Large Group

BRANDENBURG CONCERTO NUMBER 4 (1958 – 1959) (Bach)
8 women, 3 men; 8 minutes
Ruth Currier, who completed this final work when Doris Humphrey was unable to continue, says that it is “a gentle and happy celebration of the place you find yourself in a meadow or clearing in the woods.” In the beginning, a solo figure greets four others who celebrate with her. Two more are invited in. Then, dreamlike, a trio enters. Each of the three movements contains a particular mood: 1) pleasant, gracious, elegant; 2) a lament; 3) bright, alive, and vibrant.

DANCE OVERTURE (1957) (Creston)
5 women, 6 men; 11 minutes
This work beautifully captures the exuberance and power of ensemble work. Excerpted phrases from the Humphrey-Limòn repertory are woven together, much like those of a musical overture, and offer a sampler of various phrases and styles of movement. The large orchestral score serves as the proper accompaniment for this grand-scale work.

GRIEG PIANO CONCERTO IN A MINOR, 1st MOVEMENT (1928) (Grieg)
15 or 17 women; 12 minutes
With its Art Deco set, consisting of steps and a platform in front of a gold screen, the dance evokes early modernism. The music is romantic, but the dance is revolutionary. Using strong movements, the lead dancer shapes the ensemble in her image and steers them away from weak, ineffectual movements to a powerful conclusion, underscored by the group’s emphatic heel beats. For information about the Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor contact Stephanie Clemens, Artistic Director, Momenta Dance Company stephanieclemens@hotmail.com 708-848-2329.

LIFE OF THE BEE (1929) (Hindemith)
8 women, 3 men; 13 minutes
Inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s book by the same name, Life of the Bee is a dramatic dance based on the struggle of a young queen to rise to her destined position in the hive, to replace its aging ruler, and to retain that position in the face of new challenges. The dance is pervaded with a continuous, fluctuating current of energy, the ceaseless activity of the hive. This is one of Humphrey’s most famous dances.

NEW DANCE, complete version (1935) (Riegger)
6 women, 4 men; 35 minutes
In symphonic form, New Dance is a dance of affirmation, proceeding from disorganization to organization, in which the group is led by the principal male and female dancers in a series of themes to become a unified whole. Once unified, the "Variations and Conclusion" demonstrates the place of the individual within the group.

NEW DANCE: VARIATIONS AND CONCLUSION (1935) (Riegger)
6 women, 4 men; 8 minutes
The Variations and Conclusion from New Dance represents a democratic world where each person has a clear and harmonious relationship to his or her fellow beings. Each dancer steps forward from the group to perform an individual variation, then rejoins the other dancers. Its mood is one of animation, energy, and joyousness of spirit, ending with all of the dancers turning, reversing and turning again in a rousing conclusion.

PASSACAGLIA AND FUGUE (1938) (Bach)
13 women, 3 men; 14 minutes

A vision of an ideal world where the inhabitants live in peaceful accord with one another, this dance expresses the choreographer’s conviction that man is potentially capable of creating such a utopia. Choreographically, its concept matches the grandeur of Bach’s music. Doris Humphrey explained that she had treated the piece “as an abstraction with dramatic overtones.” The melody, in a minor key in the traditional passacaglia form, seems to say “How can a man be saved and be content in a world of infinite despair?” In the magnificent fugue that concludes the dance, the answer is “be saved by love and courage.” The dance was inspired by the need for love, tolerance, and nobility in a world given more and more to the denial of these things.

SONG OF THE WEST: DESERT (1940) (Roy Harris)
12 women, 4 men; 11 minutes
This piece, celebrating the American West, originally was performed in three sections: Rivers, The Green Land, and Desert. The only surviving one, Desert, is a taut group ceremonial of primitive worship of sun and space.

THE LIBATION BEARERS (1933) (Milhaud)
10 women, 1 man; 22 minutes
Based on the ancient Greek play of the same title by Aeschylus, this powerful and exciting dance is told in bold choric patterns. The chorus races through space in a frenzy, throwing their bodies back and forth and wildly twisting from side to side in their lament for the murdered King Agamemnon. Clawing at their faces and the dirt under their feet, they sink to exhaustion and wait for Orestes to appear to avenge the murder of his father. The chorus rejoices in his appearance with spiraling movements and wild, abandoned leaps.


THE SHAKERS (1931) (traditional)
6 women, 5 men; 9 minutes

This Humphrey masterpiece, based on Shaker ritual, is about religious purification—the shaking off of sin—achieved through ecstasy. The dancers, as members of this celibate sect, start with small trembling and quavering movements that increase to violent shaking and twisting of their whole bodies, of running half-falls and single wild jumps into the air, all within a formal dance composition.

WATER STUDY (1928) (silence)
10 women; 11 minutes
Water Study conjures up a variety of sea moods ranging from calm to tidal and wind-driven turbulence. Performed in silence, the dance demonstrates Humphrey’s signature uses of fall and recovery and breath rhythm. It calls for ensemble work of the most subtle and complex order and completely synchronized rhythmic timing among the dancers.

WITH MY RED FIRES (1936) (Riegger)
large cast; 30 minutes
With My Red Fires takes its theme from the lines in William Blake’s poem Jerusalem: “For the Divine Appearance is Brotherhood, but I am Love Elevate into the Region of Brotherhood with my red fires.” It deals with the power of love—maternal, romantic, and fraternal—and its capacity for passionate and destructive excesses. It concludes with a vision of human brotherhood that prevails over prejudice and violence. The dramatic plot revolves around two lovers whose relationship is strongly disapproved by the girl’s mother (the Matriarch). With dictatorial flurry, she rouses a submissive group into a frenzy of violent persecution against the lovers—but in the process, becomes so overwrought that she destroys herself. In the end, the lovers are transfigured in an embrace representing equal respect of one human (or all humans) for another.

Choreography

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