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Lecture/demonstration by Martha Graham Dance Company

Princeton University presents a lecture/demonstration by members of the renowned Martha Graham Dance Company of Graham’s 1962 ballet, Phaedra, on Thursday, March 27 at 4:30 p.m. in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center. The program will include a reading by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Princeton professor Paul Muldoon. The ballet is a retelling of the story of Phaedra, Hippolytus and Theseus based on the ancient Greek myth and part of “Myth in Transformation: The Phaedra Project,” a year-long series of events at Princeton. The event is free and open to the public.

The Phaedra ballet is described by the Graham Company “as a reflection on ‘the truth about physical passion, untempered by conscience, decency, or civilized principles’ based on the Greek tragedy of the queen who lusted after her step-son.”

Members of the Company will present a narrated lecture/demonstration that provides an inside look at the creation of this legendary ballet. Dancers will portray the five lead characters in the ballet—Phaedra, Theseus, Hippolytus, Aphrodite, Artemis—and will deconstruct the dance, stopping and starting the action to consider what Graham has layered into the choreography. Professor emerita and founding director of Princeton’s Program in Dance Ze’eva Cohen will introduce the event. An open question and answer session with the audience will follow the presentation.

Muldoon will provide a reading of his poetry. He will be introduced by Susan Wheeler, Director of Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing. The ballet lecture/demonstration will follow.

The Martha Graham Dance Company has been a leader in contemporary dance since 1926. Martha Graham (1894-1991) is recognized as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century creating over 180 dance compositions in a career spanning more than 60 years. She influenced generations of choreographers and dancers including Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp and classical ballet dancers such as Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov sought her out to broaden their artistry. Her bold use of socially infused subjects and emotionally charged performances helped define contemporary dance in America. In 1986, she was given the Local One Centennial Award for dance by her theater colleagues, awarded only once every 100 years, and in 1976 was granted the United States’ highest civilian honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom.  In 1998, TIME Magazine named her the “Dancer of the Century.” Today, the Company she founded is embracing a new programming vision that showcases masterpieces by Graham, her peers, and their successors as well as newly commissioned works by contemporary artists.

Muldoon served as the founding chair of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts. In 2007 he was appointed Poetry Editor of The New Yorker. Between 1999 and 2004 he was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, where he is an honorary Fellow of Hertford College. Muldoon's main collections of poetry are New Weather (1973), Mules (1977), Why Brownlee Left (1980), Quoof (1983), Meeting The British (1987), Madoc: A Mystery (1990), The Annals of Chile (1994), Hay (1998), Poems 1968-1998 (2001), Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), Horse Latitudes (2006), and Maggot (2010). His awards include the 1994 T. S. Eliot Prize, the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize, the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, the 2003 Griffin International Prize for Excellence in Poetry, the 2004 American Ireland Fund Literary Award, the 2004 Shakespeare Prize, the 2005 Aspen Prize for Poetry, and the 2006 European Prize for Poetry. He has been described by The Times Literary Supplement as “the most significant English-language poet born since the second World War.”

Over the past two millennia, Phaedra has inspired drama, poetry, painting, sculpture, film, opera, and dance. Since the production of Euripides’s tragedy Hippolytus in 428 B.C., Phaedra’s story continues to appear in innumerable guises. “Myth in Transformation: The Phaedra Project,” organized by Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures Olga Peters Hasty and doctoral candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature Catherine I. Reilly, brings together artists, scholars, and students from Princeton and beyond to engage creatively with Phaedra’s many instantiations. During the current academic year, the myth has been featured in an interdisciplinary series of events.

On November 5, McCarter Theatre will present an evening of dance by the Martha Graham Dance Company. Members of the Company will also offer a master class for Princeton students during their visit to Princeton this fall.

The Phaedra Project is made possible by the sponsorship of the following Princeton University departments and programs: Council of the Humanities; Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures;  Lewis Center for the Arts; Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies; University Center for Human Values; Program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities; Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies; Department of Comparative Literature; Department of Classics; Department of French and Italian; Program in European Cultural Studies; Department of Music; Princeton University Orchestra; and Princeton University Art Museum.


Photo link:
Photo caption:  Lloyd Knight and Mariya Dashkina Maddux in Martha Graham’s ballet, Phaedra.
Photo credit:  Photos by COSTAS 

Related Links

Myth in Transformation: The Phaedra Project


Event Information


Thursday, March 27, 2014

4:30 p.m.


Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center

Free and open to the public




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