IU Ballet performing Martha Graham for first time

IU Ballet Theater director Michael Vernon can still recall seeing Martha Graham’s dance troupe perform her iconic ballet, “Appalachian Spring,” years ago in London.

“It was one of the reasons I decided to move to this country. It really moved me,” he said. “Her choreography, her artistry. I have a real admiration for her.”

Now, he said, is the time to expose IU’s talented dancers to Graham’s powerful choreography. This weekend’s fall ballet, “Light and Shade,” will be the first time IU Ballet has performed any of Graham’s work.

“Our dancers work at such a high level and, given their age, most of them could be dancing in a company,” Vernon said. “Once they’ve established their technique, the way they learn and grow is by dancing choreography for the stage. Ballet companies now, they do a more modern type of choreography, and dancers nowadays are more adaptable than they used to be. The time is right.”

IU’s dancers also had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to work with Denise Vale, rehearsal director for the Martha Graham Dance Company, as they prepared for the ballet, Vernon said. While Graham’s method leans contemporary, he said Vale was able to weave the students’ classicism into the performance — a move he says has generated excitement from the dancers, and is certain to attract attention from audiences.

“Light and Shade” also features choreography by Twyla Tharp and Peter Martins. Don’t have your tickets yet? Visit the IU Ballet website.

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