In conjunction with the exhibition Pity and Terror in Picasso. The Path to Guernica and the eightieth anniversary of the first showing of Guernica, the Museo Reina Sofía presents Deep Song by Martha Graham (1894–1991), a dance solo created by the American choreographer as a response to the Spanish Civil War and performed, on this occasion, by Blakeley White-McGuire from the Martha Graham Dance Company.
Deep Song, a brief choreographic piece (4’48’’) inspired by the armed conflict in Spain and conceived the same year Picasso painted Guernica, embodies the fears of a world divided by individual inhumanity. The focal point of the evening session will be on contextualising and discussing this choreography, and will include the screening of documentary material followed by a conversation with the dancer performing the work.
The piece was first performed at New York’s Guild Theatre on 19 December 1937, accompanied by the music of Henry Cowell, and symbolised a cry of distress, the embodiment of Martha Graham’s fears before a world devastated by man’s inhumanity to man.
The forms of the dance (the swirls, crawls on the floor, contractions and falls) were perceived at the time as kinetic experiences characterising human life in war, an anatomy of distress in tragic times. The choreographer designed the long bench, the only prop, and the dress, with patterns that drew direct inspiration from Picasso’s painting Guernica.
In some way, the tragedy Spain experienced during the Civil War was universalised through choreography. The programme booklets from the time stated that, in its clean and impassioned movements, Deep Song did not only portray Spain but “the tragedy of the whole world”.
Graham performed this choreography from its premiere right through to the mid-1940s, and in 1989 she also reassembled it, together with Terese Capucilli, from memories of past dancers from her company and photographs taken by Barbara Morgan following the loss of the original choreography.
Since then it has become part of the Martha Graham Dance Company’s repertoire.
Blakeley White-McGuire has been part of the Martha Graham Dance Company since 2002. She performs a large majority of the roles from Graham’s iconic repertoire, including Appalachian Spring, Cave of the Heart, Chronicle, Deep Song and Frontier, and has gained international acclaim for the depth and skill of her work. White-Mcguire has danced on the biggest stages in the world, for instance Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, the Beijing Opera House, Theatre du Chatelet, Paris, and the Herodion in Athens. She holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, and regularly leads master classes and participates in residencies at a number of universities, dance studios and festivals worldwide.