Founded in 1926, the Martha Graham Dance Company is the oldest dance company in America. Over the past hundred or so years, the cutting-edge company has helped develop many famous dancers and choreographers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Erick Hawkins, Anna Sokolow, Merce Cunningham, Lila York, and Paul Taylor.
Launching a three-year-long centennial celebration, GRAHAM100 will make its debut at the Soraya later this month. The celebration will subsequently travel to theaters around the nation and be celebrated worldwide.
The first season of GRAHAM100 in 2023–24, titled American Legacies, will focus on Martha Graham’s social activism, Americana, modernism, and her artistic collaborators. Main stage performances at The Soraya will include:
- Serenata Morisca (1915), choreographed by Ted Shawn
- Dark Meadow Suite (1946), choreographed by Martha Graham
- Rodeo (1942), choreographed by Agnes de Mille
- Maple Leaf Rag (1990), choreographed by Martha Graham
American modern dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham changed the face of dance during the 20th Century. Her influence on dance has been compared with the influence of Picasso on modern visual arts, the influence of Stravinsky on music, and the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright on architecture.
Graham not only transformed dance, she commissioned some of the most important orchestral and chamber music works of her time.
From the press release:
The early days of Graham’s life as a dancer were spent in Southern California, and so The Soraya ensures that Los Angeles plays a major role in the Martha Graham Dance Company’s centenary. While Graham herself is widely recognized as one of the most pivotal figures of the 20th century, the company is as vital as ever in the 21st century, cultivating an ongoing legacy of innovation and creativity that captures the spirit of our times.
GRAHAM100 will stretch over three years, and the first year’s theme is American Legacies. To inaugurate that celebration, The Soraya presents a program that spans more than 100 years—from an early work performed by Graham in 1915 Los Angeles, to a new rendering of Agnes de Mille’s groundbreaking Rodeo.
Continuing The Soraya’s tradition of pairing live music with the Graham performances, musical ensemble Wild Up, with Artistic Director and Conductor Christopher Rountree, will join the dancers to provide a live performance of the Carlos Chavez score for Dark Meadow Suite. For Rodeo, a new musical arrangement of Aaron Copland’s original score will be composed and performed by fiddler Gabe Witcher who will be joined by his bluegrass ensemble. This new musical rendering was co-commissioned by and will be recorded at the Soraya, in preparation for ongoing touring, a significant contribution to the Graham centenary.
“The Martha Graham Dance Company has made The Soraya its West Coast home since 2015, and now audiences can expect to experience the beauty of the Martha Graham Dance Company at The Soraya through our 2025-26 Season. The early days of Graham’s life as a dancer were spent right here in Southern California, and so The Soraya ensured that Los Angeles plays a major role in the Martha Graham Dance Company’s centenary.”Thor Steingraber, The Soraya Executive and Artistic Director.
In a recent interview with The Soraya, Janet Eilber, artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, said the company takes pride in knowing it is the oldest in the United States—and the legacy deserves more than just one celebration when it turns 100 in 2026.
“A celebration encompassing 100 years of artistic innovation informed by vast social, political, and technological changes, needs a broader canvass than one season can provide!”Janet Eilber, artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company.
For Opening Night, The Soraya presents a program that spans more than 100 years, from an early work Graham performed in 1915 Los Angeles, to a new rendering of Agnes de Mille’s groundbreaking Rodeo, with updated scenery and a new bluegrass adaptation of the original Aaron Copland score performed live by GRAMMY-Winner Gabe Witcher and a six-piece bluegrass ensemble. The Soraya premieres this new version, which will then tour during the centenary’s first year with an Americana theme.
The Soraya prioritizes providing live musical accompaniment for its dance performances, and this is especially so with the Martha Graham Dance Company (MGDC). Since 2015, the Company has made the Soraya its West Coast home — and keeping with the tradition of presenting the Company with live music, The Soraya invites Wild Up to join them for the fifth time, as well as fiddler Gabe Witcher (who makes his Soraya debut).
Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya)
18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330
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