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Martita Goshen’s Earthworks: “Sanctuary”

The overall effect of this suite of dances was life affirming without a single cloying or overdone moment to ruin the elegiac mood.

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Choreographer Martha Goshen (Photo credit: Michele Spano)

[avatar user=”Joel Benjamin” size=”96″ align=”left” ] Joel Benjamin, Critic[/avatar]Martita Goshen’s love of horses, one in particular, and nature in general, is a driving force in “Sanctuary,” her gentle and genteel dance recently performed by her troupe, Earthworks at the Paul Taylor Dance Studio.   “Sanctuary” is the final section of a three-part work dedicated to the memory of the famous equine, Barbaro, who died tragically after an injury.

Choreographed in several sections punctuated by films and photos of horses in a lovely, pastoral setting—by Elizabeth Anderson, Jim Coarse and Michele Spano—each section was given a title—‘Grieving,’ ‘Community,’ ‘ Redemption,’ ‘Rebirth’ and ‘Home’—and danced to compositions by different composers, ranging from folk tunes to Sting to Rachmaninoff playing Scriabin to the ubiquitous Arvo Pärt, each supplying the perfect mood for the soft-edged movements designed by Ms. Goshen.

The dancers, themselves, were identified by short, poetic phrases:  Ms. Goshen was “the spirit of the horse,” Richard Kilfoil, “home is where the heart is,” Ioanna Ionnaides, “the joy of hope,” Morgan Bryant, “brave heart,” Patricia Ruiz, also “home is where the heart is” and the obviously pregnant Grace Ho, “mother of light.”

The dancers wore pale, loose outfits looking as if they stepped out of a meditation circle.  The six dancers immediately registered as a caring extended family, appearing after a glowing video taken at the Fair Hill, Maryland Vintage Farm, for thoroughbred race horse was screened on the back wall.

Dancers from Martita Goshen’s Earthworks (Photo credit: Yi-Chun Wu)

In the first section, ‘Grieving,’ the dancers surrounded Ms. Goshen as if cocooning her from the world, then grouping and re-grouping in haunting tableaux of sadness.

‘Community’ was full of supportive interactions as the dancers swept across the large dance studio, forming familial units that held onto each other, lifted each other and wafted across the space in Ms. Goshen’s loosely balletic poses.

‘Redemption’ and ‘Rebirth’ were the emotionally heaviest sections with the dancers separating into solos that finally cohered around Mr. Kilfoil leading to the finale, ‘Home,’ danced to a poem by Gretchen Jackson that brought the goddess like Ms. Ho into the warm arms of the group.

The overall effect of this suite of dances was life affirming without a single cloying or overdone moment to ruin the elegiac mood.  This is something that is difficult to achieve anytime, but particularly today when choreographers tend towards gimmicks and camp, but Ms. Goshen with the help of her steady dancers makes it all seem easy.

Martita Goshen’s Earthworks (June 15 & 17, 2017)

The Scripps Studio/Paul Taylor Dance Studio, 551 Grand Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-868-4444 or visit

For more information, visit

Running time:  50 minutes with no intermission

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About Joel Benjamin (563 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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