Martha Graham's 1935 dance "Panorama" comes to Popejoy Hall on Friday, March 25 at 8 p.m.
Mary Anne Santos Newhall, assistant professor, Theatre and Dance, and Eric Newton, formerly of the Martha Graham Dance Company, coached more than 30 dancers from UNM, Keshet Dance Company, Albuquerque High School and the Public Academy for the Performing Arts to dance the piece.
Santos Newhall and Newton use Peggy Lyman Hayes' restaging of "Panorama."
Graham choreographed the piece, Santos Newhall said, as a reflection of what it means to be an American. "In 1935, Hitler was rising to power in Germany, the Spanish were on the brink of civil war, and the Great Depression was in full swing. Americans needed to see things in a larger global perspective," she said.
Graham was at Bennington College in Vermont when she choreographed it. "In the 1930s it was a place where the big four founders of American dance came together. They brought their companies to be fed and housed. They just danced," Santos Newhall said.
Bennington, a women's college, supported dancers. Experiential educator John Dewey saw dance as a way to teach physical education teachers. "Graham had these 33 students to work with. Panorama was the only mass dance of its time that she did," Santos Newhall said. She added that the UNM staging will be different because it includes men. "We have seven men. We had to ask for permission because Graham choreographed it as a power to women piece. Artistic Director Janet Eilber gave the okay, saying it's a ‘power to the people piece.'"
The original set was designed by modern artist Alexander Calder. "He designed a mobile for the piece, but we're not reconstructing that for the show," Santos Newhall said. And the music was written by Norman Lloyd at Bennington. "It was the first dance piece he wrote and later became a dance composer," Santos Newhall said.
The brilliant red costumes are all borrowed from the Graham Dance Company.
"Panorama" has been performed at select places, but not widely. "It is taught in high schools around New York City in the spirit of the original concept of sharing the work with the next generation of artists," Santos Newhall said.
Eilber's vision is to share Graham's relevance to our time. "Our world is like the world of the 1930s. It is timely to be performing it now. It's about unity and community and the importance of that in facing challenges," Santos Newhall said.
Originally, the piece was 45 minutes long. "The piece died from 1935 until the 1990s when a Graham soloist, Yuriko, found footage from the original performance. "But it didn't have the solos, so the group pieces were put together," Santos Newhall said.
The pieces are thematic. One is "Dedication," which speaks to the fanaticism of the Puritan fathers. "It uses many dances to make a statement and create a sense of space architecturally," Santos Newhall said. Another is "Imperial," which is decidedly Southern. "It features people in bondage and fearful," she said.
"Dance is there and then it's gone," Santos Newhall said. This time around, don't miss it.
Support for the production came from a College of Fine Arts grant, a teaching allocation grant and support from the Dean of the College of Fine Arts and the chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance.