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Meadows Dance Ensemble to Perform Panorama at the Winspear

The Martha Graham Dance Company collaborates with SMU dancers on Graham’s experimental piece

Amanda Presmyk (B.A. ’14 - Film and Media Arts & Journalism)
Calling Martha Graham a dance choreography genius would be an understatement.

Graham (1894-1991) is widely regarded not just as a pioneer in her field, but also as the founder of contemporary dance. During her 70-year career she choreographed well over 100 finished works and earned numerous honors, including the Medal of Freedom in 1976. She also was the first dancer to perform in the White House and was named “Dancer of the Century” by TIME magazine in 1998.

The Martha Graham Dance Company, founded by Graham in 1926 and regarded today as America’s premier modern dance company, will give a one-night-only concert in Dallas in April – and Meadows students have received the exceptional honor of being invited to present the signature Graham work
Panorama as part of the concert.

Panorama was originally choreographed in 1945 at Bennington College in Vermont when Graham was a professor there. Although she had a small professional ensemble of her own, Graham felt it would be a great waste not to utilize the incredibly talented students around her.

She combined the two groups and staged the work with an astonishing 36 dancers, whose intricately choreographed mass movements communicated themes of the power of similar thought and of the masses having one unified voice. Comprised of three sections,
Panorama involves complex patterns that require each individual to possess “immense stamina” and the ensemble to “breathe and work together,” says Myra Woodruff, professor of dance and a former member of the Graham Company.

Pulling from the talented group of artists around her, Martha Graham solicited the help of a dance musician who played for one of her classes, Norman Lloyd, to compose the score. To design and construct the gorgeous mobile onstage in the second act, she commissioned the young Alexander Calder – today renowned for his invention of the mobile and his work with sculptures.

The distinctly collaborative and experimental approach Martha Graham implemented in her choreography while at the university adds an extra level of meaning and excitement for SMU students working on
Panorama . As Woodruff says, “The whole thought process…Martha’s artistic approach back then in a college, with the same population of student dancers collaborating with emerging artists and composers – it’s exactly what we do here.”

Performing the piece has even more meaning for both Woodruff and alumna Lauren Newman (B.A. ’06). When Woodruff came to SMU as chair of the Division of Dance in 2004,
Panorama was the first work she set on students. Lauren Newman danced Panorama as one of her first pieces at SMU and now – as a brand new member of the Martha Graham Company – has had the chance to work as a mentor with Meadows dancers on the collaboration.

The SMU Dance Ensemble has been tirelessly rehearsing the piece since the second week of the semester. Exhausting practices, sore muscles and tedious staging sessions will all come to fruition this weekend when the students showcase the work, on Friday and Saturday evening only, during the annual Spring Dance Concert. The performances will offer a preview of the students’ presentation of
Panorama as part of the Martha Graham Dance Company concert, in the TITAS series, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House on Saturday, April 30.

Spring Dance Concert performance times are 8:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for students, SMU faculty and staff. Free parking is available at Hillcrest and Binkley or in the garage under the Meadows Museum. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 214-768-2787.

ITAS Presents: Martha Graham Dance Company is Saturday, April 30, at 8:00 p.m. More information is available at Tickets range from $19 to $125 and can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 214.880.0202.

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