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Dance News: The Church Announces That Martha Graham Dance Company Will Be Its First Artist-In-Residence

Dance News: The Church Announces That Martha Graham Dance Company Will Be Its First Artist-In-Residence

Published on February 10, 2021
Sonya Tayeh, Grahams Canticle, Interior of The Church (backdrop)

The Church, a new artist residency, exhibition space and creative center in the village of Sag Harbor, is pleased to announce that the Martha Graham Dance Company will take up residency with us for two weeks from February 8 - 21, 2021.

This collaboration marks the inauguration of The Church. Housed in a deconsecrated 19th century Methodist church, we aspire to be a place where local and national artists, creatives and thinkers can work, meet and inspire. Artists Eric Fischl and April Gornik bought the building as a shell three years ago and have led its redesign with Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership. The modern interior is a complement to its historical frame and emblematic of the contemporary program of events that will now animate this historical structure. The Church will increase access to the arts for our diverse audiences, foster creativity on the East End, and honor Sag Harbor’s long tradition as a maker’s village.

Instagram post of Martha Graham Dance Company members rehearsing at The Church (Photo: @sagharborchurch)

The Graham Company residency at The Church brings two choreographers and three dancers to stay in the artists’ residency at The Church and to use its main floor as a studio. Sara Cochran, Executive Director of The Church, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Martha Graham Dance Company. Their living legacy of innovation and reinvention is a testament to the power of culture to transcend time and place. Although due to the COVID-19 pandemic we will not be able to welcome an audience in-person to see this project, we are excited to use live-streaming to give a window into the company’s exciting work and process of reimaginiation at The Church.”

During this residency, the Graham Company will launch a project inspired by a 1952 work by Martha Graham. The piece, Canticle for Innocent Comedians, was hailed in its time as Graham's magical "ode to nature," but it was never filmed and is considered lost. Drawing on the ideas and an outline of Graham's original work, choreographers Sonya Tayeh and Jenn Freeman will work with Graham dancers Lorenzo Pagano, Leslie Andrea Williams and Jacob Larsen to build the foundation for a brand new version of Canticle. They will create solos and experiment with movement motifs that will be developed and expanded for a cast of ten dancers in coming months. The completed new version of Canticle will premiere in late 2021.

Martha Graham's "Canticle for Innocent Comedians" © Fred Fehl

Graham Company Artistic Director Janet Eilber adds, “The residency brings to mind a well-known quote from Martha Graham: ‘Wherever a dancer stands is holy ground.’  That idea couldn’t be more appropriate to our residency at The Church. Along with the beautiful and inspiring space this new center offers, the idea of the past informing the present and the future resonates through the site as it does through our work.  I know it will provide a stimulating atmosphere for our choreographic explorations in February.” 

Award-winning choreographer Sonya Tayeh. © Jayme Thornton

The Emmy and Tony award-winning choreographer Sonya Tayeh is the Lead Choreographer for Canticle. Jenn Freeman, a new and notable choreographic voice, will assist Ms. Tayeh, and contribute sections of her own choreography. The three Graham dancers are all favorites of Graham audiences. Graham Company Artistic Director, Janet Eilber, will oversee the rehearsals and participate in live streaming of the process.

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