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Martha Graham Dance melds artistic mediums for one-of-a-kind performance

As the grand closing event of the main stage season, the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) presents the legendary Martha Graham Dance Company at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 23 at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

A quintessential American heroine, Martha Graham (1894-1991) was a trailblazing dance pioneer and the mother of modern dance. She captured the spirit of her time and created groundbreaking works that continue to inspire and captivate audiences. In 1926, she founded the Martha Graham Dance Company and created an American dance revolution.

Today, this extraordinary company honors her legacy, bringing a sweeping and dramatic program of iconic Graham classics, rare archival films and photographs, and newly commissioned works that chart a unique and stunning history of dance from the early 20th century to the present. The curated program is narrated by artistic director Janet Eilber, who takes the audience on a journey providing a historical context rarely seen on a dance stage.

Highlighting the program is a performance of the iconic work Appalachian Spring set to music by Aaron Copland, with original sets by Isamu Naguchi, and Graham’s “call to action” work Panorama (1935), danced by a cast of 33 New Orleans youth in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the NORDC/NOBA Center For Dance, a partnership between NOBA and the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission that has provided more than 35,000 tuition-free dance classes since its inception.

The evening begins with dances from Graham’s years performing with the Denishawn Company and her early seminal works. Prelude and Revolt: Denishawn to Graham (1906-1936) traces the emergence of her unique dance theater and distinctive movement vocabulary. Introduced by century-old photos, a trio of rarely seen solos sets the stage, including The Incense (1906) by Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn’s fabulously costumed and ritual inspired male solo Gnossienne (A Priest of Knossos) (1919) and Graham’s Tanagra.

Appalachian Spring (excerpt) from NOBA on Vimeo.