In residence at Westbeth, the Martha Graham Company and the pre-professional dance company, Graham 2, rehearse and prepare for their work across the city. Graham 2 was originally created by Yuriko at the request of Martha Graham in 1983 under the name of Martha Graham Ensemble.
Graham 2 is a pre-professional dance company drawn from the most advanced students of the Martha Graham School. Under the direction of Virginie Mécène, Graham 2 performs Graham’s repertory as well as works of guest choreographers.
Its mission is to bring the Graham tradition to younger audiences, smaller venues, and to cultural communities, and to be a springboard for young dancers to enter the professional dance world. This all takes place right in our neighborhood!
At Westbeth (55 Bethune Street), we have installed shadow boxes as part of our Village Voices exhibition honoring Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham as two luminaries with great impact on our neighborhoods. Just a few blocks away, an interactive installation entitled “A Momument to Choice” resides at Gansevoort Plaza, also as part of the exhibition, recognizing the womens’ rights activists throughout Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo.
We’ve combined the artistry of Graham 2 with our historic preservation work and the inspirational pieces of Village Voices to create a unique experience for our neighborhoods. The result was an event that gathered the public to celebrate both the passage of the 19th Amendment which ended gender-based discrimination in voting in this country, and saluting the long history of advocates in our neighborhoods for personal choice and liberty.
On Friday, October 14th, 2022, the dancers and director of Graham 2 gathered with Lannyl Stephens, Village Preservation’s Director of Development and Special Events, and trustee and co-chair of Village Voices Leslie Mason to present a day of learning, dance, and acts of self-expression. The act of gathering to stand for a message of community was felt throughout the afternoon. Families and friends, strangers and lovers, all stopped by to enhance their days and lives through an event highlighting history and our neighborhoods.
In celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the Martha Graham Dance Company created The EVE Project — a guiding force behind the Company’s 2018–19 and 2019–20 seasons.
As a part of this project, the Martha Graham company created The 19 Poses. These poses both honor suffragists and accentuates Martha Graham’s revolutionary approach to representing women onstage. In an era when women characters in dance were generally goddesses, princesses, flowers or swans, Graham began dancing complex, flawed, determined, and very powerful women – both heroines and anti heroines, such as Medea, Phaedra, Jocasta, Emily Dickinson, and Clytemnestra, to name just a few.
The company chose 19 photographs of Graham in evocative moments from various performances from her long career. The power inherent in the poses is offered to anyone who choses to own them – to learn, remember and make then their own.
At Gansevoort Plaze on a sunny Friday afternoon, the company members and director demonstrated these poses in front of “A Monument to Choice.” They then provided instruction to those who wished to participate to learn their favorite, or multiple, poses and have their photo taken on the monument. This blending of historical learning with cultural and social justice movements allowed participants to learn something new while making a statement.
The results: “First we have to believe and then we believe.” – Martha Graham
This event had a diverse array of participants. Some had signed up and were ready to learn these iconic poses. Many of these participants knew the significance of Martha Graham and her seminal works that inspired these poses. Others happened upon the event in their downtown travels and took part while learning a little more about the history of activism in the Village and about Martha Graham’s impact on women’s rights.
Some participants did not believe they “had what it takes” to participate. The Graham 2 Company’s support and encouragement helped them believe in themselves and then take a stand. Photos captured at the event by Kimberlee Hewitt share the enthusiasm, joy, and confidence presented by participants as they took a stand.
Looking back to ensure a stronger future:
The archival aspect of this project cannot be understated, as it is so aligned with the mission of Village Preservation. The poses can be seen here in 19 photographs chosen by the Martha Graham Company. These poses came alive with the dancer’s performance and then instruction with locals and tourists taking part in the workshop. Recreating these historic poses brings the importance of Martha Graham’s work and the connection between culture and social progress in our neighborhoods.