For an icon, Martha Graham doesn’t get around much. She died in 1991 at the age of 96, but of course I’m not talking about the person. Her company hasn’t appeared here since 1992, at Ravinia, and according to Ravinia’s then executive director Zarin Mehta, the troupe was a tough sell. In a way Graham has been a victim of her own success: because her distinctive choreography is instantly recognizable, it’s easily parodied and clearly associated with the art of a half century ago. Yet she’s a true touchstone, someone who almost single-handedly transformed the pretty “exotic” dancing of the early 20th century into stark, serious modernist moves. Last spring the New Yorker’s Joan Acocella reported that the company’s current artistic director, Janet Eilber, wants to “contextualize” Graham’s work to make it seem classic rather than old-fashioned. The evening programs here consist of seminal pieces from Graham’s middle period, all with sets by American sculptor Isamu Noguchi: 1944’s Appalachian Spring, 1947’s Errand Into the Maze, and 1958’s Embattled Garden. The Saturday matinee consists of solos from the 20s and 30s, rare archival footage of other early works, and selections from Appalachian Spring, performed with voice-over by Eilber. a Opens Thu 4/19, 7:30 PM. Through 4/21: Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 3 and 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010, Thu $36, Fri-Sat evening $40, Sat matinee $24, students $10. See listing for related events.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Deane.