A celebration of 100 years since women first won the right to vote has been marked with a 2-year initiative by the Martha Graham Dance Company. “The EVE Project” featuring five diverse company works, will grace the stage of the Irvine Barclay Theatre on February 27 as part of the arts organization’s Contemporary Dance Series.
Martha Graham Dance Company artistic director Janet Eilber’s decision to curate a program that commemorates the upcoming centennial of the 19th Amendment was not a flippant attempt to be “on trend” with other pro-women advocacy efforts, but rather, a genuine venture to capture Graham’s spirit.
Eilber, who worked closely with Martha Graham early in her career, danced many of Graham’s greatest roles and even had roles created for her by Graham. Her understanding and admiration of Graham’s pursuit of social activism, among other things, are what lead Eilber and her team to “The EVE Project.”
Originally titled “The Gender Project,” before that term took on its own socio-political tenet, the program now serves to present a suite of dances that focus on female power.
“This subject matter, as relevant today as ever, is an undeniable part of Martha’s legacy,” said Eilber who said the program explores various aspects of womanhood. “‘The EVE Project’ is born out of Martha’s artistry. She revolutionized the way women were presented on stage and we are delighted to bring this to life the way she did.”
The icon that is Martha Graham made a deep and lasting impact on American art and culture. The company that bears her name, though over 90 years old, continues to have a strong and significant voice in the dance community. This point is driven home for Eilber periodically when she reviews movement by new choreographers as potential new works for the company.
“One thing we find is that it’s so clear how influential Matha continues to be,” said Eilber. “Even when we intend to look for work outside the style, we see deep connections to her in new choreography.”
The evening presentation of “The EVE Project” will begin with “Diversion of Angels,” Graham’s 1948 abstract meditation on love as described through three women in different stages of relationships. The program then moves to “Ekstasis,” a 1939 solo recently restored based on photos of the choreography, and continues with “Lamentation Variations,” “Errand into the Maze,” and “Woodland.”
This mix of historic pieces and newer works is intentional, said Eilber, who is always thinking of ways to engage with new audiences. She said some come for the old and some for the new, and in this program, in particular, all will have a chance to reflect on women.
President of the Irvine Barclay Theatre Jerry Mandel is excited to welcome this American modern dance company to the stage for the first time in the theater’s nearly 30 year history.
“Having the Martha Graham Dance Company is meaningful within the Barclay’s contemporary dance series because we seek to present a broad range of each art form. From world-renowned companies to emerging ensembles,” said Mandel. “The performance by Martha Graham Dance Company will be enjoyed by dance aficionados and first-time audiences.”
In addition to the performance, the Martha Graham Dance Company will have some educational touchpoints with the Orange County community that include a pre-show Q&A session with Eilber and a master class for students enrolled in UC Irvine’s Contemporary Dance Immersion program.
Kaitlin Wright is a contributing writer for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.