SAN DIEGO — It is the very error of the moon;
She comes more near the Earth than she was wont,
And makes men mad. -- Shakespeare, "Othello"
Leave it to Martha Graham at 92 to create a high-spirited affirmative paean to human sexuality in "Temptations of the Moon," seen Friday on the second program by the Graham company at the Civic Theatre.
Unlike some of the earlier epical Graham works which have linked sexual passion to disastrous consequences for all involved ("Cave of the Heart" danced on the Thursday program instantly comes to mind), the spirit of "Temptations" reflected nothing more troubling than Oscar Wilde's credo, "I can resist anything but temptation."
For certainly none of the celebrants, costumed in elegant Halston pastels, put up any fight to the instant frenzy inspired by the figure of Crescent Moon, danced intensely and with flair by Teresa Capucilli.
If anything, a few tried to get too close, and Capucilli--and later her sometime consort Velvet Night--danced pallidly by Julian Littleford--chased them playfully out of their orbits.
Set to the rugged rhythms of Bela Bartok's short "Suite for Dance," the work opened with a ritualistic face-forward lineup that quickly dissolved into folk-like round dances for the 18 corps members. Rising from the back like a goddess was Capucilli, with two crescents in her hair.
From then on, it was practically non-stop motion at a fast but never mindlessly blurred pace; even in brief, lyric interludes, the dancers rarely relaxed or stopped moving at the prevailing speed.
Couples, corps members and soloists jumped, turned and spun in fluidly forming and dissolving design patterns. In one particularly striking series, one couple after another stepped up the energy level--a woman spun around as she hung from a man's neck, another was flipped upwards into the air. And so it went.
All this was not the revelatory, character-probing Graham, but it was a vivid affirmation and celebration of the life principle.
It was as if Graham had unleashed new powers of energy.
Yet, not everything worked. The hand-shimmies--which are often an act of benediction in Graham works--performed by corps members lying on their sides, seemed more precious than holy. And her decision to make the dancers count beats aloud at the end as they moved in a circle (a revision Graham introduced in June) dashed cold water on the exuberance and seemed to say what fools we were to be so worked up by mere, calculated movement.
An injury sustained by George White, Jr. necessitated some recasting and change of program, according to a company spokesperson. The overwrought "Acts of Light" replaced the originally scheduled "Plain of Prayer," a 1968 work revived for the current 60th anniversary season. It was not a happy trade-off, although Maxine Sherman and Don Foreman, wearing mismatched costumes, danced the "Conversation of Lovers" section with elegance and strength.
The familiar "Rite of Spring," with an anguished Christine Dakin as the Chosen One and an indistinct Larry White as the Shaman, completed the program. The work now ends with the Shaman holding his arms aloof instead of brooding while the curtain falls.