Martha Graham Dance Company
Diversion of Angels, Canticle for Innocent Comedians,
and CAVE (Preview)

Diversion of Angels

Diversion of Angels
After it's premiere, August 13, 1948, as Wilderness Stair, the dance was reconceived without a plot, although it is infused with symbolism by Graham, who described it as representing three aspects of love:

• The Couple in Red embodies romantic love (renamed erotic love during the 1980s) and “the ecstasy of the contraction”;
• The Couple in White, mature love; and,
• The Couple in Yellow, a flirtatious and adolescent love.

Alternately, some interpret these aspects as three facets of one woman's character.

The dance takes its name and feelings from a poetic narrative by Ben Belitt, included in the program notes when the new version premiered on March 20, 1949:

It is the place of the Rock and Ladder, the raven, the blessing, the tempter, the rose. It is the wish of the single-hearted, the undivided; play after the spirit’s labor; games, flights, fancies, configurations of the lover’s intention; the believed Possibility, at once strenuous and tender; humors of innocence, garlands, evangels, Joy on the wilderness stair; diversion of angels.”

Another influence on Graham in conceiving this piece is the bold coloration and abstract compositiom of Wassily Kandinsky, which are embodied in the costumes of the three couples, the corps de ballet, and the choreography, including a cross-stage dash by the Girl in Red.

Diversion of Angels is filled with joyful, exuberant, and lyrical expressions set to a romantic score by Norman Dello Joio. It is a part of the Martha Graham Dance Company repertoire and that of American Ballet Theatre (since 1999).

Canticle for Innocent Comedians

Canticle for Innocent Comedians
Martha Graham created Canticle for Innocent Comedians in 1952, taking the title and inspiration from the 1938 poem by Ben Belitt, her old friend and colleague at the Bennington School of the Dance. The multifaceted work was built around eight virtuosic vignettes, each celebrating a different element of nature: Sun, Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, Moon, Stars and Death. The work was well received, reputed to have been magical; however, there is only a fragmented record remaining, and it is considered lost.

This 2022 Canticle for Innocent Comedians is a reimagining of the original. The choreography is completely new but draws upon Graham’s stylistic blueprint. The vignettes have been re-made for today’s Graham stars by eight dance-makers from diverse backgrounds. Fortunately, Graham’s staging of “Moon” was filmed in the 1950s and is included in the new production.

A lyrical, percussive, ruminative score has been created by the great jazz pianist, Jason Moran.

The lead choreographer, Emmy and Tony award winner Sonya Tayeh, has designed the connective tissue for this eclectic assemblage – in the words of the original poem, “that binds the halves of first and last/To single troth, in time” — for the dancers of the Ensemble, weaving in and out of the sections in a manner reminiscent of a Greek chorus, and resonating with many Graham classics.

The costumes by Karen Young are inspired by voluminous, swirling shapes that Graham often used for the costumes she herself designed. They are fabricated from recycled plastic bottles to add to the conversation about the eternal values of nature — and our responsibilities to the planet.


Diversion of Angels
Get ready to see and feel a rave-style event from the techno club scene taken to a new level, based on an idea brought to the company by international dance star Daniil Simkin and choreographed by Hofesh Shechter, an Israeli choreographer based in London.

The April 6, 2022 premiere was performed by ten Graham dancers and Simkin, with Shechter receiving accolades for his creative orchestration of the group, intensively swirling and pulsating over and around the stage to a relentless beat credited to Âme (a German house/techno duo consisting of Kristian Beyer and Frank Wiedemann) and Shechter.

In a series of flash mobs, the contrast between male and female movement is rife with social commentary, as well as early Graham pelvis rooting.

Newman Center Presents the Martha Graham Dance Company, September 22 & 23, 2023 at 7:30pm. For tickets:, or by phone at 303.871.7720.

Bob Bows

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