On April 18, 1926, the Martha Graham Concert Group made its public debut, presenting a program at the 48th Street Theater that featured works by Debussy, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, Satie, and others. This month the Martha Graham Dance Company is celebrating its ninetieth anniversary with a series of special events in New York City. MGDC will be at City Center April 14-18, performing old and new works that honor the past, present, and future of the company and its legendary founder. On April 14, the schedule consists of 1946’s Medea-inspired Cave of the Heart, with music by Barber and set design by Isamu Noguchi; 1947’s Night Journey, an Oedipal tale with music by Schumann and set by Noguchi; and two new pieces, Mats Ek’s AXE, set to Ulf Andersson’s version of Albinoni’s “Adagio,” and Marie Chouinard’s Inner Resources, with music by Louis Dufort. On April 15, Night Journey and AXE will be joined by 1944’s Appalachian Spring, with music by Aaron Copland and set by Noguchi, and Andonis Foniadakis’s Echo, about Echo and Narcissus, with a score by Julien Tarride. The April 16 program comprises Cave of the Heart, Inner Resources, 1936’s politically themed Chronicle, with music by Wallingford Riegger and set by Noguchi, and Nacho Duato’s Rust, with music by Arvo Pärt.
April 18 is the big gala, with works ranging from 1926 to 2016: Tanagra, Heretic, Celebration, Lamentation, Chronicle, the Lament from Acts of Light, an excerpt from Appalachian Spring, and the New York premiere of Pontus Lidberg’s Woodland, set to music by Irving Fine. As a bonus, Aurélie Dupont will perform in Lament and Appalachian Spring. In addition, Graham 2 will perform Heretic, and there will be a film screening of rare footage of Three Gopi Maidens from 1926 as well as the new 90 Years in 90 Seconds. The Mannes Orchestra will perform all the music for the Graham classics live throughout the run at City Center. “We are dedicating this celebration to the unknown, to Martha Graham’s appetite for the new,” artistic director Janet Eilber said in a statement. “Graham’s legacy is a wellspring of originality and inspiration . . . of exploration, experimentation, and risk. The new works on our programs this season are part of this directive from the past and will be seen beside the greatest Graham classics.” Prior to the gala, you can head over to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts for a free marathon reading of Graham’s 1991 autobiography, Blood Memory, taking place from 11:00 am to 5:30 pm; among the readers are Patricia Birch, Carmen DeLavallade, Michelle Dorrance, Liz Gerring, Ellen Graff, Virginia Johnson, Deborah Jowitt, Annie-B Parson, Tiler Peck, Wendy Perron, Valda Setterfield, Sonya Tayeh, Wendy Whelan, and Marni Thomas Wood. And finally, the Martha Graham School, Graham 2, the Teens@Graham / All-City Panorama Project, and MGDC principal dancer Blakeley White-McGuire will team up for Martha Graham : We the People on April 21 and 22 at 7:30 at the Martha Graham Studio Theater on Bethune St.; admission is $10-$25. “‘Age’ is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years,” Graham, who passed away in 1991 at the age of ninety-six, famously said. There should be plenty to glory about in these diverse anniversary programs.