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POSTCARDS: 3 Choreographers Respond to Martha Graham’s “Lamentations” for Brooklyn Ballet

POSTCARDS: 3 Choreographers Respond to Martha Graham’s “Lamentations” for Brooklyn Ballet

Published on March 6, 2024
Photos courtesy of the artists

Brooklyn Ballet in "Blessings and Blues"

March 7 - 10, 2024

The Mark O’Donnell Theater, 160 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY

Click here for tickets

Martha Graham in Lamentation, No. 3. Photo by Herta Moselsio

Lynn Parkerson, founder and artistic director of Brooklyn Ballet:

"Brooklyn Ballet is so pleased to be presenting works by Nicole von Arx, William A. Ervin, Brian "Hallowdreamz" Henry, and JoVonna Parks at this year's Spring Program, Blessings and Blues.

It is gratifying to know that today's choreographers are interested in the particular creative space that is Brooklyn Ballet. It is a space where dancers of different, even disparate dance styles are encouraged to explore moving together, to learn about each other as people dancing, communicating with each other. Dance is so often created in cohorts of sameness: ballet, contemporary, contact improv, street, hip hop. et cetera. Unlike other disciplines, music and writing for example, there is little crossover between genres. For me this seemed like such a lost opportunity. I've been blown away by what happens in the studio when channeling the energies of diverse dancers bringing their creativity into conversation with each other. My own contribution to the program is Pas de Deux (2016), an early exploration of the virtuosity of ballet and street dance in concert with each other.

As part of this 21st season, in addition to making new works by new voices, we look to the pioneers of the past to learn how their perspectives inform our work today. We’ve invited Nicole, Brian, and Jovanna into the studio to explore the iconic solo Lamentations by Martha Graham. On stage they will show their responses to the work, peeling back the themes of grief and humanity, spoken through their varied dance styles and languages."

Nicole von Arx with her cast


Nicole von Arx, dancer and choreographer:

"I am mesmerized by Martha Graham's "Lamentation" and the beautiful interplay it showcases between the dancer and the fabric. There is something magical about how the fabric both constrained and highlighted the dancer's body, creating a silhouette that brings each movement and shape to life in a new way. To me, this solo feels more like a conversation, a duet between the dancer and the fabric, where each is equally vital. 

The Martha Graham Company described Lamentation as embodying grief itself. Throughout my process, I was drawn to exploring how we depicted grief today. Despite Lamentation being born almost a hundred years ago, I wondered, had our expression and handling of grief really shifted all that much?

I was thrilled to collaborate with two brilliant artists, Brian "HallowDreamz" Henry and Aoi Ohno. We set out to weave a narrative around grief, letting it shape and inspire a contemporary duet that combined both of the dancers’ strengths. My goal was for Brian and Aoi to move as one, their connection unbreakable — like in Lamentation with the dancer and the fabric. 

I've learned that my creative process is malleable to any process and collaborator, no matter what background or dance style they belong to. I also just feel lucky that I had two extremely strong dancers who were so open to diving into all the tasks I was asking them to do. I hope the audience enjoys the work as much as I enjoyed creating it."

ChrissyAnn Carpenter, Valentina Fory and JoVonna Parks 


JoVonna Parks, dancer and choreographer:

"Never did I think I would be creating a work in a response to an iconic work by an iconic artist. Having never performed any of Graham’s works, but having a strong background in training of the Graham technique, this is a unique opportunity to be able to be close to her work.

At first, I thought I would be placing a lot of pressure on my myself to create something epic that could stand next to Lamentation, but as I began moving through the creative process in the studio with the dancers, I realized that I wasn’t thinking about creating anything epic,  just a work that stands on its own just as Lamentation does. It is my own story that I am creating that also explores the human journey of grief. In my work Chasm, I am aiming to explore what the inner self looks like in grief. One’s insides are moving in grief even if one is rooted to the spot and shrouded; there is still something happening on the inside. Sometimes as an objective observer to someone grieving we cannot see it, but with this work I want it to be seen and that is what the dancers represent. Imagine taking a magnifying glass to the insides: this is what we’d see, the inner tides of grief. The music by Sergio Carrasco and Sydney Torin Shepard play a very important role in illustrating the intense ebb and flow of emotion. Being a human and experiencing emotion can be very intense at times and I hope the audience can see their inner selves reflected back at them."

Brian "Hallowdreamz" Henry and Ali Ohno in Nicole von Arx's work


Brian "Hallowdreamz" Henry, dancer and choreographer:

"This piece pays homage to Martha Graham’s magnificence. I joyfully stepped out of my usual approach to movement and made an attempt to walk in her footsteps. Inspired by my own personal grief and sorrow, we explored the impact of being constrained both internally and in our recreation of Graham’s costuming. We merged movement and styles together and this weekend, I present you with Lamentation Dreamz."

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