The University Record, May 9, 1994

Celebration of centennial of Martha Graham’s birth includes 3-week residency of dance company

The University Musical Society (UMS) has been awarded a $130,086 grant to bring to Ann Arbor and southeastern Michigan an array of performances and events honoring the late Martha Graham. The grant was awarded by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund through its Art Partners Program, which is administered by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in Washington, D.C.

The grant, one of five made nationwide, supports efforts to reach new audiences for the performing arts and to deepen the involvement of current participants.

UMS, in collaboration with the Martha Graham Dance Company, will celebrate the centennial of Graham’s birth through a multidisciplinary exploration of the artist and her seminal work during a three-week residency involving various U-M units, the Ann Arbor community and the Library of Congress.

UMS Executive Director Kenneth C. Fischer says that “the exciting residency will explore the far-reaching impact Martha Graham had not only on dance but also on music, theater and the visual arts, and on the role of women in society. Among the many programs that are part of the residency will be opportunities for members of the community to participate with the visiting artists in rehearsals, classes and public performances.”

Fischer explains that the multidisciplinary residency was conceived as part of a long-term plan to develop significant relationships with major dance companies that would benefit from association with a university that has both a strong dance department and a strong sponsor and presenter of the performing arts.

A major goal of the residency is to bring to audiences of other art forms, such as music and visual arts, to danced performances, and to help existing audiences deepen their understanding of and appreciation for Graham and her work.

“We are indebted to the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters for their support in making this program possible,” Fischer says. “It is a unique collaboration among University and community organizations, and is expected to be of enormous significance to Ann Arbor and southeastern Michigan.”

Fischer notes that “the residency has been crafted to focus on Martha Graham as a dancer/choreographer, as a collaborator with many great composers, as a woman who influenced theater and visual arts, and as a woman who pioneered and broke untold barriers.”

In focusing on Graham as a dancer/choreographer, UMS will collaborate with the Department of Dance, the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra and the Library of Congress. Department Chair Peter Sparling, a former principal with the Graham Company, will work with the company to select and train local dancers who will participate with the company’s dancers in two public performances of “Panorama,” Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 in the Power Center for the Performing Arts. Other Graham ballets, including “Care of the Heart,” “Maple Leaf Rag,” and “Lamentation” will be included in these performances.

Sparling says that “the three-week retrospective of the life and work of this century’s most revered and revolutionary female artist provides a major opportunity for celebration and scholarly investigation. This will mark the most extensive residency ever for the Graham Company. The Ann Arbor and Univer-sity communities will be the major benefactors of this significant gift.”

A major feature of the residency is the reprise of Graham’s “Appalachian Spring (Ballet for Martha),” which premiered at the Library of Congress on Oct. 30, 1944. This year on Oct. 30 a special 50th-anniversary commemorative event, including a performance of the work, will take place at the Power Center.

In addition to the performances, the residency will include a video retrospective, open rehearsals, demonstration of the Martha Graham Technique, and various seminars and panel discussions, all focused on enhancing the community’s understanding of Graham and her contributions to the arts.

The role that Graham played in music will receive attention in concerts by the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra and the Michigan Chamber Players. They will perform works by composers with whom Graham collaborated, including Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Louis Horst, Eugene Lester, William Schuman, Carlos Surinach and Norman Dello Joio.

The symphony orchestra will perform Sept. 10 at the Michigan Theater and the chamber players on Oct. 23 at Rackham Auditorium. Stanley Sussman, music director and conductor of the Martha Graham Dance Company, will conduct the symphony orchestra as it accompanies the dancers in performances at the Power Center Oct. 28, 29 and 30.

Music scholars from the U-M, Library of Congress and other institutions, will give pre-concert presentations and participate in discussions about Graham’s role in encouraging and supporting composers.

The Museum of Art, a key partner in the residency activities, will illustrate Graham’s influence on the visual arts. One of Graham’s most important collaborations was her 52-year relationship with sculptor Isamu Noguchi, who designed sets for 52 of her ballets. One of his best-known stage sets, created for “Cave of the Heart,” will be on display at the Museum for two months.

In addition, UMS will mount an exhibition of photographic studies of Graham and her dancers. The Jean Paul Slusser Gallery on North Campus will display costumes and sculpture influenced by Graham.

The Center for the Education of Women, also a partner in the project, will focus on Graham’s qualities as a leader and revolutionary in redefining the role of women.

The Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund invests in programs designed to enhance the cultural life of communities and to encourage people to make the arts and culture an active part of their everyday lives. It funds efforts to build audiences for the performing, visual, literary and folk arts, and supports adult literacy projects and urban parks.

For information about the public performances during the residency, contact UMS at 764-2538. A brochure with details about all residency events will be available in the summer. Those who leave their name and address with UMS will receive a copy when it is available.