Martha Graham Dance Company's Clytemnestra

Nov 12, 2009

The vivacious scenes of revenge, murder, and betrayal were extraordinarily revamped in this 50th anniversary presentation of Clytemnestra. Everything from Halim El-Dabh's music and Isamu Noguchi's sets to the dancers theatrical movements was dripping in dramatic expression. What did you think of the full-length masterpiece? Have you seen Martha Graham works before? How about the Noguchi sets?

Performance Preview between Artistic Director, Janet Eilber; Political Science Ph.D. Candidate and Clytemnestra expert at the University of Minnesota, Jennifer Gagnon; and Northrop Director, Ben Johnson.

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Clytemnestra is a journey, and as you know when you get in the car and drive across country, landscapes change and some are less exciting, but in the end when you step out at your destination, all parts of the journey were worth it, and you realize something happened to you for better or worse...and though long, transforming.

I was blown away! Fabulous! Loved everything about it: the choreography, the dancers, the sets and costumes, the music, even the supertitles. Thankyou for bringing this to Northrop. It was one of the best artistic presentations of any kind that I've ever seen. Although I'm a classical ballet fan with little interest in "modern dance", I've been stunned to discover the quality, inventiveness and beauty of Graham's choreography. I caught a TV performance a year or two ago of "Appalachian Spring" and was shocked at how great it was. That's what brought me to this performance.

The performance was fantastic - wonderful choreography, dazzling costumes and such talent on stage. Thank you Ben and all of your staff, for bringing this wonderful troupe to the Twin Cities.

A classic that still holds wonderful strong movement even though it sits at 50 years of age. Very glad the storyline was posted above the stage--otherwise it would have been difficult to follow completely. We both wished the main character Clytemestra had been a dancer with a bigger stage presence, as the small woman in the part did not project as much power in the part as it warranted. A side note: We've been Northrup subscribers for over 15 years now; we think Mr. Johnson needs to learn something at the performance previews: we are there, as you should be, to listen more than to speak. Dale was so wonderful at letting the time flow through the representative of each dance company; Mr. Johnson is eager to do his best, and just needs to relax and not want to be "in charge" so much. It's hard to get the character of the company when we hear his ideas and words more than those of the artists. Thank you.

Hard to escape the irony in the story when we are surrounded by the effects of revenge and retaliation in world events? Art is a great medium of a message otherwise drowned out by hardlines taken by "sides" of an issue.

Hard to escape the irony in the story when we are surrounded by the effects of revenge and retaliation in world events? Art is a great medium of a message otherwise drowned out by hardlines taken by "sides" of an issue.

Amazing! Visually beautiful! An interesting story told through movement. So glad I was able to see this prouction. Thank you for providing world class dance companies. Keep up the first class work. Best, Karrie Sundsmo

I felt, as a 72 year old balletomane, like I was stepping into dance history last night. How entirely brave Graham was to do what she did when she did it, breaking with deeply felt romantic notions of what "dance" was, relying on movement to sound and believing in repetition for its own amazing sake. It's easy to see how Ballanchine, years later, would take heart from that repetitive move and adapt it to his own approach, so when I next see dancers interweaving in ever-tightening formations I'll know where HE saw if. Thank you for "teaching" us so much. The company is full of stunning dancers, of course, and last night they worked unusually hard, I think. We've taken "modern dance" in increasingly fluid directions, so having to exert the extreme discipline to make and hold some of Graham's postures may be almost as "new" for some young dancers as it was for those just breaking out of toe shoes and tutus. It was an evening that worked my brain even as it reached my senses. Thank you.

Well said; a step intp dance history, indeed. What an honor to have the opportunity to see this production. Maybe it's because I was a dance major, studying in NYC including at the Graham School many years ago, that I appreciate what Graham did for dance. We are fortunate to have access to such performances in the Twin Cities. Thanks, Northrop, & all who made this possible.

Last night was the first time in 15 years that I walked out of a 'performance'. The 'music' was grating and unpleasant, especially the vocalization. The dancing, such as it was, wasn't dancing but prancing around and demonstrated to me no obvious talent. I took advantage of the pause and made my escape. My wife watched the entire first act and told me it got better by intermission. When we reached the garage during the intermission, it was already emptying out, so I was not alone in my opinion. In my opinion this was the poorest example of 'dancing' I've encountered since Sankai Juku in 1996.

It amazes me when people comment that the dancing showed no visible talent, to that person who so bravely stated that I invite such person to try three of the movements in the entire ballet of Clytemnestra....he or she may have to be helped up off the floor after the attempt. Obviously Graham is not for everyone, but as Martha said, Love me or hate me but definately don't walk out of the audience feeling nothing.

A demanding performance for people who are not too much into dance. A great opportunity to grab a piece of dance history. This work has to be put in its historic place and recognize the brave talent behind almost everything, costumes, music, set, choreography, ... Too bad to read that people 'ran away' after the first part. Overall, a beautiful performance, full of imagination, great intellectual insights, and essential elements of the actual contemporary dance. A recommendation: do not miss Akram Khan. I have seen his performances a couple of times in Spain, and they are imaginative, beautifully set, and great performed coreographies.

I first saw Martha Graham's work as a sophomore in college while taking an intro dance course that combined technique and lecture. At first I was mesmerized. Such power! The women of ballet never had the strength, dynamism, or expression that Graham's woolen-clad women did... While the Graham dancers are all very well-trained and expressive movers, tI didn't find this evening-length masterpiece easy or fun to watch. I was troubled by the music-especially with the singing, which was more distracting than helpful. The immediate repetition of movement, same movement, same movement felt tiring to me. I was, however, entranced by the opening with the Messenger of Death" and also by the corps of Furies throughout the work. I liked Noguchi's set, it is unique to Graham's work and does add a lot possibilities for the choreography. I thought the costumes were very well done and perhaps my favorite aspect of the work (interesting...for once men showing more skin than women). While Graham was truly a very influential woman and artist, and is crucial not only to dance history, but to world history as well, I think I would have enjoyed seeing a more contemporary "masterpiece."

I like other Martha Graham productions, but would not recommend Clytemnestra to anyone else. We left at intermission. Neither the music nor the choreography was engaging. I've never seen a piece with so little interaction among the dancers.

I would have never on my own purchased ticket to this piece but it was a part of my subscription series. Like one other commenter I love classical ballet and I have never sparked to modern. BUT after this performance I started to get it! I felt like I understand dance in a totally different way now. Thank you for bringing this to Minnesota.

This was a wonderful opportunity for many dance history students and anyone involved in dance to see. I thought it was amazing, the dancers were so controlled in there movements and you could see how physically strong they were in everything that they did. It may not be to some people's taste, but it was an amazing experience. I felt like the audience was not responsive to the dancers performance and as a dancer myself I would have been very upset at the lack of applause. I think it is very rude to walk out of things - even if it's not your taste. Overall it was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed it, thank you for bringing them to the Northrup.

What a fantastic performance! Enjoyed all of it.

What a treat and a treasure to have this company make a visit here . It is a great lesson in dance history to see what Martha Graham offered to the world with her artistry . And aren't we fortunate that dance performances like this are still being offered . It is so important to be able to witness this kind of artistry and that we are able to support it here in Twin Cities and at Northrup. I have been a season ticket holder for over 30 years and I was really touched by last nite's performance. I am a huge ballet fan and have to admit I did not expect this to be so wonderful . How fortunate we were to see how all these other great dancers were influenced by Martha and her great it is that her legacy lives on.

I would like to first thank the Northrop Auditorium for bringing to the Twin Cities companies like the Martha Graham Dance Company. The performance without a doubt was spectacular, the beautiful dancers couldn't look better both technically and dramatically. A gift for many of us who try to understand the gifts that pioneers like Martha Graham gave us many years ago. Bravo Martha Graham Dance Company!!!

I consider myself very open-mided when it comes to dance and I'm sorry to say that I was dissapointed in last night's performance. I would not for an instant, however, say that the dancers were not talented. The coreography was not to my taste, and I found the music very unsettling. This may have been the intention, however it DID leave me wanting to escape at intermission. I stayed, but I was not the only one, as I overheard many comments sharing my opinion from other season ticket holders. I also found the flow of the story to be jumbled (she's thinking about killing him, now he's dead, and now she's on her way to kill him, what??) and although the captions were a good idea to keep the audience caught up, they were very distracting from the performance itself. I love you Northrop, and all the performances you expose me to, but I wish I'd left at intermission.

The show was awful. The music was depressing and and the costumes were colorless, the light was dim, the stage hardly had anything on it, and it was boring. Who wants to see a show about evil and sacrifice. You pay good money for that. The dance style was horrible. After the intermission, we left, and so did other people. This should not be included in the classic dance series. Because it's not classic and old fashion. It's modern. I'd never recomend this show to anyone.

The person who said below that this as a step into dance history couldn't be more accurate. Graham was a visionary.

This show was underwhelming- to say the least. I have seen a lot of modern dance and I know that this show was a classic, however I felt like it was not to my taste. The show lacked emotion, synchronization and entertaining/interesting movement. There were a couple of moments when dancers incorporated beautiful flowing fabrics, however the moments in between were too dull to sustain the show. Plus, the dancing was weak; the groups were out of sync, the men seriously visibly shook during any lift-long or short, and if you didn’t notice the director’s notes the characters were unrecognizable and confusing. The costuming was horrible- the tubes on the men's dress was more Dr. Seuss or Star Trek than ancient Greek. I felt like I was under constant red alert from a German submarine attack with the music- Really I left this performance with a raised anxiety. My friend, a local artist and arts activist, just sent me a text saying she wants her money back. Who can blame her?

As an adult ballet dancer, balletomane, and 10-year subscriber and life-long Northrop attender, I was not sure if I would enjoy this performance. It's true, I’m not a fan of Nederland or Cullberg genre of dance. A few years ago, I attended the Northrop performance highlighting "Appalachian Spring" and much preferred “Clytemnestra” to the previous program. The costumes, set and music (amazingly, written for the piece), were extremely innovative (the red lining of her dress), the choreography and performance so emotional yet fresh and modern -- a true highlight of Graham's technical contribution -- it was all quite stunning. I could see so much Balanchine in this. I also enjoyed the "super-titles" and felt they added much to the presentation. Other directors and choreographers should take note of this experiential addition and add it in other creative ways. Kudos to the artistic director for the stark, black and white block letter, early 60’s style and feel to it. It added a finished element to the performance. This piece felt very balletic compared to other Graham works while her technique was very evident. However, it is not “Swan Lake”. I am truly surprised at how many left at intermission though. Regardless, please keep bringing classical companies to Northrop. P.S. On a side note, will the Kirov/Marininsky Ballet ever be seen on the Northrop stage?

I was absolutely mesmerized by last night's production! The dancers were stellar. The subtle use of color and fabric to convey meaning far beyond the movement on stage was exciting. And the costumes were fabulous. And the minimalist set perfectly conveyed the dichotomy of the underworld against the living world as dancers moved from one world to the other. It is the best dance production I have seen in many years.

Northrop Auditorium is a treasure, a beautiful and venerable theater in which another treasure, Martha Graham's "Clytemnestra" was faithfully refreshed and given flesh and voice last night. I appreciated the wit embedded in the angular postures and body percussion, which skillfully conveyed emotions. The costuming and set furniture added subtle layers of symbolism and meaning to the story. I was also able to attend the experiential and research-based introductory lecture--fascinating; I later enjoyed the rich program notes. Walking down the Mall after the program under tawny lighting filtering through the spare leaves was a glorious ending to the evening. Thank you for bringing this dance gem to the Twin Cities!!

the dancing was spectacular, but not enough to come back in after intermission. I had to leave. The verbal assault on my ears was painful - loud, screechy, discordant music detracted rather than enhanced the performance.

Perhaps I'll retract this later, but I have yet to dislike a dance performance-- some may resonate with me more than others or I may wallow in a lack of understanding for a time, but this often compels me to learn more about the context and process of the work and investigate the process of integrating a foreign movement vocabulary and perspective more. Love it, hate it, or maintain a stark indifference to it, as members of the Clytemnestra audience last night, we were strands in the discourse of the dream that is dance. For 120 minutes, we had a conversation with the iconoclastic Graham through the richness of her nuanced gestures innovated over 30 years. It's like reading the human body as you would a Dostoyevsky or Bronte novel--a lively discussion indeed! While feminist themes and agendas have often been assigned to Graham's Clytemnestra, I appreciated the humanist benediction it embraced--here were individual members of a family who had, in their consumption of fear, betrayal, lust, and grief, lost their humanity. It is Clytemnestra and Orestes in the end, who break the cursed cycle by reclaiming their roles as guardians of their own humanity. Timely lessons for our modern era with the dissonance of El Dabh's unsettling score as its' sonic backdrop eerily fitting. Amidst this restoration, the brilliant sextet of Furies brought striking physical form to the main characters' strife, despair, and splintered natures--some of the finest and most engaging choreography I've observed. An absolute privilege and pleasure to engage with such a deep well of movement lineage--thank you, Northrop.

The ballet was truly horrible and pretentious. Please do not include this kind of junk in the classic package. At least I now know what not to buy if this stuff is included in this package next season.

I have been a season ticket holder for about 10 years, loved all previous performances by Martha Graham and generally love modern dance, but we left at intermission. It was like stylized walking with occasional dance thrown in, with a screen on top to tell us what we were watching since it was incomprehensible otherwise.

One of the most fabulous dance performances I've ever seen! I always look forward to the following year's performance schedule because I know that it will be unbelieveable. I was honored to be able to see such a ground-breaking performance by the world-renowned Martha Graham Dance Company and hope to see them perform again in the future. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the music which was also spectacular.

Clytemnestra is a cheat. Without the program notes and the supertitles, the story would be incomprehensible. The dance didn't tell the story -- the notes and supertitles did.

As someone who witnessed and read about Merce Cunningham's dance company, I was anxious to see the current Martha Graham Dance Company perform (Mr. Cunningham studied with Ms. Graham). My impression is that I was seeing a perhaps more dated version of the work and would like to see one of the more recent Graham works. However, I was impressed with the dance and most of the dancers. More interesting was the reaction of the audience. I was surprised that so many people came not understanding modern dance and modern music. It is not classical. So I those of us in the audience who know and understand modern art saw what the likes of John Cage and Merce Cunningham had to endure from an audience when they first introduced their art. One has to learn to appreciate movement and sound for what it truly is. I really enjoyed the music. I believe it was meant to match the dance and all of it's moments of grace and fury.

Sorry to say I left at intermission - something I haven't done in years and years. The "music" was screechy, the dancing definitely not my cup of tea. I know others loved it but I couldn't take another minute. I was surprised it was on the ballet season since it would have been more appropriate on the modern dance series.

I was very disappointed by this performance. The story was disjointed and not at all compelling. The music was disturbing and the dance was slow, methodical and frankly boring. It should not have been part of the ballet series. It just left me feeling disturbed and annoyed.

I am shocked at the comments denigrating the dancers. I was a professional ballet dancer for 16 years, including NY City Ballet and PA Ballet, and the dancing was nearly uniformly spectacular. Just try a hinge and see what happens! The movement itself was dramatic, without overemoting. The superscripts were nice, but it was all in the words of the music. And, surely, people have seen movies that employ flashback? Why should dance be limited to linear story telling? I am very hopeful that the comments of audience members who are perhaps not very interested in expanding their horizons don't lead to changes in programming.

I am shocked at the comments denigrating the dancers. I was a professional ballet dancer for 16 years, including NY City Ballet and PA Ballet, and the dancing was nearly uniformly spectacular. Just try a hinge and see what happens! The movement itself was dramatic, without overemoting. The superscripts were nice, but it was all in the words of the music. And, surely, people have seen movies that employ flashback? Why should dance be limited to linear story telling? I am very hopeful that the comments of audience members who are perhaps not very interested in expanding their horizons don't lead to changes in programming.

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