Appalachian Spring Through The Generations

“Appalachian Spring” celebrates 70 years!

March 20 and 22, catch the Martha Graham Dance Company’s performances of the masterpiece collaboration at 8:00 pm each night.

Article Published in Performance Research Journal, U.K.

Live acts of falling in performance give form to the unseen force of gravity which is behind each initiation of our every earthly movement. In Re-examining the Inevitable Rise, Blakeley White-McGuire, Principal Dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company for over a decade, interweaves reflections on technical falling practices within the canon of historical Modern dance with those practices of present day Contemporary dance performance. Through her embodied and internalized understanding of the kinesthetic risk involved with truly physically falling in performance, she delves into the relationship between technique as a means of successful execution and the existential quality of energy that emerges from the personal experience of performing a universal metaphor. Whether through somatic awareness, existential relationship or metaphor, falling provides a necessary construct to practice recovery.


Read the entire essay here :

Beauty in Motion: Members of the Martha Graham Company; Friday, August 30, 2013 7:30 PM

Blakeley White-McGuire & Jacquelyn Elder perform "Woman"
Blakeley White-McGuire & Jacquelyn Elder perform “Woman”

Beauty in Motion: Members of the Martha Graham Company

Friday, August 30, 2013 7:30 PM

Mt. Gretna Playhouse
1 Alpha Drive
Elizabethtown, PA 17022

Physical grace meets contemporary thinking in choreography by Peter Sparling, Janet Eilber, Blakeley White-McGuire, Flor Villizan and XiaoChuan Xie set to the music of Missy Mazzoli, Jean-Phillipe Rameau, Zoe Keating, New York Electric Piano and more, and featuring star performers from the world-renowned Martha Graham Dance Company.

Dancers: Lloyd Knight, Maryia Dashkina Maddux, Lorenzo Pagano, Ben Schultz, Blakeley White-McGuire and XiaoChuan Xie



Museum of Arts and Design – Performance Details


Museum of Arts and Design – Performance Details

  •  Doug Elkins, photo by Whitney Browne, courtesy Jacob
  •  Blakeley McGuire, image courtesy Julie Lemberger
Program Details
Friday, May 17, 2013 – 7:30 pm
$20 general / $15 members and students
The Theater at MAD
click here to purchase tickets, or call 1.800.838.3006
Program Description

May finds former B-boy Doug Elkins combining hip-hop, Graham, and Balanchine in rousing dances; former Merce Cunningham Company member, Rashaun Mitchell, exploring human relationships in his bold and emotional, almost surreal, works; world-renowned Bharathanatyam performer and choreographer, Ramya Ramharayan, beautifully blending Hindu tradition with a contemporary sensibility; and Blakeley White-McGuire, a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, creating dramatic works of great power that reveal her expressionistic roots.


“Rite of Spring”


Q&A with dancer Blakeley White-McGuire

By Breanna Kerr
Updated: 04/25/13 9:14pm

The Martha Graham Dance Company will close Carolina Performing Arts’ “The Rite of Spring at 100” celebration with a program titled “Myth and Transformation,” which is composed of multiple programs, including “The Rite of Spring.”

Staff writer Breanna Kerr spoke with the lead dancer for the show, Blakeley White-McGuire, about her role in the company, this performance and the importance of “The Rite of Spring” as a classic.

Daily Tar Heel: What is your role in the Martha Graham Dance Company?

Blakeley White-McGuire: I am one of the principal dancers with the Martha Graham Dance Company.

I am dancing The Woman in Red in “Diversions and Angels” and The Chosen One in “The Rite of Spring.”

DTH: What does “The Rite of Spring” mean to you?

BWM: It’s a very famous piece of music, first of all.

It’s a visceral piece of music that gives many images, but Martha Graham’s “Rite of Spring” means extreme effort, excitement, sexuality, endurance and bringing all of those elements together in dance with (Igor) Stravinsky’s incredibly moving score.

DTH: Do you think “The Rite of Spring” still has cultural resonance in today’s society?

BWM: If we look at our own rituals and who we are willing to sacrifice in our culture — who is disposable — it’s extremely resonant.

I look at the role of The Chosen One very much in relation to leaders who know they are up against cultural embedded ways of being and yet they still go forward with their mission.

So The Chosen One knows she is a part of this ritual, and she knows one of the maidens will die. When she’s chosen — in my interpretation — she, while scared out of her mind, still accepts her fate and accepts her role in the community.

That resonates really strongly with people today.

DTH: How long have you been preparing for your role as The Chosen One?

BWM: Since learning it several months ago, I have come to understand that I’ve been preparing for this role for about 10 years, since my first technique class.

It makes me think beginnings are so important because you never know where a beginning is going to lead you, so it’s important to give everything, to do well, to do your best — and I say that in relation to technique.

DTH: What is your background in dance, and how long have you been dancing in the company?

BWM: I am an American dancer, and I was raised in the American dance studio community: ballet, tap and jazz.

I moved to New York when I was 19, and I began studying at the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance, specifically training in Graham’s technique.

I also study classical ballet, and I dance opera, tap and I make my own choreography.

DTH: Why is “The Rite of Spring” still so important even after a century since its first performance?

BWM: Because it’s a classic. It strikes a chord in humanity and the people who are open and willing to feel the relentless energy of it.

DTH: What do you hope audiences will take away from the performance?

BWM: I hope they will be moved by the beauty and the passion of Graham’s work and of our dancers’ work.

I hope the audience will connect with what we are sharing with them, and I hope the audience will feel a part of it.

Contact the desk editor at

Published April 25, 2013



‘Rite of Spring’ revival at UNC to feature new costumes


Apr. 25, 2013 @ 01:10 AM




The Martha Graham Dance Company had planned to use Halston’s original costumes for a revival of Graham’s 1984 “Rite of Spring.” This work is included in the company’s Friday and Saturday programs at UNC’s Memorial Auditorium. Superstorm Sandy changed that plan. “There was a rush of water that ripped doors off walls,” company artist director Janet Eilber said of that storm’s devastating effect on the company’s New York headquarters. About four months before the storm hit, the company had moved into Merce Cunningham Company’s former headquarters a block from the Hudson River. So, the Sandy-propelled surge tide had flooded the basement where all the company’s costumes and sets were stored, Eilber said in a telephone interview. Ten days passed before the water could be pumped out and that’s when they found soaked costumes, including vintage wear, she added.
They managed to salvage some costumes by sending them to a laundry. A trunk full of costumes worn by Graham has been sent to be restored, Eilber said. Other costumes were beyond repair, such as Halston’s black and white loincloths and sarong-style skirts designed for Graham’s “Rite of Spring.” What audiences will see this weekend are new costumes inspired by Halston’s originals, she added. The company needs to raise $3 million to replace or restore damaged sets and costumes. Stars from the dance world performed at a Feb. 25 benefit with North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble alumna Michelle Dorrance kicking off the show, Eilber said. To reconstruct Graham’s “Rite of Spring,” not performed since 1993, the company used film footage of the original work as well as first-hand knowledge shared by the company’s rehearsal director Denise Vale and Kenneth Topping, who had danced in the original cast, Eilber said.
Graham’s “Rite” features 17 dancers and includes a Shaman and The Chosen One, the maiden sacrificed for Earth’s spring renewal. In the Graham Company’s current production, Blakeley White-McGuire and Xiachuan Xie share the role of The Chosen One (on alternate nights at UNC).
“They’re both phenomenal dancers and very different in this lead role. There’s a certain fragility to her – a natural projection of the innocence,” Eilber said of Xiachuan. “Blakeley is a dynamic actress. She’s a tigress. She’s not just the victim in this role.”
White-McGuire explained her interpretation: “She’s an active participant in the ritual. The fear is there but also the choice. It’s the empowerment of the individual,” the dancer said in a telephone interview.
This “Rite” also represents the culmination of White-McGuire’s years of study in Graham’s technique, which builds physical strength, mental concentration and tenacity, the dancer added. “The Graham technique is incredibly athletic. The physical and emotional are intertwined. It’s an endurance piece for the company,” she said. White-McGuire’s solo comes after 15 minutes of hard dancing. While she doesn’t have the 123 jumps The Chosen One executed in the original “Rite,” White-McGuire performs some very energetic moves. “I haven’t counted, but there may be 123 contractions and releases,” she said. When creating her “Rite” at age 90, Graham no doubt drew on her own experience of performing The Chosen One in a 1930 version choreographed by Leonide Massine with the set designer from the original 1913 “Rite.” Graham’s relationship with Massine proved contentious, Eilber said. At one point, Graham told him, “ ‘Get me out of these damned boots.’ She danced her role barefoot,” Eilber added. It would be 53 years until Graham would create her own “Rite.” “It really is an incredible work,” Eilber said. The work reflects Graham’s revolutionary contribution to modern dance. “She took body language and theatricalized it,” Eilber added. Both Stravinsky’s and Graham’s works evoke the primal. “Graham’s gutsy, percussive, elemental movement style was a great match for Stravinsky’s music,” she noted. “They’re both geniuses.”

In her Feb. 29, 1984, review of the premiere of Graham’s “Rite” at Lincoln Center, New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff had high praise. “It is a ‘Rite’ that is totally elemental, as primal in expression of basic emotion as any tribal ceremony, as hauntingly staged in its deliberate bleakness as it is rich in implication,” the critic writes. Graham sets her “Rite” in a desert landscape evocative of the American Southwest with rituals suggestive of Native American inspiration, Kisselgoff notes. In Graham’s version, instead of dancing herself to death, The Chosen One succumbs from sheer terror, “the life ebbing out of her in a spasmodic solo,” the critic writes. “She is quite simply an artist of the greatest depth and she stirs us so strongly that we cannot merely walk out of the theater as if we had witnessed just another dance performance,” Kisselgoff writes. The audience must have agreed, for they gave Graham’s work a standing ovation at the premiere.



View a video of dance-in-process – with the Martha Graham Dance Company and choreographer, Luca Veggetti for his work From the Grammar of Dreams . Video by XiaoChuan Xie.

Martha Graham’s ‘Imperial Gesture,’ Reconstructed – “Recreating the Reign, the Better to Fall”

Imperial Gesture

“Recreating the Reign, the Better to Fall”

By GIA KOURLAS Published: February 15, 2013
The New York Times

Martha Graham always insisted that she was apolitical, but in 1935 she took a choreographic stand. The solo “Imperial Gesture,” created around the same time she turned down Nazi officials’ invitation to perform at the 1936 Olympic Games, showcased Graham as a monarch demonstrating absolute power before losing control and toppling to the floor.

No film of “Imperial Gesture” exists, only photographs by Barbara Morgan, and the task of reconstructing the piece by the Martha Graham Dance Company has been a daunting group effort. The music, by Lehman Engel, is also missing; in its place is a new composition by Pat Daughtery. But through research the choreographer Kim Jones, a former company member who has staged Graham works, was able to garner a sense of its spirit.

“She was mocking imperialism,” Ms. Jones said in a telephone interview from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she is an assistant professor. “The crowd was jeering about the fall of this character at the end. It was like a rock concert in the 1930s at the Guild Theater. People just rose to their feet.”

As a review in The Dance Observer said, “Here is the essence of the megalomania that conquers continents.”

Just how do you bring a lost solo to life in theatrical terms? For Janet Eilber, the artistic director of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, finding that essence is the elusive spark. Examining Graham’s ideas from a new generation’s perspective is a critical part of the reconstruction, just as how small gestures — the exact moment when a dancer turns her head or lifts her eyes — reveal everything.

“We’ve got ego,” she explained in an interview. “But I don’t think we have megalomania yet.”

The Graham company’s season at the Joyce Theater, which begins on Wednesday, features the reanimation of “Imperial Gesture,” performed by the eloquently gutsy Blakeley White-McGuire. The run also includes a reconstruction of “Phaedra” that involves streamlining the work and returning to its original costumes. Since the Graham company lost many of its costumes and sets because of Hurricane Sandy, “Errand Into the Maze,” now called “Errand,” will be performed without the classic sets, costumes, hair and makeup. It’s a first.

But in “Imperial Gesture” the costume is crucial. Designed by Karen Young, the stiff, jewel-tone rust skirt snaps in the front and features panels that can be gathered into a cloak, held high like butterfly wings or lashed violently to accent a defiant stomp. Ms. Jones said, “Really the skirt is a dance partner.”

As with other Graham solos from the 1930s that have been reconstructed with the aid of Barbara Morgan photographs, including “Satyric Festival Song“ (1932) and “Deep Song” (1937), the reanimation project began with 32 images and a smattering of reviews. Ms. Jones worked with the dramaturge Jeanmarie Higgins, also an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who found a wealth of descriptive writing in the Marxist publication The New Masses, where the Graham solo was viewed as a potent anti-Fascist statement.

Ms. Jones discovered a diagram of the dance in Merle Armitage’s 1937 book “Martha Graham,” which allowed her to walk through its spatial patterns. From there she met with the former Graham dancers Ethel Winter and Linda Hodes to focus on transitions and the movement vocabulary of the time. In the 1930s Graham had not invented the split falls or the dramatic tilts of later dances like “Diversion of Angels.”

The reanimation team was also guided by John Malcolm Brinnin’s poem “Imperial Gesture for Martha Graham,” which begins with “Clear the courtyard circle of its chalky dusk” and concludes with “Her palms a-click and her quick feet like dice.”

Ms. Jones said: “I thought of images of fancy footwork that European imperialism would have used in court dances, but messing it up and making it more modern, making sure that she uses the different corners of the room, but also acting as if she’s in a round space, where there are people looking down upon her in a courtyard.”

In the solo Ms. White-McGuire’s arms fold in like broken wings and her feet strike down hard; brisk claps and finger snaps emphasize the character’s demonic fervor. But just how to begin the dance posed a challenge; Ms. Jones had to abandon the spatial diagram, in which an arrow pointed from wings to stage. “In the ‘30s Graham didn’t walk onto the stage,” Ms. Jones said. “She was discovered on the stage. So that’s where we had to start.”

After the research part of reimagining a dance has to do with intuition. The rest comes down to fine-tuning. Recently at Westbeth, the company’s rehearsal studios in the West Village, Ms. Eilber watched as Ms. White-McGuire crossed the floor with sharp stomps before whipping the fabric of her skirt with maniacal force.

“Can you put a turn on that last step?” Ms. Eilber asked.

The movement phrase, punctuated with an emphatic swirl, suddenly became an expression of haughty contempt. “She’s got a lot of attitude,” Ms. White-McGuire exclaimed.

Ms. Eilber laughed and said, “We have to get her up high, so she has farther to fall.”

The tension in “Imperial Gesture” and the use of a controlled fall at the end are traditional Graham. “But I think there might be a little bit of spunkiness in there that might not be so Graham,” Ms. White-McGuire said in an interview. “My monarch is feisty, and Graham, from what I know and have studied, was very regal. Now I want, of course, the regal. But there’s also Blakeley White-McGuire in there. I don’t want to negate my tendencies and my dynamics.”

Imperial Gesture

© 2010 Blakeley White-McGuire and developed by Pretentia. | login