A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Mariya Dashkina Maddux in Martha Graham’s “Appalachian Spring” / Photo and copyright by Hubbard Nash Photography

Though it was quite a few decades ago when the legendary pioneering dancer/choreographer Martha Graham spent a part of her teenage years in Santa Barbara, her still-operating New York City-based dance company is visiting the Southland this weekend. Presenting only one performance at the Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of California State University, Northridge on Saturday, April 18, at 8 p.m., local aficionados will get a good look at what was groundbreaking then and what the revered company is up to now.

Showcasing the 70th anniversary of the classic “Appalachian Spring,” a modern dance set to the Pulitzer Prize-winning music composition of the same name by Aaron Copland, the program also includes an historic re-staging of “Errand Into the Maze” (1947), whose score is by another of Graham’s artistic contemporaries, Gian Carlo Menotti. Along with these landmark collaborations, the world-renowned company will present “Lamentation Variations,” a trio of responses to Graham’s iconic 1930 solo performed then by the choreographer herself, sitting on a stool and wearing a body-covering costume and currently the inspiration for movement “sketches” by contemporary dance makers Kyle Abraham, Larry Keigwin and television’s “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Sonya Tayeh. The evening is completed with “Echo,” a new work by contemporary Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis, which is inspired by the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo and accompanied by music composed by Julian Tarride.

And that’s not all.

Preceding the dancing will be an informative lecture by local arts journalist Debra Levine (LA Times, The Huffington Post and artsmeme.com) followed by a conversation with current Martha Graham Dance Company Artistic Director Janet Eilber. These talks take place from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m.

In the VPAC Art Gallery Loge and remaining on view until May 15, the photo exhibition “Past-Future-Perfect: The 20th-Century Influences of Martha Graham and Barbara Morgan” unveils the revolutionary images taken by one female artist of another of her earthshaking peers in dance. Though rarely exhibited in California, this collection of vintage black-and-white shots is part of the holdings of the Los Angeles Dance Foundation, an organization founded and directed by ex-Graham principal dancer Bonnie Oda Homsey.

Getting up to Northridge may be quite a trek for some, but the rewards upon arrival are limitless. The Graham movement technique is the backbone of much of today’s dance idioms, and these dancers are the movers who speak that language the most fluently and elegantly in the world, with all the power and precision that the doyenne of modern dance would demand. She died in 1991 at the age of 96, but her influence on the performing arts carries on.

It’s a history lesson and a look to the future all in one outing.

Benn Widdey, Culture Spot LA

The Valley Performing Arts Center is located at 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge 91330-8448. Tickets range from $35 to $75 and can be purchased at https://www.valleyperformingartscenter.org/calendar/martha-graham-dance-company. For more info: https://www.valleyperformingartscenter.org/calendar/martha-graham-dance-company/view/2015-04-18