from Martha Graham Artistic Director, Janet Eilber:
We created this digital dance during the first couple of months of the pandemic. Our dancers used rare photos from 1937 of Martha Graham in her solo, Immediate Tragedy, as inspiration for the movement they created and filmed — from their separate spaces all over the world. The tragedy of Graham’s day was the fascist oppression in Spain. Our “immediate tragedy” was the uncertainty and isolation of the pandemic. As we began editing the phrases the dancers had created, the murder of George Floyd took place and reverberated through our lives and this process. The section with dancers moving on their knees quietly references the idea of “taking a knee” in protest. The final scroll of dancers in increasingly small boxes was inspired by a protest march that I watched from my window as it moved up 2nd Avenue in early June of 2020.
from The New York Times:
The choreographer Martha Graham “had been in a valley of despair.”
It was 1937 when Graham, worried about the Spanish Civil War and the rise of fascism in Europe, confessed her state of mind in a letter to the composer Henry Cowell. “Whether the desperation lies in Spain,” she wrote, “or in a memory in our own hearts, it is the same.”
The result was her solo “Immediate Tragedy,” a companion piece to another dance inspired by the war, “Deep Song.” Both featured music by Cowell; both were explorations of harrowing events. In “Immediate Tragedy,” Graham told him, “I was dedicating myself anew to space, that in spite of violation I was upright and that I was going to stay upright at all costs.”
“Immediate Tragedy” is a lost work, yet its of-the-moment title, along with Graham’s determination to remain upright no matter what, feels right for the current moment. Now the solo is coming back — reimagined for the digital world and for multiple dancers.
Before the coronavirus struck, the Martha Graham Dance Company had worked on creating a new version of the solo for the stage using archival materials as a guide: among them letters, a lively description of Graham performing the work by the choreographer José Limón and 35 photographs, by Robert Fraser, Barbara Morgan and George Platt Lynes. The composer and conductor Christopher Rountree, who leads the Los Angeles ensemble Wild Up, was working on a new score. (The Cowell music was lost, too.)
But with the dancers in quarantine, Janet Eilber, the company’s artistic director, had an idea to keep them working while sheltering at home. “Why don’t we use all the ephemera that we collected for ‘Immediate Tragedy’ for a completely different project?” she said. “Let’s see what we can build out of it for the digital world referencing today’s immediate tragedy.”
On Friday, the Graham company, in collaboration with Wild Up and the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, will present the premiere of the new “Immediate Tragedy.” (The video will be available starting at 7 p.m. Eastern on the Facebook pages of the Soraya and the Graham company; the Graham company’s YouTube Channel will feature it on its Saturday Martha Matinee presentation. “Immediate Tragedy” will remain up indefinitely on Graham’s YouTube site.)
“We started out liking the idea of space as an underlying theme because in Martha’s quote, she says she’s dedicating herself ‘anew to space,’” Ms. Eilber said. “Because all of our space was so limited, we were considering space in a completely different way.”
But after the protests ignited by the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, the theme — or the feeling of the dance — expanded. “The great thing about Martha’s abstraction is it can contain so many different issues and tragedies,” Ms. Eilber said. “Her best works absorb the context of just about any era.”