PRINT February 1999


Martha Graham

THE PLEASURE DERIVED FROM WATCHINGRichard Move reincarnate Martha Graham isnot the same kick to be had from a conventional drag show. The irony is there, at its highest, threatening-to-transcend-tamp level, as it is with a performer like Jim Bailey, who does Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand almost as well as they did themselves. But there is another pleasure here, something akin to the thrill of Jurassic Park or Godzilla: An extinct, or at least endangered, species is brought startlingly back to life. Richard Move is Martha Graham, the performer, the diva, the guru/choreographer. Onstage he performs as Graham, but In his role as emcee of “Martha at Mother,” he becomes Graham the impresario/philosopher.

Mother is the notorious and notable nightclub that evolved from the Tuesday-night-only venue Jackie 60 into a seven-day week of moveable fiestas, Including evenings of dancing, comedy, and spoken word. Move takes his job as Mother’s curator of dance seriously, but he’s light on his feet—honoring Graham’s philosophy, but always allowing a little breathing room between his Martha wig and his cleverly critical cranium.

Move says: “The basic premise of the series is that Martha Graham has never died and she has taken on this new responsibility of hosting a dance series that she also happens to curate. No boundaries. People can be as transgressive, as political, as erotic, as naked . . . they can do whatever. . . as long as I think the work is good. That’s the only real criteria.”

Move’s dance moves are very Martha, but perhaps more impressive and delightful is his channeling the unique voice, the arcane personality, and the ambitious, indomitable, rebellious, cranky, and creative spirit. He is a satirist, but it’s a satire born of worship, not contempt. Martha, he says, “really does embody all the attributes that I wanted to be true of my own life, and at least for a little while in our performance I embody those and people believe it, and even though it is a small, gritty nightclub and a tiny stage, I like to think that we do evoke the grandeur, not only of Martha Graham but of the dance in general.”

Glenn O’Brien is a writer who lives in New York.