Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Passion Powers Martha Graham Dancers' Impact

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Passion Powers Martha Graham Dancers' Impact

Article excerpt

As a kid, the ballerinas Laurie Picinich-Byrd saw at New York City theaters were doe-eyed creatures with long eyelashes, angelic smiles and names like the Sugar Plum Fairy or Princess Aurora.

Then she saw the Martha Graham Dance Company, its dancers working through stylized movement that somehow reached into the psyche.

"It was very intense. It's very traumatic," remembered Picinich-Byrd, who is now artistic director of Florida Ballet. She remembered thinking, "Where did they get that intensity from?"

It was different. "The Graham women were real women," said Phyllis Penney, artistic director of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Dance Theatre and dance department chairwoman. "They were women who showed their suffering or their hardiness or their jealousy and rage."

On Wednesday, American Graham Tour 2000, with Graham's New York City-based company, will appear at the Florida Theatre. It's the company's first Jacksonville appearance in more than 10 years. And while other companies undoubtedly draw more attention (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater routinely packs in a crowd) Picinich-Byrd characterized the Graham company's visit as an important dance event.

Though Graham died in 1991, Picinich-Byrd spoke of how the reverberations of her career are still felt.

"I knew I had to study it," she said. "It had an impact on where I ended up going in choreography."

People know the name Martha Graham -- and the reputation.

Delores Barr Weaver, co-owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and chairwoman and chief executive officer of the Jaguars Foundation, is a trustee for the Martha Graham Dance Company. What drew her was an admiration for the legend, for a woman who was "such a visionary," she said, "so far ahead of her time."

Look up the name Martha Graham in a dance encyclopedia and descriptions such as "revolutionary " and "non-conformist" and "experimenter" and "greatest exponent of the American modern dance" pop up. …

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