Performers in the Martha Graham Dance Company stage Appalachian Spring at the VPAC. In its 70th season, the performance is one of the Graham company's oldest works. (The Sundial Photo/ Manny Araujo) Photo credit: Manny Araujo


Professional dancers from the Martha Graham Dance Company graced the stage at the VPAC Saturday night on the 89th anniversary of the company’s creation.

Performing pieces both old and new, the dancers left the audience in awe as they performed four very different pieces of modern dance.

Out of the four, the most crowd pleasing was the final piece, titled “Echo,” based on the myth of Narcissus who became infatuated with his own reflection in water and eventually drowned.

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Graham Dance Company performers dance to dance to a score by Aaron Copland’s during their production of Appalachian Spring. (The Sundial Photo/ Manny Araujo)

The piece featured the brilliant Lloyd Mayor as Narcissus and the equally enjoyable Lloyed Knight as his reflection. The amazing PeiJu Chien-Pott played Narcissus’ lover.

The group also performed “Errand into the Maze” which was originally choreographed as a duet for Martha Graham and Mark Ryder and is loosely based on the myth of Theseus.

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Graham Dance Company dancers perform Appalachian Spring a ballet about American pioneers in the 19th century. (The Sundial Photo/ Manny Araujo)

This dance tells the story from the perspective of a woman named Ariadne, who goes into a labyrinth to battle a creature who is half man and half beast, called the Minotaur. The original story featured a man battling the beast, but Graham created this piece with a female heroine.

The piece was beautifully done, featuring once again the stellar PeiJu Chien-Pott as Ariadne and Ben Schultz as the Minotaur.

The group began the evening by performing “Appalachian Spring,” much to the audience’s excitement. With a score composed by Aaron Copland, the piece featured dancers in pilgrim costumes, dancing ballet.

The piece was originally choreographed by Graham for the Library of Congress in 1944. Around this time, the war in Europe was coming to an end and Graham wanted to capture the hopefulness of people in America, as men and women would soon be reunited.

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Dancers in the Graham Dance Company perform Lamentation Variations Saturday night at the VPAC. Lamentation Variations is part of the company’s ongoing creative project. (The Sundial Photo/ Manny Araujo)

The dance group also performed variations of Graham’s iconic dance solo, “Lamentation.” Before the dancers came onstage, a video was shown on a big screen of Graham performing movements from her piece. The audience responded with an enthusiastic round of applause as the images of Graham faded to black and the dancers took the stage.

The variations of Graham’s solo were originally created to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 in the year 2007. The variations received such a positive response, that they became a permanent part of the dance company’s repertoire.

The dancers proved that they are incredible athletes. At one point, one of the dancers raised her leg completely vertical from the ground, pointing straight to the ceiling, receiving gasps from the audience.

A standing ovation was received by the dancers at the end of the night, with several whoops and hollers for the impressive and graceful leads.

Executive Director of the VPAC, Thor Steingraber, promised many more amazing dance acts to follow in the coming seasons.

The Valley Performing Arts Center makes an effort to offer affordable prices for students. The venue’s next event will be the CSUN wind ensemble on April 27.