Julia Gleich to celebrate 25-year anniversary with New York homecoming

Gleich Dances at Mark Morris Dance Center, BrooklynGleich Dances announces its 25th anniversary season with Martha (The Searchers) on October 27-29 at Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn. Having served as the Head of Choreography at London Studio Centre and on faculty at Trinity LABAN Conservatoire of Music and Dance since 2003, Artistic Director Julia Gleich marks this milestone back in New York, where her extensive body of work began. Produced by Jason Andrew of Brooklyn’s Julia Gleich to celebrate 25-year anniversary with New York homecomingcollaborative facilitator Norte Maar, the work is a culmination of past research and works, a personal characterization and an homage to the American West.


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 25 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. 


For more information, visit www.gleichdances.org. Tickets are on sale and available online at http://bit.ly/buymartha.


Images courtesy of Gleich Dances.