Home Performing Arts Martha Graham Dance Company’s rehearsal of “Political Dance Project”

Martha Graham Dance Company’s rehearsal of “Political Dance Project”

Photography by Gordon Ho.

Martha Graham Dance Company’s launch of the Political Dance Project this season at the Joyce Theater, relives the 1930’s plight of the downtrodden, depressed, struggle for civil and workers’ rights in eight full-length performances.

Bodies glistening, muscles chiseled further with the pulse of their every move, I’d never thought that emotion- history- and politics were so capable of being told through mere bodily contortions, agile jumps and no words!!

Given the opportunity to attend rehearsals at the Joyce Soho one recent afternoon, I listen and watch intently as Artistic Director Janet Eilber embarks on a tasteful prologue emphasizing the ‘rehearsal’ quality of the dances, all this amongst some of the world’s most talented dancers.

The proceedings follow as follows-

“Theirs was a pastiche of five–‘fireworks’ if you will–set off first by two males fiery reinterpretation of The Revolutionary 1924, Isadora Duncan’s rally and cry.” Transcending gender, the dancers evoke courage, conviction and agony side-by side, through clenched fists, stomping on the ground and razor sharp outreaches to the outer universe.

Segueing to a female soloist’s edition of Eve Gentry’s Tenant of the Street 1938, a dancer unsuccessfully resists being pulled down, burdened by the misery, oppression and homelessness of depression era-New York. She breezily shifts into free motion for a split second but is once again run off.

The Great Depression gives way to a third dance, the Dirty Thirties Dust Bowl, during which two new male dancers re-enact Sophie Maslow’s Ain’t Got No Home (from Dust