It wasn’t until a friend showed me a picture of Martha Graham in Lamentation – I guess in 1990 that I started to
look at dance in a different way. I had really got into dance in the mid 80’s when there seemed to be a massive explosion of energy and with a proliferation of contemporary dance companies. Rombert, Michael Clarke (who had studied Cunningham) and due to a friends’ connection, an introduction to the work of DV8. The Place was going strong in London and the work was fresh and exciting with a great venue and the BIG tee-shirts. However, looking back on all that energy, the piece I remember most at The Place involved a guy in a smart suit who suddenly slowed right down from a fast pace to a stop, then slowly walked a line. It was the most moving thing I had ever seen in dance, and for the life of me I can’t remember what piece it was from. Yet much later when I saw Graham wrapped in Lamentation that I got the same feeling that ‘wow’ feeling.
During my degree I wrote about and deconstructed Grahams’ Lamentation until it lay like the cogs and coils of a cuckoo clock spread out on a table – but that’s all it was. Of course you can’t find ‘it’ – it’s not there on the table, only existing in those watching. That inescapable grieving is in us all, and Graham formed an object for us to project our own pain. That’s the great thing about Graham, she lets you connect and compose the structure then create your own inner picture.
Along with friends Annie and Josie, we tried to emulate Grahams’ Lamination ‘struggle’ during a choreography module. Even with being filmed contained in a claustrophobic box with the dense music of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit, the best we could say about the work was that it was a heart-felt, well-meant homage, but came nowhere near to matching the emotion of the piece. Perhaps that’s the point, you can’t make ‘it’, only construct a composition of cogs and wheels and hope it shows the time to yourself or others, let alone make the birds sing.
I didn’t think anything could beat Lamination but I have to go for Appalachian Spring. It would be easy to say they are completely different, and ostensibly they are, yet contain that same mercurial ‘thing’. Love, loss, grief, they all come from the same place, and exist in the swaying tides of emotion of self. That place is an untouchable alchemy, a depth of feeling that Graham can convey so well. I carry that feeling me, and can still sense that togetherness of the bride and groom. For me it is the whole thing; the set, (which always reminds me of the court scene in the Crucible,) Coplands’ music, the costumes, choreography, the dancers, Cunningham, that strange light – and last but not least Graham. Like many things, I didn’t know what I wanted until I found it, yet Lamentation and Appalachian Spring go a long way to giving form to something beyond words. With that I shall shut up, and apologise for the quality of some the photos. Again I photographed off a videos, leaving the film running as I shot to get the movement, and the images I wanted and couldn’t find.