Saddling Up and Feeling Spry at Martha Graham

The Martha Graham Dance Company won’t turn 100 until 2026, but evidently it’s not too early to start celebrating. The company is commemorating the milestone with not one, but three New York seasons, the first of which opened on Wednesday at New York City Center.

“We couldn’t fit it into one year,” Janet Eilber, the company’s artistic director, said in a curtain speech, adding, “We’re feeling pretty spry for our age.”

Under the title “American Legacies,” the season includes a new production of Agnes de Mille’s “Rodeo,” her 1942 ballet set on a ranch in the American Southwest; the New York premiere of “We the People,” choreographed by Jamar Roberts to music by Rhiannon Giddens; and Graham’s “The Rite of Spring” (1984), among other works.

Some of this feels more dated or dutiful than spry, but one part of the gala program on Thursday really had the theater buzzing: a guest appearance by the British singer-songwriter FKA twigs. The company connected with her on Instagram last year after FKA twigs, who grew up training in a number of dance styles, including the Graham technique, shared one of its posts.

In her interpretation of Graham’s brief comic solo “Satyric Festival Song” (1932), she held nothing back, imbuing its springy jumps, quizzical glances and whole-body shudders with both carefree self-assurance and reverent focus. She may not have the chiseled contractions of a lifelong Graham dancer, but she knows how to hold an audience’s attention. Introducing her, the longtime company dancer Lloyd Knight called FKA twigs “the newest member of the Martha Graham Dance Company family.”

In her interpretation of Graham’s brief comic solo “Satyric Festival Song,” FKA twigs held nothing back.Credit…Rachel Papo for The New York Times
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