CPA Series

Martha Graham Dance Company

Memorial Hall
March 29, 2022
7:30 PM

Tickets available starting at $29. Tickets are sold by section for the 21/22 season. Limited $10 UNC Student tickets available with proof of UNC OneCard.

For nearly 100 years, Martha Graham Dance Company has helped define modern dance. The Company continues to embrace new programming, showcasing masterpieces by Graham alongside newly commissioned works by contemporary artists. Martha Graham Dance Company is a world leader in the evolving art form of modern dance, enlivening the body with raw, electric emotion. 

During this season’s performance, audiences will be treated to three dances: Canticle for Innocent Comedians, Immediate Tragedy, and Acts of Light. Choreographed by Graham in 1937 in response to her concerns about the Spanish Civil War and the rise of fascism in Europe,  Immediate Tragedy was reimagined last year by company artistic director Janet Eilber. Showing the timelessness of Graham’s work, the theme of the dance expanded in response to the protests ignited by the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. 

“I felt in that dance I was dedicating myself anew to space, that in spite of violation I was upright and that I was going to stay upright at all costs…”

Martha Graham, in a letter to composer Henry Cowell about Immediate Tragedy, 1937

Emily Dickinson’s words, “Thank you for all the acts of light which beautified a summer now past its reward,” inspired Graham’s creation of the dance Acts of Life. The dance introduced a new period in Graham’s work. Devoid of theatrical trappings, Acts of Light celebrates the dancer as an exquisite instrument of expression, while making references to earlier works in the Graham canon. 

Whether the dancers are performing in Memorial Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Paris Opera House, Covent Garden, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, or at the base of the Great Pyramids in Egypt, audiences and critics rave. “These men and women easily embody the choreographer’s sense of dancers as angelic athletes,” said Robert Greskovic of The Wall Street Journal, while Marina Kennedy of Broadway World said, “This is contemporary dance at its very best.”  “I felt in that dance I was dedicating myself anew to space, that in spite of violation I was upright and that I was going to stay upright at all costs…”


Canticle for Innocent Comedians


Immediate Tragedy

Acts of Light
I. Conversation of Lovers
II. Lament
III. Ritual to the Sun

Masks required at all times while inside CPA venues during the 21/22 season. For additional health and safety information and more, visit our FAQ page.

About the Artists

MARTHA GRAHAM (1894–1991) is recognized as a primal artistic force of the 20th century, alongside Picasso, James Joyce, Stravinsky, and Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1998, TIME magazine named Martha Graham “Dancer of the Century,” and People magazine named her among the female “Icons of the Century.” As a choreographer, she was as prolific as she was complex. She created 181 ballets and a dance technique that has been compared to ballet in its scope and magnitude. Her approach to dance and theater revolutionized the art form and her innovative physical vocabulary has irrevocably influenced dance worldwide.

JANET EILBER (Artistic Director) has been the Company’s artistic director since 2005. Her direction has focused on creating new forms of audience access to Martha Graham’s masterworks. These initiatives include contextual programming, educational and community partnerships, use of new media, commissions from today’s top choreographers and creative events such as the Lamentation Variations. Earlier in her career, as a principal dancer with the Company, Ms. Eilber worked closely with Martha Graham. She danced many of Graham’s greatest roles, had roles created for her by Graham, and was directed by Graham in most of the major roles of the repertory. She soloed at the White House, was partnered by Rudolf Nureyev, starred in three segments of Dance in America, and has since taught, lectured, and directed Graham ballets internationally. Apart from her work with Graham, Ms. Eilber has performed in films, on television, and on Broadway directed by such greats as Agnes deMille and Bob Fosse and has received four Lester Horton Awards for her reconstruction and performance of seminal American modern dance. She has served as Director of Arts Education for the Dana Foundation, guiding the Foundation’s support for Teaching Artist training and contributing regularly to its arts education publications. Ms. Eilber is a Trustee Emeritus of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. She is married to screenwriter/director John Warren, with whom she has two daughters, Madeline and Eva.


Dance of Dedication
Choreography by Martha Graham reimagined by Janet Eilber
Costume by Martha Graham
Original Music by Henry Cowell
Music for reimagined Immediate Tragedy by Christopher Rountree
Music performed by Richard Valitutto, piano
Lighting by Yi-Chung Chen
Danceturgy for reimagining by Neil Baldwin
Premiere: July 30, 1937, Bennington, VT

“I was upright and determined to stay upright at all costs.” – Martha Graham
Significant commissioning support provided by The O’Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation.

Music produced and mixed by Lewis Pesacov

Acts of Light
Choreography by Martha Graham
Music by Carl Nielsen
Costumes by Halston and Martha Graham
Lighting by Beverly Emmons
Premiere: February 26, 1981, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC

“Thank you for all the acts of light which beautified a summer now past its reward.” – Emily Dickinson

I. Pan and Syrinx, Op.49; II. Andante lamentoso (At the Bier of a Young Artist); III. Helios Overture, Op.17. Recorded by the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Herbert Blomstedt, courtesy of EMI Classics. I and II used by arrangement with G. Schirmer, Inc., agents in the United States for Edition Wilhelm Hansen A/S-Denmark, publisher and copyright owner.

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