Martha Graham Dance Company Brings Appalachian Spring to Athens

January 25, 2023

A woman in a purple dress leaps in the air

“Nothing could overshadow the impassioned strength, heart, and commitment — and, to be sure, top-notch proficiency — offered by these dancers.” — Boston Globe

Appalachian Spring is the signature ballet by legendary American choreographer Martha Graham, a slice of pioneer life set to an iconic score by Aaron Copland. The Martha Graham Dance Company makes its Athens debut with the work Thursday and Friday, Feb. 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the UGA Fine Arts Theatre.

These performances will feature the original Appalachian Spring orchestration for 13 instruments, performed by a chamber orchestra led, by UGA Associate Director of Bands and Associate Professor of Music Jaclyn Hartenberger. The program also includes Graham’s Canticle for Innocent Comedians, reimagined by a variety of contemporary choreographers with music by jazz standout Jason Moran. Between these works comes Steps in the Street, a Graham ballet with a group of UGA student dancers and infectious music by Georgia native Wallingford Riegger.

Each performance will be preceded by a 6:45 p.m. talk by Martha Graham Dance Company Artistic Director Janet Eilber and UGA Professor of Dance Lisa Fusillo in room 201 of the Fine Arts Building (just off the theatre lobby).

Graham (1891-1991) is recognized as a primal artistic force of the 20th century, alongside Picasso, James Joyce, Stravinsky, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Time magazine named her “Dancer of the Century,” and People magazine named her among the female “Icons of the Century.” As a choreographer, she was as prolific as she was complex. Graham created 181 ballets and a dance technique that has been compared to ballet in its scope and magnitude. Her approach to dance and theater revolutionized the art form and her innovative physical vocabulary has irrevocably influenced dance worldwide.

In 1926, Graham founded her dance company and school, living and working out of a tiny Carnegie Hall studio in midtown Manhattan. Always a fertile ground for experimentation, the Martha Graham Dance Company has been an unparalleled resource in nurturing many of the leading choreographers and dancers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Merce Cunningham, Anna Sokolow, Erick Hawkins, Pearl Lang, Sir Robert Cohan, Donald McKayle, Elisa Monte, Jacquelyn Buglisi, Paul Taylor, and many others.

The Martha Graham Dance Company has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, the Paris Opera House, Covent Garden, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as well as at the base of the Great Pyramids in Egypt and in the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus theatre on the Acropolis in Athens.

Today, the company continues to foster Graham’s spirit of ingenuity. It is embracing a new programming vision that showcases masterpieces by Graham alongside newly commissioned works by contemporary artists inspired by Graham’s legacy. With programs that unite the work of choreographers across time within a rich historical and thematic narrative, the Company is actively working to create new platforms for contemporary dance and multiple points of access for audiences.

These performances are made possible by the Christine and Thomas Pavlak Performing Arts Center Endowment. Additional support is provided by the Charlie and Teresa Friedlander Community Fund at the Athens Area Community Foundation.

For a complete list of UGA Presents performances, click here.

Three Ways to Order Tickets

  1. Purchase tickets online 24/7 online here.
  2. Call the Performing Arts Center Box Office at (706) 542-4400, Mon.-Fri., 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
  3. Visit the UGA Performing Arts Center Box Office, Mon.-Fri., 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (5 minute parking is available in the drop off circle at the Performing Arts Center for purchasing or picking up tickets.)

Photo: Photo of Anne O’Donnell in Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring by Melissa Sherwood.