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Recognized across the globe as the “mother of modern dance,” Santa Barbara High School graduate Martha Graham had always been captivated by the consequence of female strength. In 1926, out of a shoebox Carnegie Hall studio perched high above midtown Manhattan, she began an exploration of kinetic storytelling inspired by iconic mythical and historical female subjects such as Joan of Arc, Medea, Phaedra, and Emily Dickinson that would usher in a new era in the domain of dance theater. Prim and lilting bodies would be replaced by bold and graphic gestures that challenged female archetypes; in Graham’s choreographic world, power reigned over pretty.
When Graham passed away in 1991, her legacy lived on through the Martha Graham Dance Company and School, where more than 180 staged works have been preserved and performed across continents from the hundreds of dancers that have made their way to New York City to study the choreographer’s singular style and method. In 2005, incoming artistic director Janet Eilber continued Graham’s dedication to the female form and condition while envisioning a new chapter for the company that would weave Graham’s classic masterpieces with the works of a new generation of choreographers.
Eilber’s most significant efforts came last season with the announcement of a two-year venture that would commemorate the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment with a female-driven platform. Eilber challenged three of the country’s leading choreographers — Pam Tanowitz, Maxine Doyle, and Bobbi Jene Smith — to create a trio of fresh works inspired by Graham’s vision, interlacing them into a production called The EVE Project that will also include some of Graham’s most celebrated works, including “Diversion of Angels” (1948), “Chronicle” (1936), and “Cave of the Heart” (1946).
On Friday, January 24, UCSB Arts & Lectures will be bringing The EVE Project to Santa Barbara in a sure-to-be-sold-out performance where dance audiences will be treated to this commemorative project even before the folks in New York City catch a glimpse. Sprint to The Granada Theatre box office to snag your tickets before it’s too late — the Martha Graham Dance Company’s one-night appearance is destined to become the highlight of this year’s dance series.