“I wanted to chart a graph of the heart – to reveal the inner landscape.”
– Martha Graham.

Every Soul is a Circus: Blakeley White-McGuire, © COSTAS
Every Soul is a Circus: Blakeley White-McGuire,
© COSTAS

The iconic dancer and choreographer’s words are a theme throughout Inner Landscape. All the works presented have strong characterization, no matter how abstract, and focus on the internal feelings of each protagonist. Graham’s quotation is also one example of the philosophy behind this nearly 86-year-old company. Dance is a passionate form of expression and one that encompasses the mind and the body.

Beautiful Captives started the evening even before the house lights went down. This video montage, constructed by Peter Sparling with music by Erik Santos, showed clips of Graham’s original performances from many of the pieces in later performed in the show. Dances are superimposed over scenes from black and white movies, combined with fragments of dialogue, introducing the company to the audience and giving a taste of what’s to come.

In the second piece, Witch Dance (based on the original choreography of Mary Wigman), PeiJu Chien-Pott fills the stage as a larger-than-life witch. A stone-faced mask covers her entire face, long straw hair enunciates each move of her head, and red fabric drapes from her shoulders and elbows to her knees (costume by Maria Garcia). The fabric is untailored and flows freely with Chien-Pott, slicing through the air with her straight arms and jumping with each percussive movement.

Every Soul is a Circus tells a the narrative inside one woman’s mind, documenting her delusions of grandeur. Blakeley White-McGuire is the Empress of the Arena, a circus where she is the star of each act. Her demeanor is occasionally childlike: she is fascinated by a ribbon attached to her ankle, pulling and leading herself by it. At another time she is the center of a love triangle, between the ringleader Tadej Brdnik and the acrobat Lloyd Knight. Performers gallop and prance around the empress and she is gradually overcome with confusion. By the end of Circus, her interactions are absurd, presenting a flower to each man then stealing it back, and include gestures like drumming her fingers on her cheek.

Lamentation Variations is a fascinating take on Graham’s infamous Lamentation. If the title is unfamiliar, many recognize this piece from the images of Graham herself seated and shrouded in fabric. A video of her performing Lamentation is projected on the backdrop before three choreographers’ variations on the dance. Azure Barton’s variation features Miki Orihara and Mariya Dashkina Maddux use the sense of longing in Graham’s original to create tension between them. They start in unison but end up turned away from one another, one on the floor and one standing. Katherine Crockett performs Richard Move’s variation traveling the whole time across the front of the stage towards a stark light. She uses the light like Graham’s fabric, arching backwards so it illuminates different parts of her body while being steadily drawn towards it.

The last version was Lar Lubovitch’s premiere, and featured the entire company. A man and woman are seated on a bench upstage behind a sea of dancers on the floor. Those on the ground are shrouded like Graham was, and roll through different positions, pressing against the fabric with hands, torsos, and legs like a unified blue wave. The couple starts out so close together that they look like one blue, eight-limbed creature. He supports her as her back contracts and arches in a high release, like a moving statue.

Night Journey, Graham’s telling of Oedipus, was final piece of the night. We see the story through Jocasta’s point of view, danced by Katherine Crockett. Crockett seems to be channeling Graham as she repeats certain phrases, kicking her leg high and following it by sweeping one arm overhead before hinging almost parallel to the floor and falling to her knee. The dramatic change in levels and bold movement are well suited for Jocasta’s agony.

Inner Landscape is a classic representation of the Martha Graham Dance Company. Using the strong, grounded technique that Graham herself originated, each piece has its own internal drama and the dancers express the passion that was so important to her work.