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Review of Mary Anthony Dance Theater Showing by Board Member Thomas McNally

The CWDF Board of Directors is comprised of Weidman alumni from various moments on the timeline of the Weidman legacy. One of our beloved members, Thomas McNally, has built quite the resume in his years involved in the modern dance, art, and culture scene. In addition to performing with the Humphrey Weidman Group in the early 1930’s, he has been an accompanist for Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins, Jose Limon, May O’Donnell, and at the Humphrey Weidman studio. In recent years he has taught music at LaGuardia Community College and the Brooklyn School of Music, played organ at Lower East Side Trinity Church, sung with with the Collegiate Chorale, and participated in poetry readings.

Board Members Margaret O’Sullivan and Thomas McNally May 1, 1994 at the Humphrey-Weidman Gala at the Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse. Photo by Larry Hall.

This past June, Tom saw the reconstruction of Charles Weidman’s Fables for our Time performed in the Mary Anthony Dance Theater Studio Showing. This is what he saw.

A Review of Mary Anthony Dance Theater Studio Recital
June 23, 2012

On a recent June evening of an unseasonal New York City hot spell, a recital in Mary Anthony’s studio confirmed the vitality of Charles Weidman’s unique endowment as dancer and mime. There were even echoes of the Denishawn tradition that spawned the establishment in New York City of his choreographic style along with that of his partner, Doris Humphrey and the revolutionary technique and performance of their fellow at Denishawn, the incomparable Martha Graham.
The program opened unconventionally with Alexandra Len’s Where the Light, with emphasis on the “where” of the title for before dancing in the dark, Miss Len distributed miniature flashlights to the audience who not only participated in the performance, but defined the dance at whim. Within the first half of the program, there were two echoes of Denishawn. The first was a piece called Dual, implying duet, by Amelia Dawe Sanders to music of Philip Glass. The Denishawn feature was a bolt of scarlet cloth in which the two principal dancers were at times separately enwound. Occasionally free of the cloth and tussling to claim it, the piece echoed the famous Soaring of Doris Humphrey- her opus involved a large square of colored fabric as a constraint in a charming dance for a quartet of females.
This dramatic Dual was followed by two excellent solos, each danced expertly. Incident, danced and choreographed by Delia Cadman to the music of David Lang, was economical and intense like all effective modern solos and commanded the audience’s attention. The equally fine and effective solo which followed was entitled Soft Shock by choreographer Emma Lee and danced by her to the music of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Following these solos in the first half of the program were two small group dances. Cross Currents, choreographed by Lina Dahbour to an extended piece by Beethoven, was the second echo of  Denishawn, acknowledging composition with props. The props consisted of several pieces of wood placed on stage before the dance began. In the course of the dance, any of these props were picked up by one of the three dancers and disposed of choreographically. Finally, one dancer left alone on stage incorporated a number of the props, acquiring them and then freeing herself while dancing. Perhaps this movement came from a study in abstraction? Speaking of abstraction, the second of these group dances, I Would (excerpts) choreographed by Rachel Cohen, exploited every conceivable movement of the five dancers on stage. Considering the elaborate vocabulary, one would like to see the complete work of which this was a selection.
Performed Saturday night were three of the four programmed 1947 Fables for our Time, inspired by James Thurber’s similarly titled collection and choreographed by who else–the outstanding, preeminent genius, the American mime and dancer, Charles Weidman. The music was by Freda Miller, the narration by Kian Ross and Mary Anthony, costumes by ex-Denishawn dancer and pianist, Humphrey-Weidman moral support, spouse of Jose Limon- Pauline Lawrence.
“The Unicorn” featured Jennifer Deckert as the wife, Andre Megerdichian moving lyrically in a fine approximation of Charles’ role as the Husband, Mary Staub as the Psychiatrist and our own Craig Gabrian as the Policeman. In “The Moth and the Star” Daniel Lupo played the young Moth and Fred Timm the Old Moth. In” The Courtship of Arthur and Al”, a jarring production for 1947, the Pretty Little Beaver was Rachel Cohen, Arthur was portrayed by Fred Timm and Al’s Playmates were Eva Hansson, Olga Mikhaviova, and Stephanie Van Dooren. The role of Al was danced very well by one of the tallest (is not the tallest) of male modern dancers Pascal Rekoert, doubling as videographer for the night. On this occasion the spirit of Charles was alive and one could almost see him, wearing handsome, formal, 19th century garb and hear him chanting his hail and farewell “Carry On!”

Fables for Our Time 1947

The last piece of the evening was a delightful surprise- a reconstruction choreographed by our presiding hostess, Mary Anthony. It was entitled Lady Macbeth, to music of Debussy and danced by Mary Ford who, for herself and the applauding audience, profusely acknowledged the choreographer. All these years, Mary Anthony has been working to preserve the tradition of early modern dance in our capital of much modernity in the arts. All the performances of the night were excellent and contributed to the glimpse of Charles’ characteristic deft and penetrating evocation in miming and dance. Thank you Mary Anthony!

-Thomas McNally

Interested in reading James Thurber’s “Fables for our Time”? Browse here.

To find out more about Mary Anthony Dance Theater you can visit the website here.

Post by Julia Jurgilewicz


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