This October, Norte Maar will present Martha (The Searchers) a new full-length ballet featuring the collaboration of choreographer Julia K Gleich and artist Elana Herzog. The production coincides with the 25th anniversary celebration of Gleich Dances, the contemporary ballet company founded by Julia K Gleich in 1992. The production will premiere October 27-29 at The James & Martha Duffy Performance Space at the Mark Morris Dance Center (3 Lafayette Avenue in Downtown, Brooklyn). General admission tickets are available at $25. Student and Senior tickets are $15. Advance tickets can be purchased here.
A modern Western, the ballet’s title role Martha is inspired by the character created by American novelist Alan Le May and brought to the big screen by director John Ford in The Searchers (1956). Her story, akin to ballet’s Giselle, is loosely based on the true captivity narrative of Cynthia Ann Parker (ca. 1825-1871), broken on the wheel of the American West. In Gleich’s choreography, Martha is a composite of all those courageous and tragic women in history— her struggles and experiences offer an alternative narrative to the roles these women played in the rugged West.
Collaborating artist Elana Herzog captures the palette of the Southwest and John Ford’s cinematography. With the use of fabric remnants that suggest landscapes contrasting with the symbols of domesticity—aprons, blankets, carpets and rugs, Herzog designs a confusion of contexts, bringing the domestic into the theatre with hints of scale of vast landscape. She creates worlds in which all the identities of Martha can be viewed—all just as rough, tough, and textured as the West once was.
Old Western movies and motifs from classic ballet death scenes merge in this collage of feminine and masculine stereotypes from iconic characters, weaving the movement we expect to see in a ballet with ideas we hate to love. Central to the ballet is an attempt to balance the fate of its characters in their “collective mania” through themes that include captivity narratives, lust and repressed love, pioneers on the trail, the bitter legacy of the plains Indians, the Ranger and immigrant, and the juxtaposition of romantic comedy with romantic tragedy. All these historic narratives seem timely as they reflect the broader societal issues we still confront today. The ballet tests basic tenants of the genre—roles that are traditionally gender specific become abstracted, ruthless movements manipulate and redirect classical pointe work—while deconstructing pivotal, but cliché moments from historical ballets against a backdrop of Western swagger. The ballet is set to a soundscape that ranges from Western and Blues to classical and pop.
“In many ways, this ballet is a self-portrait,” Gleich explains, “The way I see myself as a woman, as an artist, as a person finding my own way and all the while bucking that male hierarchy that continues to dominate the ballet world. As I see it, we are all Martha’s existing in a world mired in conventions both professionally and politically. I’ve seen a lot in my twenty-five years as a choreographer and it’s all in this ballet. What’s most important is that my work transcends the hierarchy.”
Contemporary ballet company konverjdans will open the evening with a new work-in-progress for four dancers to live music.
ABOUT GLEICH DANCES
Founded in 1992 by choreographer Julia K Gleich, Gleich Dances, is most known in artistic circles for its collaborations and shared programs that merge dance, music, and the visual arts. Thriving in a subgenre of alternative spaces, The Company has performed in the UK and US including seasons and appearances at: Conway Hall, London (‘15), The Broadway Theatre, London (‘13), Roehampton University (‘10), The Place (‘06), Bonnie Bird Theatre, London (‘04, ‘05); The Brooklyn Museum (‘14), Centre for Performance Research, Brooklyn (‘11, ‘12), Dance at Socrates (‘14, ‘15, ‘16, ‘17), National Academy Museum (‘12), Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Asheville (‘11), Bushwick Starr (‘09), Fete de Danse (‘04,’05,’06,’07, ‘14), Joyce SoHo, New York (‘01, ‘03) with critical notice in The New York Times, Village Voice, New Criterion and Brooklyn Rail among others. At its core, The Company pursues the presentation of Gleich’s love of the art of dance in all its guises with her studio research on vectors and her scholarly interest in re-contextualizing ballet. (www.gleichdances.org)
ABOUT JULIA K. GLEICH (Founding Artistic Director)
Julia K Gleich is an esteemed dance and choreography teacher and scholar. She has held faculty positions at several universities in the US. Recent teaching includes positions at Trinity LABAN, London Studio Centre, Design for Dance Program collaborations for Central St. Martin’s College of Art and Design. She also served as External Examiner at Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, Master teacher at Hikone Dance Intensive, Japan, and Resident Choreographer at Brooklyn Ballet. Recent awards and grants include Arts Council England, Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Utah College of Fine Arts, in addition to OneDanceUK Choreographer Observership for English National Ballet. Her conceptual dance films have been exhibited in NYC, and Singapore. She is an advocate for women in ballet, producing annual CounterPointe performances in NY and London. In 2004, she co-founded Norte Maar for Collaborative Projects in the Arts with curator Jason Andrew.
ABOUT ELANA HERZOG (Artist)
Elana Herzog lives and works in New York City. She is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow. Solo and two person exhibitions include the Sharjah Art Museum, UAE, Studio 10, The Boiler(Pierogi), and Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, the Aldrich Museum, Connecticut; the Johnson Museum, Cornell University; Lmak Projects, Morgan Lehman Gallery, and PPOW Gallery in New York City, and Diverseworks in Houston, Texas. De-Warped and Un-Weft, a survey of Herzog’s work since 1993, was at the Daum Museum in Missouri in 2009. She has exhibited in many group shows in the US and internationally.
Herzog has been granted residencies at the Albers Foundation, Connecticut, Søndre Green, Norway, Gertrude Contemporary, Australia, the Farpath Foundation, France, the Marie Walsh Sharpe Space Program, LMCC and Dieu Donne in New York. Awards include Anonymous Was A Woman 2009,the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award 2007, NYFA Fellowships 2007,1999, Lillian Elliot 2004, Lambent Fund 2003 and Joan Mitchell 1999.