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Martha Graham Dance Company to Perform at Pomona With Students on March 1

Students rehearse the Martha Graham piece "Panorama"

Claremont Colleges students rehearse the Martha Graham piece "Panorama"

The Martha Graham Dance Company, one of the most celebrated contemporary dance companies in America, will be in residency at Pomona College from February 27 to March 1. Among the residency’s components are a choreography workshop, access to rehearsals and, for some students, the opportunity to perform with the Company.

At the conclusion of the residency on March 1, the Martha Graham Dance Company will give a public performance at 8 p.m. in Bridges Auditorium (450 N. College Way, Claremont). The program will include a multimedia program of dance works from the 1920s and 1930s by Martha Graham and her contemporaries, including Panorama, performed by 26 students from the Claremont Colleges; Lamentation Variations and Diversion of Angels.

The students performing Panorama have given up their Friday and Saturday afternoons since October to rehearse under the direction of David Zurak, a former Graham Company member, and Laurie Cameron, director of the Pomona College Dance Program.

William Appleton ’14, who has been dancing for three years, jumped at the opportunity to participate. “I knew that it was a rare opportunity to work with one of the most culturally significant institutions of modern dance in America.  So, I auditioned for Panorama even though it was a long shot considering my lack experience, and I was lucky enough to get in. Until Panorama, I had only taken classes in ballet. I had to re-orient myself very quickly during rehearsals because Graham technique is, in some ways, the exact opposite of ballet.”

For theatre major Sam Gold ’11, “Learning Graham technique has made me a better, more expressive performer. The Panorama choreography takes your body to a place that is simultaneously powerful and vulnerable. It keeps you honest onstage--if only because you're so exhausted. Not just seeing but experiencing the progress made at every rehearsal-- both in my own work and in all the other dancers—has been an inspirational and beautiful thing.

“I am excited to get to work alongside these phenomenally talented professional performers,” Gold added. “I can't wait to experience what it feels like to walk onstage after they've left the room charged with energy, take a deep breath, and perform.”

For Tulsi Mehta ’12, who has been performing and studying dance for the last 10 years, in both India and the U.S., “This choreography is like a little taste of the whole era in which Martha Graham was creating her repertoire, so with most of us not being trained in Graham technique, we've had lots to work on! To be able to master the movement in Panorama, we need to find it deeper in our bodies and minds…. For me, it was most important to have the time to really delve deeply into what it all meant. It’s exciting to be carrying on her legacy.”

“In addition to the Choreography Workshop, I am really looking forward to seeing how the company members move in rehearsal and performance,” says Mehta. “I'm so curious to see how they interact with one another, to be able to observe their work ethic and energy, and I’m excited to ask them about their experiences.”

For Cameron, “The Panorama experience has brought to life Graham's passion and her belief in dance as a powerful tool of social protest. Zurak has taken great pains to bring students into dialogue about how the piece, a ‘call to action,’ resonates today, most immediately in Egypt and other areas of the Middle East.” 

Students from all five of the Claremont Colleges auditioned to participate in Panorama. The cast of 26 represents Pomona, Scripps, Pitzer and Claremont McKenna, as well as one high school student who studies at Inland Pacific Ballet and three graduates of the Pomona and Scripps Dance Programs.

Tickets, which are free, for the performance have all been claimed. You may check with the Bridges Auditorium Box Office, which is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm., on the day of the event to see if any more tickets have been released.