Acts of Light (1981)2018-09-07T14:29:53+00:00

Project Description

Acts of Light premiered in Washington DC at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 1981. Taking its title from a phrase by Emily Dickinson, a poet beloved by Graham, 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. Former New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff called the work neo-classical. The score for the ballet is by the 19th-century Danish composer Carl Nielsen – another divergence for Graham, who typically sought out contemporary composers for her work. Composed in three sections, the dance begins with “Conversation of Lovers,” a duet exploring the constant, yet ever-changing, ties that exist between lovers. The music for the second section, “Lament,” was composed by Nielsen in response to the death of a friend. Graham made a dance for a solo female figure surrounded by five male witnesses. The body of the woman in encased in an elastic white fabric. According to one critic, the fabric acted as a “membrane…abstracting the shapes of grief [the dancer’s] body makes.” The reference to Graham’s own 1930 Lamentation is clear. “Ritual to the Sun,” the final section, is an ode to the Graham classroom technique.

—ELLEN GRAFF