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Richard Move’s Martha@…The 1963 Interview

November 18, 2011
Lisa Kron, Katherine Crockett, Richard Move Photo by Amy Arbus

Lisa Kron, Katherine Crockett, Richard Move Photo by Amy Arbus

A couple of years ago the 92 St Y discovered a previously unknown audio recording of an interview between the famed dance critic Walter Terry and the legendary Martha Graham. With a stroke of brilliance someone picked up the phone and gave Richard Move a call, and so began the creation of Martha@…The 1963 Interview.

Last night at New York Live Arts I was witness to the uncanny brilliance of Richard Move and his creation. I had meet Richard many years ago in the 90’s, he worked the door’s V.I.P. list for the newly re-opened and very trendy Webster Hall and I lived next door. I had just started writing about dance and he told me of his Martha impersonations. I heard favorable of his performances in the downtown venues but I had never had the pleasure of witnessing them. So I was a little unprepared for the tongue-in-cheek, witty view of the Martha I saw on the stage.

Lisa Kron, Katherine Crockett, Richard Move Photo by Amy Arbus

Lisa Kron, Katherine Crockett, Richard Move Photo by Amy Arbus

Richard, dressed as Graham and all in white first appears in front of the drawn curtain, with only a ghost lamp upon the stage, and in complete silence begins to walk backward with Graham styled steps and signature Martha angst. And we are off!

The curtain rises and we get a glimpse of an intimate interview setting, two chairs, microphones that seemed straight from the 60’s and Lisa Kron as Walter Terry. Ms. Kron’s portrayal of Mr. Terry was brilliant, her understated and superb linguistic styling brought to live an iconic figure in the world of dance.  His announcement that when he first met Martha Graham he did not like her immediately endeared him to the audience.

Photo by Christopher Duggan

Photo by Christopher Duggan

Richard Move’s personification of Martha was little more than a stroke of genius. We get a glimpse of a woman who is totally immersed in herself and her own legend. Mr. Move’s use of diction and dramatic pauses was perfect. We saw a woman who is so wrapped with in herself she sometimes is prone to lose herself with in her own rambling.

Richard Move as Martha Graham

Richard Move as Martha Graham

The dialogue between the two can at times be esoteric, but what would one expect of Martha Graham talking about Martha Graham. (After all she did have a repertoire of 181 works.)  Her dizzying array of great characters that she has created for the stage range from the Bride in Appalachian Spring (1944), Medea from Cave of the Heart (1946), Jocasta in Night Journey (1947), Joan of Arc in Seraphic Dialogue (1955), and my favorite Clytemnestra (1958) just to name a few.

Richard Move as Martha Graham Photo by Josef Astor

Richard Move as Martha Graham Photo by Josef Astor

She stated that in the creation of her characters that “she listened to her own pulse”. She stated that in the creative process on never gets boring if one “thinks of yourself as dancing towards your death”.

The show, which lasted a little over an hour, was over way to soon. Walter Terry’s questioning, who at times seems to fawn somewhat, leads Ms. Graham into a labyrinth of expositive and analytical exposés of her works and the creative process behind them. She references again and again her numerous performances all over the world so we do not forget for an instance exactly who she is.

Martha @...The 1963 Interview Photo by Christopher Duggan

Martha @...The 1963 Interview Photo by Christopher Duggan

The excerpts of Graham’s works and examples of movement style that are performed to the left and right by Graham Company principal dancer Katherine Crockett and former Graham Company member Catherine Cabeen are enticing and at times entrancing. They help to remind us exactly why Martha Graham was Martha Graham. They gave peerless examples of just not the complexity of Graham’s work by the degree of dedication Ms. Graham was committed to in the creation of her technique which is characterized by floor work and the use of abdominal and pelvic contractions. The Graham technique has a vocabulary which is comparable to the vocabulary of ballet. Martha Graham’s impact on dance is often compared to that of Picasso’s on painting, Stravinsky’s on music, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s on architecture.

Richard Move as Martha Photo by Josef Astor

Richard Move as Martha Photo by Josef Astor

This interview comes at a time of a great conflict that was occurring in Martha’s life; she was at the time 69 and her body was not obeying her as it once had and then there was the advancing alcoholism. Her performances were noticeable being affected by her age and it was not until 1969, at the age of 75 that Graham announced her retirement from the stage. It was to be, perhaps the most difficult period of her life.

Martha @...The 1963 Interview Photo by Christopher Duggan

Martha @...The 1963 Interview Photo by Christopher Duggan

It must be stated the Richard Move does not just impersonate Martha Graham, he channels her. With a blend of history, mystique and deadpan deliveries he allows us a unique glimpse into the workings of one of the great minds of the 20th century.

Gabriel Barcia-Colombo must be mentioned for his scenic design, it added a wonderful element.

However, there are a couple of thing that I have issue with, Mr. Move looked way too young to be the 69 that Martha Graham was at the time of the interview. He looked stunning, but definitely not 69. The staging of the work was disconcerting for me; I did not know where to put my eye. If watched the dancers in Martha discussion of her work I could not focus on Martha and vice-versa. I wanted something more streamlined in a visual sense, so I could take in both Martha and the dancers without having to choose one or the other.

This is a performance that must be seen and I greatly encourage you to do so! Martha @…The 1963 Interview will be at New York Live Arts till Nov. 19th.

Richard Move Photo by Josef Astor

Richard Move Photo by Josef Astor

The work features Richard Move as Graham, Tony Award-nominated actress/playwright Lisa Kron as Terry, and Move’s illustrious, longtime collaborators, Graham Company principal dancer Katherine Crockett and former Graham Company member Catherine Cabeen. Martha@…The 1963 Interview is conceived, staged and directed by Richard Move, with new-media scenic design by Gabriel Barcia-Colombo, lighting design by Donalee Katz, and costumes by Pilar Limosner. Joshua Lubin-Levy is the work’s Associate Director and Producer. A Bessie Award-winning video by renowned dance for camera pioneer Charles Atlas, created especially for the Martha@… series, will be on view on the Ford Foundation Live Gallery Wall prior to each show.

“No artist is ahead of his time.

He is time; the others are just behind the times.”

Martha Graham

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