good way

just to be out there with all the people that I love

and have had such a connection with.

[ Dramatic music plays ]

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[ Soft music plays ]

Hiraldo: It was a little nerve-racking in the beginning

because we were all like,

"Oh, my gosh. They're going to judge us."

At the end of the day, like,

everyone is here just to see dance,

to enjoy the dance.

So we were just performing

and trying to bring Martha's message out

as much as we can.

This piece was performed in, like, the '30s,

so we wanted to make it a little more present,

a little more real.

[ Dramatic music plays ]

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[ Up-tempo music plays ]

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Lockette: For "Panorama," it's kind of this idea

of this, like, these social issues

that affect all of us

that are happening that we all want to change.

It may be different for all of us individually,

but it's what connects us.

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[ Soft music plays ]

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Lockette: Oh, I was so nervous.

I was really nervous

but, I think, a good kind of nervous.

♪♪

I had to work a lot outside, and Fritz helped us,

one of our dance professors helped me outside

because there's a lot of things I had to learn

because I am an actor first.

They graciously let me do this,

so I feel really good about the work that I did,

and I'm very happy that it kind of came together.

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Gillespie: Studying Martha Graham is one thing

and like knowing about

the company and the work she put in,

but actually getting to live it and do it

definitely opened my eyes.

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Gillespie: This was something so much more

than anything I've ever done before,

and I'm hungry to learn more.

I want to do more things with the Graham technique,

and I want to just explore.

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Hiraldo: We're all sort of, like,

put in this little bubble in college.

So getting the outside exposure

to sort of, like, help us going into the outside world,

it was really helpful.

Like, seeing how they run their dress rehearsals

and their tech rehearsals on stage,

like, they're not kidding.

They really want you to go.

So, like, getting all that exposure now

so that when we go into the real world

we're, like, ready,

it was really important for us.

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Lockette: It was, like, months of rehearsal

for, like, one chance.

So there was a lot of pressure and a lot of energy going in,

but I feel really happy about what we did.

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[ Music stops ]

[ Applause ]

Gargano: It was amazing!

My mind is still a little verklempt,

but they were --

I think just that piece in general

has an amazing effect on audiences,

and having seen it come together

and having felt the energy of that piece

coming across the stage

is just hugely moving.

[ Voice breaking ] It was just such an amazing opportunity,

and I just...

I feel so honored to have had the opportunity to do this.

[ Applause ]

Hiraldo: Tomorrow, I have classes.

I have to go back to school, do my regular thing,

But it was really great

to sort of, like, step away from that for a minute

and just be lost in the world of Martha Graham.

[ Applause ]

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