Night Journey, which opened the program, is Graham’s retelling of Sophocles’s Oedipus from Jocasta’s point of view. It is a stellar work, from the Graham-designed costumes to the Isamu Noguchi scenery. George Balanchine was surely influenced by this work when he made Orpheus in 1948, which also featured sets and props by Noguchi. Graham (1894-1991) and Balanchine (1904-1983) were contemporaries, and though they worked within different genres, there are many overlapping aspects to their choreography. Moments from the Four Temperaments, Symphony in Three Movements, and many other ballets that are so familiar to me kept popping to mind while I watched the Graham dancers. Graham’s influence looms large in many of Jerome Robbins’s ballets too--Night Journey frequently evoked The Cage. Deborah Jowitt notes in her biography of Robbins that he studied Graham technique in Greenwich Village for a time in his youth.
Night Journey begins and ends with Tiresias, the blind seer, forcefully slamming his walking cane into the ground. In the beginning he strikes the floor with his stick on huge chords in William Schuman’s music, at the end of the piece he repeats the movement while passing across the front panel of the stage in silence. Though this framing step emphasizes the inevitability of his dire prognostications, the real power in this piece derives from its women.
Blakely White-McGuire was captivating as Jocasta. She has strong, broad shoulders yet she comes across as exceedingly feminine—an intriguing combination that reminded me of former NYCB principal Jennie Somogyi. Her Jocasta was passionate and forceful, and she remained firmly in command during a heated duet with Lorenzo Pagano as Oedipus. Xin Ying was also excellent as the leader of the all-female Greek chorus. The choreography for this group of women was thrilling, with the women doing deep