Martha Graham

Martha Graham (May 11, 1894 – April 1, 1991) was an American modern dancer and choreographer. Her style, the Graham technique, reshaped American dance and is still taught worldwide.[1]

She danced and taught for over seventy years. Graham was the first dancer to perform at the White House, travel abroad as a cultural ambassador, and receive the highest civilian award of the US: the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction. In her lifetime she received honors ranging from the Key to the City of Paris to Japan's Imperial Order of the Precious Crown. She said, in the 1994 documentary The Dancer Revealed, "I have spent all my life with dance and being a dancer. It's permitting life to use you in a very intense way. Sometimes it is not pleasant. Sometimes it is fearful. But nevertheless it is inevitable." [2]

Martha Graham
Martha Graham 1948
Martha Graham by Yousuf Karsh (1948)
BornMay 11, 1894
Allegheny (later Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedApril 1, 1991 (aged 96)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Known forDance and choreography
MovementModern dance
Spouse(s)Erick Hawkins (m. 1948–1954; div.)
AwardsKennedy Center Honors (1979)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (1976)
National Medal of Arts (1985)

Early life

Graham was born in Allegheny City – later to become part of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – in 1894. Her father, George Graham, practiced as what in the Victorian era was known as an "alienist", a practitioner of an early form of psychiatry. The Grahams were strict Presbyterians. Dr. Graham was a third-generation American of Irish descent. Her mother, Jane Beers, was a second-generation American of Irish, Scots-Irish, and English ancestry, and claimed descent from Myles Standish.[3] While her parents provided a comfortable environment in her youth, it was not one that encouraged dancing.[4]

The Graham family moved to Santa Barbara, California when Martha was fourteen years old.[5] In 1911, she attended the first dance performance of her life, watching Ruth St. Denis perform at the Mason Opera House in Los Angeles.[6] In the mid-1910s, Martha Graham began her studies at the newly created Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, founded by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn,[7] at which she would stay until 1923. In 1922, Graham performed one of Shawn's Egyptian dances with Lillian Powell in a short silent film by Hugo Riesenfeld that attempted to synchronize a dance routine on film with a live orchestra and an onscreen conductor.[8]


When she left the Denishawn establishment in 1923, Graham did so with an urge to make dance an art form that was more grounded in the rawness of the human experience as opposed to just a mere form of entertainment. This motivated Graham to strip away the more decorative movements of ballet and of her training at the Denishawn school and focus more on the foundational aspects of movement.

In 1925, Graham was employed at the Eastman School of Music where Rouben Mamoulian was head of the School of Drama. Among other performances, together Mamoulian and Graham produced a short two-color film called The Flute of Krishna, featuring Eastman students. Mamoulian left Eastman shortly thereafter and Graham chose to leave also, even though she was asked to stay on.

In 1926, the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance was established. On April 18 of the same year[7] Graham debuted her first independent concert, consisting of 18 short solos and trios that she had choreographed. This performance took place at the 48th Street Theatre in Manhattan. She would later say of the concert: "Everything I did was influenced by Denishawn."[9] On November 28, 1926 Martha Graham and others in her company gave a dance recital at the Klaw Theatre in New York City. Around the same time she entered an extended collaboration with Japanese-American pictorialist photographer Soichi Sunami, and over the next five years they together created some of the most iconic images of early modern dance.[10]

One of Graham's students was heiress Bethsabée de Rothschild with whom she became close friends. When Rothschild moved to Israel and established the Batsheva Dance Company in 1965, Graham became the company's first director.

Graham's technique pioneered a principle known as "Contraction and Release" in modern dance, which was derived from a stylized conception of breathing.[11]

Contraction and Release: The desire to highlight a more base aspect of human movement led Graham to create the "contraction and release", for which she would become known for. Each movement could separately be used to express either positive or negative, freeing or constricting emotions depending on the placement of the head. The contraction and release were both the basis for Graham's weighted and grounded style, which is in direct opposition to classical ballet techniques that typically aim to create an illusion of weightlessness. To counter the more percussive and staccato movements, Graham eventually added the spiral shape to the vocabulary of her technique to incorporate a sense of fluidity.

New Era in Dance

Photograph of Martha Graham's Heretic by Soichi Sunami
Graham's "Heretic" by Soichi Sunami

Following her first concert made up of solos, Graham created Heretic (1929), the first group piece of many that showcased a clear diversion from her days with Denishawn, and served as an insight to her work that would follow in the future. Made up of constricted and sharp movement with the dancers clothed unglamorously, the piece centered around the theme of rejection—one that would reoccur in other Graham works down the line.

As time went on Graham moved away from the more stark design aesthetic she initially embraced, and began incorporating more elaborate sets and scenery to her work. To do this, she collaborated often with Isamu Noguchi—a Japanese American designer—whose eye for set design was a complimentary match to Graham's choreography.

Within the many themes which Graham incorporated into her work, there were two that she seemed to adhere to the most—Americana and Greek Mythology. One of Graham's most known pieces that incorporates the American life theme is Appalachian Spring (1944). She collaborated with the composer Aaron Copland—who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the piece—and Noguchi, who created the nonliteral set. As she did often, Graham placed herself in her own piece as the bride of a newly married couple whose optimism for starting a new life together is countered by a grounded pioneer woman and a sermon giving revivalist. Two of Graham's pieces—Cave of Heart (1946) and Night Journey (1947)—display her intrigue not only with Greek mythology but also with the psyche of a woman, as both pieces retell Greek myths from a woman's point of view.

In 1936, Graham created Chronicle which brought serious issues to the stage in a dramatic manner. Influenced by the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the Great Depression that followed, and the Spanish Civil War, the dance focused on depression and isolation, reflected in the dark nature of both the set and costumes. That same year, (1936) she declined Hitler's invitation to perform at the International Arts Festival, an event that ran alongside the Olympic Games in Berlin.[12] 1938 became a big year for Graham; the Roosevelts invited Graham to dance at the White House, making her the first dancer to perform there.[13] Also in 1938 Erick Hawkins became the first man to dance with her company. He officially joined her troupe the following year, dancing male lead in a number of Graham's works. They were married in July 1948 after the New York premiere of Night Journey.[14] He left her troupe in 1951 and they divorced in 1954.

On April 1, 1958, the Martha Graham Dance Company premiered the ballet Clytemnestra, based on the ancient Greek legend Clytemnestra and it became a huge success and great accomplishment for Graham.[15] With a score by Egyptian-born composer Halim El-Dabh, this ballet was a large scale work and the only full-length work in Graham's career. Graham choreographed and danced the title role, spending almost the entire duration of the performance on the stage.[16] The ballet was based on the Greek mythology of the same title and tells the story of Queen Clytemnestra who is married to King Agamemnon. Agamemnon sacrifices their daughter, Iphigenia, on a pyre, as an offering to the gods to assure fair winds to Troy, where the Trojan War rages. Upon Agamemnon's return after 10 years, Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon to avenge the murder of Iphigenia. Clytemnestra is then murdered by her son, Orestes, and the audience experiences Clytemnestra in the afterworld. This ballet was deemed a masterpiece of 20th-century American modernism and was so successful it had a limited engagement showing on Broadway.[17]

Graham collaborated with many composers including Aaron Copland on Appalachian Spring, Louis Horst, Samuel Barber, William Schuman, Carlos Surinach, Norman Dello Joio, and Gian Carlo Menotti.[18] Graham's mother died in Santa Barbara in 1958. Her oldest friend and musical collaborator Louis Horst died in 1964. She said of Horst, "His sympathy and understanding, but primarily his faith, gave me a landscape to move in. Without it, I should certainly have been lost."[19]

Graham resisted requests for her dances to be recorded because she believed that live performances should only exist on stage as they are experienced.[20] There were a few notable exceptions. For example, in addition to her collaboration with Sunami in the 1920s, she also worked on a limited basis with still photographers Imogen Cunningham in the 1930s, and Barbara Morgan in the 1940s. Graham considered Philippe Halsman's photographs of Dark Meadow the most complete photographic record of any of her dances. Halsman also photographed in the 1940s Letter to the World, Cave of the Heart, Night Journey and Every Soul is a Circus. In later years her thinking on the matter evolved and others convinced her to let them recreate some of what was lost. In 1952 Graham allowed taping of her meeting and cultural exchange with famed deafblind author, activist and lecturer Helen Keller, who, after a visit to one of Graham's company rehearsals became a close friend and supporter. Graham was inspired by Keller's joy from and interpretation of dance, utilizing her body to feel the vibration of drums and sound of feet and movement of the air around her.[21]

Martha Graham and Bertram Ross
Martha Graham with Bertram Ross (1961)

In her biography Martha, Agnes de Mille cites Graham's last performance as having occurred on the evening of May 25, 1968, in Time of Snow. But in A Dancer's Life, biographer Russell Freedman lists the year of Graham's final performance as 1969. In her 1991 autobiography, Blood Memory, Graham herself lists her final performance as her 1970 appearance in Cortege of Eagles when she was 76 years old. Graham's choreographies span 181 compositions.[12]

Retirement and later years

In the years that followed her departure from the stage, Graham sank into a deep depression fueled by views from the wings of young dancers performing many of the dances she had choreographed for herself and her former husband. Graham's health declined precipitously as she abused alcohol to numb her pain. In Blood Memory she wrote,

It wasn't until years after I had relinquished a ballet that I could bear to watch someone else dance it. I believe in never looking back, never indulging in nostalgia, or reminiscing. Yet how can you avoid it when you look on stage and see a dancer made up to look as you did thirty years ago, dancing a ballet you created with someone you were then deeply in love with, your husband? I think that is a circle of hell Dante omitted.

[When I stopped dancing] I had lost my will to live. I stayed home alone, ate very little, and drank too much and brooded. My face was ruined, and people say I looked odd, which I agreed with. Finally my system just gave in. I was in the hospital for a long time, much of it in a coma.[22]

Graham not only survived her hospital stay, but she rallied. In 1972, she quit drinking, returned to her studio, reorganized her company, and went on to choreograph ten new ballets and many revivals. Her last completed ballet was 1990's Maple Leaf Rag.


Graham choreographed until her death in New York City from pneumonia in 1991, aged 96.[23] Just before she became sick with pneumonia, she finished the final draft of her autobiography, Blood Memory, which was published posthumously in the fall of 1991.[24] She was cremated, and her ashes were spread over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico.

Influence and legacy

Graham has been sometimes termed the "Picasso of Dance" in that her importance and influence to modern dance can be considered equivalent to what Pablo Picasso was to modern visual arts.[25][26] Her impact has been also compared to the influence of Stravinsky on music and Frank Lloyd Wright on architecture.[27]

To celebrate what would have been her 117th birthday on May 11, 2011, Google's logo for one day was turned into one dedicated to Graham's life and legacy.[28]

Martha Graham has been said to be the one that brought dance into the 20th century. Due to the work of her assistants, Linda Hodes, Pearl Lang, Diane Gray, Yuriko, and others, much of Graham's work and technique have been preserved. They taped interviews of Graham describing her entire technique and videos of her performances.[29] As Glen Tetley told Agnes de Mille, "The wonderful thing about Martha in her good days was her generosity. So many people stole Martha's unique personal vocabulary, consciously or unconsciously, and performed it in concerts. I have never once heard Martha say, 'So-and-so has used my choreography.'"[30] An entire movement was created by her that revolutionized the dance world and created what is known today as modern dance. Now, dancers all over the world study and perform modern dance. Choreographers and professional dancers look to her for inspiration.[31]

According to Agnes de Mille:

The greatest thing [Graham] ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma!, when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha. I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft's restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly: "There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."[32]

Martha Graham Dance Company

The Martha Graham Dance Company is the oldest dance company in America,[33] founded in 1926. It has helped develop many famous dancers and choreographers of the 20th and 21st centuries including Erick Hawkins, Anna Sokolow, Merce Cunningham, Lila York, and Paul Taylor. It continues to perform, including at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in June 2008. The company also performed in 2007 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, with a program consisting of: Appalachian Spring, Embattled Garden, Errand into the Maze, and American Original.[34][35]

Early dancers

Graham's original female dancers consisted of Bessie Schonberg, Evelyn Sabin, Martha Hill, Gertrude Shurr, Anna Sokolow, Nelle Fisher, Dorothy Bird, Bonnie Bird, Sophie Maslow, May O'Donnell, Jane Dudley, Anita Alvarez, Pearl Lang, and Marjorie G. Mazia. A second group included Yuriko, Ethel Butler, Ethel Winter, Jean Erdman, Patricia Birch, Nina Fonaroff, Matt Turney, Mary Hinkson. The group of men dancers was made up of Erick Hawkins, Merce Cunningham, David Campbell, John Butler, Robert Cohan, Stuart Hodes, Glen Tetley, Bertram Ross, Paul Taylor, Donald McKayle, Mark Ryder, and William Carter.[36]


In 1957, Graham was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[37] She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976 by President Gerald Ford (the First Lady Betty Ford had danced with Graham in her youth). Ford declared her "a national treasure".[38]

Graham was inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 1987.[39]

In 1998 Graham was posthumously named "Dancer of the Century" by Time magazine,[1] and one of the female "Icons of the Century" by People.[40]

In 2015 she was posthumously inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[41]


This excerpt from John Martin's reviews in The New York Times provides insight on Graham's choreographic style. "Frequently the vividness and intensity of her purpose are so potent that on the rise of the curtain they strike like a blow, and in that moment one must decide whether he is for or against her. She boils down her moods and movements until they are devoid of all extraneous substances and are concentrated to the highest degree."[42]

Year Performance Music Notes
1926 Chorale César Franck
1926 Novelette Robert Schumann
1927 Lugubre Alexander Scriabin
1927 Revolt Arthur Honegger
1927 Fragilité Alexander Scriabin
1927 Scherza Robert Schumann
1929 Figure of a Saint George Frideric Handel
1929 Resurrection Tibor Harsányi
1929 Adolescence Paul Hindemith
1929 Danza Darius Milhaud
1929 Vision of the Apocalypse Hermann Reutter
1929 Insincerities Serge Prokofiev
1929 Moment Rustica Francis Poulenc
1929 Heretic from folklore Old Breton song, Tetus Breton, as arranged by Charles de Sivry; added to the United States National Film Registry in 2013 along with three other Martha Graham dance films[43]
1930 Lamentation Zoltán Kodály Sets by Isamu Noguchi; added to the United States National Film Registry in 2013 along with three other Martha Graham dance films[43]
1930 Harlequinade Ernst Toch Costumes by Graham
1931 Primitive Mysteries Louis Horst
1931 Bacchanale Wallingford Riegger
1931 Dolorosa Heitor Villa-Lobos
1933 Romeo and Juliet Paul Nordoff Dance sequences for a Katharine Cornell production
1934 Dance in Four Parts George Antheil
1935 Praeludium Paul Nordoff Costumes by Graham (1935), by Edythe Gilfond (1938)
1935 Frontier Louis Horst Sets by Isamu Noguchi; added to the United States National Film Registry in 2013 along with three other Martha Graham dance films[43]
1935 Course George Antheil
1936 Steps in the Street Wallingford Riegger Part of Chronicle
1936 Chronicle Wallingford Riegger Lighting by Jean Rosenthal
1936 Horizons Louis Horst Sets by Alexander Calder
1936 Salutation Lehman Engel
1937 Deep Song Henry Cowell
1937 Opening Dance Norman Lloyd
1937 Immediate Tragedy Henry Cowell
1937 American Lyric Alex North Costumes by Edythe Gilfond
1938 American Document Ray Green Sets by Arch Lauterer, costumes by Edythe Gilfond
1939 Columbiad Louis Horst Sets by Philip Stapp, costumes by Edythe Gilfond
1939 Every Soul is a Circus Paul Nordoff Sets by Philip Stapp, costumes by Edythe Gilfond
1940 El Penitente Louis Horst Original sets by Arch Lauterer, costumes by Edythe Gilfond, sets later redesigned by Isamu Noguchi
1940 Letter to the World Hunter Johnson Sets by Arch Lauterer, costumes by Edythe Gilfond
1941 Punch and the Judy Robert McBride Sets by Arch Lauterer, costumes by Charlotte Trowbridge, text by Edward Gordon Craig
1942 Land Be Bright Arthur Kreutz Sets and costumes by Charlotte Trowbridge
1943 Deaths and Entrances Hunter Johnson Sets by Arch Lauterer, costumes by Edythe Gilfond (1943) and by Oscar de la Renta (2005)
1943 Salem Shore Paul Nordoff Sets by Arch Lauterer, costumes by Edythe Gilfond
1944 Appalachian Spring Aaron Copland Sets by Isamu Noguchi; added to the United States National Film Registry in 2013 along with three other Martha Graham dance films[43]
1944 Imagined Wing Darius Milhaud Sets by Isamu Noguchi, costumes by Edythe Gilfond
1944 Hérodiade Paul Hindemith Sets by Isamu Noguchi
1946 Dark Meadow Carlos Chávez Sets by Isamu Noguchi, costumes by Edythe Gilfond, and lighting by Jean Rosenthal.
1946 Cave of the Heart Samuel Barber Sets by Isamu Noguchi, costumes by Edythe Gilfond, and lighting by Jean Rosenthal.
1947 Errand into the Maze Gian Carlo Menotti Sets by Isamu Noguchi, lighting by Jean Rosenthal
1947 Night Journey William Schuman Sets by Isamu Noguchi
1948 Diversion of Angels Norman Dello Joio Sets by Isamu Noguchi (eliminated after the first performance)
1950 Judith William Schuman Sets by Isamu Noguchi, lighting by Jean Rosenthal
1951 The Triumph of St. Joan Norman Dello Joio
1954 Ardent Song Alan Hovhaness
1955 Seraphic Dialogue Norman Dello Joio Sets by Isamu Noguchi
1958 Clytemnestra Halim El-Dabh Sets by Isamu Noguchi, costumes by Graham and Helen McGehee
1958 Embattled Garden Carlos Surinach Sets by Isamu Noguchi
1959 Episodes Anton Webern Commissioned by New York City Ballet
1960 Acrobats of God Carlos Surinach
1960 Alcestis Vivian Fine
1961 Visionary Recital Robert Starer Revised as Samson Agonistes in 1962
1961 One More Gaudy Night Halim El-Dabh
1962 Phaedra Robert Starer Sets by Isamu Noguchi
1962 A Look at Lightning Halim El-Dabh
1962 Secular Games Robert Starer
1962 Legend of Judith[44] Mordecai Seter
1963 Circe Alan Hovhaness Sets by Isamu Noguchi
1965 The Witch of Endor William Schuman
1967 Cortege of Eagles Eugene Lester Sets by Isamu Noguchi
1968 A Time of Snow Norman Dello Joio
1968 Plain of Prayer Eugene Lester
1968 The Lady of the House of Sleep Robert Starer
1969 The Archaic Hours Eugene Lester
1973 Mendicants of Evening David G. Walker Revised as Chronique in 1974
1973 Myth of a Voyage Alan Hovhaness
1974 Holy Jungle Robert Starer
1974 Jacob's Dream Mordecai Seter
1975 Lucifer Halim El-Dabh
1975 Adorations Mateo Albéniz
Domenico Cimarosa
John Dowland
Girolamo Frescobaldi
1975 Point of Crossing Mordecai Seter
1975 The Scarlet Letter Hunter Johnson
1977 O Thou Desire Who Art About to Sing Meyer Kupferman
1977 Shadows Gian Carlo Menotti
1978 The Owl and the Pussycat Carlos Surinach
1978 Ecuatorial Edgard Varèse
1978 Flute of Pan Traditional music.
1978 or 1979 Frescoes Samuel Barber
1979 Episodes Anton Webern reconstructed and reworked
1980 Judith Edgard Varèse
1981 Acts of Light Carl Nielsen Costumes by Halston
1982 Dances of the Golden Hall Andrzej Panufnik
1982 Andromanche's Lament Samuel Barber
1983 Phaedra's Dream George Crumb
1984 The Rite of Spring Igor Stravinsky
1985 Song Romanian folk music played on the pan flute by Gheorghe Zamfir with Marcel Cellier on the organ
1986 Temptations of the Moon Béla Bartók
1986 Tangled Night Klaus Egge
1987 Perséphone Igor Stravinsky
1988 Night Chant R. Carlos Nakai Set by Isamu Noguchi
1989 American Document (new version) John Corigliano Guest Artist M.Baryshinikov
1990 Maple Leaf Rag Scott Joplin costumes by Calvin Klein, lighting by David Finley
1991 The Eyes of the Goddess (unfinished) Carlos Surinach Sets by Marisol

See also


  1. ^ a b "TIME 100: Martha Graham". Time. August 6, 1998. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011.
  2. ^ The Dancer Revealed, American Masters: Season 8, Episode 2, PBS, 13 May 1994
  3. ^ Jowitt, Deborah (2012). "Martha Graham (1894–1991)" (PDF). Dance Heritage Coalition. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  4. ^ Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life by Russell Freedman, p. 12
  5. ^ Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life by Russell Freedman, p. 20
  6. ^ Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life by Russell Freedman, p. 21
  7. ^ a b Bryant Pratt (1994)
  8. ^ "Music Films", Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah), May 21, 1922, p. 5
  9. ^ Mansfield Soares (1992) p. 56
  10. ^ "from Kathy Muir". Seattle Camera Club. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  11. ^ Debra Craine; Judith Mackrell (August 19, 2010). The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Oxford University Press. p. 196. ISBN 0-19-956344-6.
  12. ^ a b Martha Graham Dance Company – History Archived April 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Martha Graham Timeline: 1894–1949, The Library of Congress
  14. ^ Franco, Mark (June 2012). Martha Graham in Love and War: The Life in the Work. Oxford University Press. p. 139.
  15. ^ Martha Graham: A special issue of the journal Choreography and Dance, by Alice Helpern
  16. ^ LaMothe, Kimerer L. Nietzsche's Dancers: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and the Revaluation of. p. 203.
  17. ^ Dance Observer. 27. 1960. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Archived January 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Freedman, p. 134
  20. ^ Klenke, Karin (2011). Women in Leadership: Contextual Dynamics and Boundaries. Bingley: Emerald. p. 208. ISBN 9780857245618.
  21. ^ Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings
  22. ^ Graham, Martha (1991). Blood memory. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-26503-4.
  23. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna (April 2, 1991). "Martha Graham Dies at 96; A Revolutionary in Dance". The New York Times.
  24. ^ Susan Ware (1998). Letter to the World: Seven Women who Shaped the American Century. W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-04652-6.
  25. ^ Bondi (1995) p. 74 quote: "Picasso of Dance ... Martha Graham was to modern dance what Pablo Picasso was to modern art."
  26. ^ Agnes de Mille (1991) p.vii quote: "Her achievement is equivalent to Picasso's," I said to Mark Ryder, a pupil and company member of Graham's, "I'm not sure I will accept him as deserving to be in her class."
  27. ^ "Martha Graham: About the Dancer". American Masters. NPR. September 16, 2005. Archived from the original on October 10, 2013.
  28. ^ "Google Doodle Celebrates Martha Graham and Dynamic Web". PC World. May 11, 2011. Archived from the original on July 2, 2013.
  29. ^ De Mille (1991), p. 409.
  30. ^ De Mille (1991), pp. 409–10.
  31. ^ Gerald, Newman (1998). Martha Graham: Founder of Modern Dance. Danbury, Connecticut: Franklin Watts.
  32. ^ De Mille (1991) p. 264.
  33. ^ "Martha's back! Famed dance company in residence during June." Archived October 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Scope Online. Skidmore College
  34. ^ "Martha Graham Dance Company". Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Archived from the original on September 19, 2011. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  35. ^ Darnell, Tracie (April 17, 2007). "Martha Graham Dance Company returns to Chicago for long-awaited performance at MCA". Medill. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  36. ^ De Mille (1991) p. 417
  37. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter G" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  38. ^ Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life by Russell Freedman, p. 142
  39. ^ Cross, Mary (ed.). One Hundred People who Changed 20th-century America. p. 156.
  40. ^ Women in Leadership: Contextual Dynamics and Boundaries, By Karin Klenke
  41. ^ October 3, 2015. "10 women honored at Hall of Fame induction". Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  42. ^ Armitage, p. 9.
  43. ^ a b c d "2013 additions to National Film Registry" (8/29), CBS News.
  44. ^ Moving force, Haaretz Archived February 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine


  • Bryant, Paula Pratt (1994). Martha Graham (The Importance Of ... Series). Detroit: Gale.
  • Martha: The Life and Work Of Martha Graham A Biography, by Agnes De Mille, 1991
  • Martha, by Alice Helpern, 1998
  • Martha Graham in Love and War: The Life in the Work, by Mark Franko, 2012
  • Martha Graham: The Evolution of Her Dance Theory and Training, by Marian Horosko, 2002
  • Freedman, Russell (1998). Martha Graham – A Dancer's Life. New York City: Clarion Books. ISBN 978-0-395-74655-4.
  • Ballet and Modern Dance Second Edition, by Susan Au 2002

Further reading

  • Hodes, Stuart, Part Real-Part Dream, Dancing With Martha Graham, (2011) Concord ePress, Concord, MA.
  • Bird, Dorothy; Greenberg, Joyce (2002). Bird's Eye View: Dancing With Martha Graham and on Broadway (reprint ed.). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 978-0-8229-5791-1.
  • Graham, Martha (1991). Blood Memory An autobiography. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-26503-4.
  • Hawkins, Erick (1992). The Body Is a Clear Place and Other Statements on Dance. Hightstown, New Jersey: Princeton Book Co. ISBN 978-0-87127-166-2.
  • Horosko, Marian (2002). Martha Graham The Evolution of Her Dance Theory and Training. Gainesville, FL: Univ. Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-2473-8.
  • Morgan, Barbara (1980). Martha Graham Sixteen Dances in Photographs. Morgan & Morgan. ISBN 978-0-87100-176-4.
  • Newman, Gerald (1998). Martha Graham: Founder of Modern Dance. Danbury, Connecticut: Franklin Watts.
  • Soares, Janet Mansfield (1992). Louis Horst Musician in a Dancer's World. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-1226-0.
  • Taylor, Paul (1987). Private Domain An Autobiography. New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-0-394-51683-7.
  • Tracy, Robert (1997). Goddess – Martha Graham's Dancers Remember. Pompton Plains, New Jersey: Limelight Editions. ISBN 978-0-87910-086-5.
  • Layman, Richard; Bondi, Victor (1995). American Decades 1940–1949. Gale Research International, Limited. ISBN 978-0-8103-5726-6.
  • de Mille, Agnes (1991). Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-394-55643-7.

External links

Adolescence (ballet)

Adolescence (Prelude and Song) was an early modern dance solo choreographed by Martha Graham to music by Paul Hindemith. It premiered on March 2, 1929, at the Booth Theatre in New York City.The all-solo program included two other new works, Danza and Resurrection, and eight previously performed pieces: Dance, Immigrant, Valses Sentimentales, Four Insincerities, Tanagra, Two Variations from Sonatina, Fragilité and Fragments.Seattle's Week Town Crier described the work as depicting youth, "curious, yearning, fearful, swept away by strange visions and dreams. A very difficult, complex thing made sweepingly beautiful by its utter simplicity and sincerity." Dance Magazine's reviewer called the solo "delicate and sensitive."The New York Times critic wrote, "The dancer has achieved an exquisite result. Simple and stark in design, it is at the same time warm and tender in mood, childishly frank and yet deft and penetrating. It is the happiest use Miss Graham has yet made of her economy of movement, and perhaps the least inclined in the direction of ugliness."

Anna Sokolow

Anna Sokolow (February 9, 1910, Hartford, Connecticut – March 29, 2000, Manhattan, New York City) was an American dancer and choreographer. that worked internationally, creating political and theatrical pieces. She worked with major companies, including the Martha Graham Company and Batsheva Dance Company. Sokolow also formed her own group “Dance Unit” which became Players’ Project after its dispersal and her death.

She was also a co-founder of the Actors Studio.

Appalachian Spring

Appalachian Spring is a composition by Aaron Copland that premiered in 1944 and has achieved widespread and enduring popularity as an orchestral suite. The ballet, scored for a thirteen-member chamber orchestra, was created upon commission of choreographer and dancer Martha Graham with funds from the Coolidge Foundation. It premiered on Monday, October 30, 1944 at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., with Martha Graham dancing the lead role. The set was designed by the American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Copland was awarded the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his achievement.

Batsheva Dance Company

The Batsheva Dance Company (Hebrew: להקת בת שבע) is a renowned dance company based in Tel Aviv, Israel. It was founded by Martha Graham and Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild in 1964.

Batsheva's inception was marked by Israel's growing interest in American modern dance, mainly Martha Graham and Anna Sokolow; classes in Graham technique were offered at the time. Some of these classes were taught by Rina Schenfeld and Rena Gluck, who were the company's principal dancers for many years. Bethsabee de Rothschild withdrew her funding in 1975, and the company began to gradually shed the Graham aesthetic that had dominated during the company's early years. It was during this transitional period that the company began to include the works of emerging Israeli choreographers into its repertory.Soon after Ohad Naharin was appointed artistic director in 1990, he founded the youth company, Batsheva Ensemble, for dancers aged between 18 and 24. Its graduates include the choreographers Hofesh Shechter and Itzik Galili. The ensemble toured the United Kingdom and performed at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2012.Naharin also developed a movement language known as Gaga (dance vocabulary). This has become the movement language that Batsheva Dance Company trains in under the Gaga/Dancers track, which is geared towards professional dancers and specifically the dancers of Batsheva. There is also a track called Gaga/People, which is geared towards anyone and requires no dance experience. This movement language has been so influential in the modern dance world that, in 2015, a documentary entitled Mr. Gaga was created by Tomer Heymann. This documentary explores the ways in which Gaga, as a movement language, has shaped both Batsheva Dance Company and modern dance as a whole and the influence Naharin and his movement have had on the dance world.

Clarice McLean

Clarice "Dollie" McLean (born 1936) is founding executive director of the Artists Collective, Inc. of Hartford, Connecticut. McLean, born Clarice Helene Simmons in Antigua, West Indies, was raised in Manhattan, New York. She studied dance under Katherine Dunham, Jon Leone Destine, Asadata Dafora, and Martha Graham. In 1970 she and her husband Jackie McLean (whose vision and concept was the Artists Collective) enlisted local artists bassist Paul (PB) Brown, dancer Cheryl Smith, and visual artist Ionis Martin to join them in establishing the Artists Collective, Inc. in Hartford, Connecticut.

Episodes (ballet)

Episodes is a two-part ballet made by Martha Graham and George Balanchine to Anton von Webern's Symphony, Op. 21, Five Pieces, Op. 10, Concerto, Op. 24, and the Ricercata in Six Voices from Bach's Musical Offering, which Webern had arranged in homage to Bach, as Balanchine conceived the ballet as one to Webern. The premiere took place under the auspices of the Ballet Society on 19 May 1959 at City Center of Music and Drama, New York, with scenery and lighting by David Hays; the conductor was Robert Irving.

Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein invited Martha Graham to choreograph a joint work using all of Webern's orchestral pieces. The result was not a true collaboration but a work composed of two separate sections. Graham's contribution, Episodes I, danced by her company plus four dancers from New York City Ballet, was a depiction of the death of Mary, Queen of Scots. Dancers for this section were attired in ornate, Elizabethan costumes designed by Karinska. Episodes II, Balanchine's contribution to the work, was danced by New York City Ballet and Paul Taylor, who was then a dancer in Graham's company. This portion, definitively more abstract, dressed the performers in simple, non-descript, stark black-and-white practice clothing. The overall effect allowed Graham's portion to be perceived through a more classical focus—though created and performed by a modern dance company—while Balanchine's portion was viewed in the reverse: a modernist work being created and performed by classical dancers.

City Ballet ceased performing Graham's section in 1960 (at which time it was performed Balanchine's as Episodes II) and in 1961 eliminated the solo variation which Balanchine choreographed for Paul Taylor, since which time the remaining four movements have been performed by NYCB under the original title, Episodes. In 1986 Taylor reconstructed the solo on Peter Frame, who danced it as part of the ballet that year and the next.

Graham technique

Graham technique is a modern dance movement style and pedagogy created by American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham (1894–1991). Graham technique has been called the "cornerstone" of American modern dance, and has been taught worldwide. It is widely regarded as the first codified modern dance technique, and strongly influenced the later techniques of Merce Cunningham, Lester Horton, and Paul Taylor.Graham technique is based on the opposition between contraction and release, a concept based on the breathing cycle which has become a "trademark" of modern dance forms. Its other dominant principle is the "spiraling" of the torso around the axis of the spine. Graham technique is known for its unique dramatic and expressive qualities and distinctive floorwork; dance critic Anna Kisselgoff described it as "powerful, dynamic, jagged and filled with tension."The phrase "Graham technique" was registered as a trademark before Graham's death, and was the subject of a trademark dispute in the early 2000s.

Hérodiade (ballet)

Hérodiade de Stéphane Mallarmé: Recitation orchestrale is a composition by Paul Hindemith written in June 1944 on commission from Martha Graham, supported by funds from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation. The ballet premiered under the title of Herodiade (but had originally been titled Mirror before Me) in the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The premiere took place on 30 October 1944, sharing the program with Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring and Darius Milhaud's Jeux du printemps (Graham's ballet title was Imagined Wing), with Martha Graham and May O'Donnell in the leading roles. The choreography was by Martha Graham, stage design was by the Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, and costumes by Edythe Gilfond.

Klaw Theatre

The Klaw Theatre was a Broadway theatre located at 251–257 West 45th Street (now a part of George Abbott Way) in midtown-Manhattan. Built in 1921 for producer Marcus Klaw, Eugene De Rosa was the architect. Rachel Crothers' Nice People was the opening production in 1921 with Tallulah Bankhead and Katharine Cornell in her debut Broadway role albeit a small one.

As the Klaw Theatre and later the Avon few productions had a very long run. Exceptions were the comedy Meet the Wife running for 232 performances in 1923 with Humphrey Bogart as juvenile lead Gregory Brown and playwright Hatcher Hughes's melodrama Hell-Bent Fer Heaven running for 122 performances in 1924 and winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1924. Arnold Schoenberg's musical composition Pierrot Lunaire was performed for the first time in the western hemisphere at the Klaw on February 4, 1923 with George Gershwin and

Carl Ruggles in attendance. On November 28, 1926 Martha Graham and others in her company gave a dance recital at the Klaw, they were accompanied by pianist Louis Horst. Maxwell Anderson's Gypsy, directed by George Cukor, had a short run of 64 performances from January 14, 1929 to March 1929 but was included in Burns Mantle's The Best Plays of 1928 - 1929.

It was renamed the Avon Theatre in 1929. Strictly Dishonorable, written by Preston Sturges, had the longest run at the Avon of 557 performances from September, 1929 to January, 1931. George Bernard Shaw, Noël Coward and Oscar Wilde had their works staged at both the Klaw and Avon.

It was leased to CBS in 1934 and renamed the CBS Radio Playhouse No. 2. CBS later bought it. In 1953 CBS sold it, the new owners razed it and built a parking deck on the site which abuts the Imperial Theatre.

Louis Horst

Louis Horst (born January 12, 1884, Kansas City, Missouri – died January 23, 1964, New York City) was a choreographer, composer, and pianist. He helped to define the principles of modern dance choreographic technique, most notably the matching of choreography to pre-existing musical structure and the use of contemporary music for dance scores.

Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance

Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance is located in New York City and is the headquarters to the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and the Martha Graham Dance Company, which is the oldest continually performing dance company in the world. The School is focused on teaching Graham's technique; some of its faculty were trained by Graham herself.The center was founded in 1926 by Martha Graham. Its first headquarters consisted of a small dance studio on Broadway. The center later moved to a two-story building at 316 East 63rd Street, New York.

After Martha Graham's death in 1991, the center's leadership was debated. In her will, Martha Graham left Ron Protas as heir to her estate. Protas claimed ownership of the rights to Graham's name and choreographic oeuvre, and sued the Martha Graham Dance Company for trademark infringement. After years of legal battles, the Martha Graham Dance Company was ruled the owner of the Graham name and almost all of her repertoire. During the dispute, Protas was voted out of his position as artistic director of the company.In 2005, the center was among 406 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation that was given by the New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Martha Graham Dance Company

The Martha Graham Dance Company, founded in 1926, is known for being the oldest American dance company. Founded by Martha Graham as a contemporary dance company, it continued to perform pieces, revive classics, and train dancers even after Graham's death in 1991. The company is critically acclaimed in the artistic world and has been recognized as "one of the great dance companies of the world" by the New York Times and as "one of the seven wonders of the artistic universe" by the Washington Post.Many of the great 20th and 21st century modern dancers and choreographers began at the Martha Graham Dance Company including: Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, Pearl Lang, Pascal Rioult, Miriam Pandor, Anna Sokolow, and Paul Taylor. The repertoire of 181 works also includes guest performances from Mikhail Baryshnikov, Claire Bloom, Margot Fonteyn, Liza Minnelli, Rudolf Nureyev, Maya Plisetskaya, and Kathleen Turner. Her style and technique, the Graham technique, is recognized in 50 different countries.

Medea (ballet)

Medea, Op. 23, (1946) is a ballet in nine sections by American composer Samuel Barber. It was commissioned by the Ditson Fund of Columbia University for Martha Graham and was premiered on 10 May 1946, at Columbia University's McMillin Theater, New York City. It was originally called Serpent Heart, but the work was revised in 1947 and retitled Cave of the Heart. Costumes were designed by Edythe Gilfond and the set was created by Isamu Noguchi. The original cast list included Graham, Erick Hawkins, Yuriko, May O'Donnell, and other members of the Martha Graham Dance Company.Neither Barber nor Graham desired to use the legend literally in the ballet. Instead, these mythical figures served rather to project psychological states of jealousy and vengeance which are timeless. The choreography and music were conceived, as it were, on two time levels, the ancient mythical and the contemporary. Medea and Jason first appear as godlike, super-human figures of the Greek tragedy. As the tension and conflict between them increases, they step out of their legendary roles from time to time and become the modern man and woman, caught in the nets of jealousy and destructive love; and at the end resume their mythical quality. In both the dancing and music, archaic and contemporary idioms are used. Medea, in her final scene after the denouement, becomes once more the descendant of the sun.Beside Medea and Jason there are two other characters in the ballet, the Young Princess whom Jason marries out of ambition and for whom he betrays Medea, and an attendant who assumes the part of the onlooking chorus of the Greek tragedy, sympathizing, consoling and interpreting the actions of the major characters.

Modern dance

Modern dance is a broad genre of western concert or theatrical dance, primarily arising out of Germany and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Modern dance is often considered to have emerged as a rejection of, or rebellion against, classical ballet. Socioeconomic and cultural factors also contributed to its development. In the late 19th century, dance artists such as Isadora Duncan, Maud Allan, and Loie Fuller were pioneering new forms and practices in what is now called aesthetic or free dance for performance. These dancers disregarded ballet's strict movement vocabulary, the particular, limited set of movements that were considered proper to ballet, and stopped wearing corsets and pointe shoes in the search for greater freedom of movement.

Throughout the 20th century, sociopolitical concerns, major historical events, and the development of other art forms contributed to the continued development of modernist dance in the United States and Germany. Moving into the 1960s, new ideas about dance began to emerge, as a response to earlier dance forms and to social changes. Eventually, postmodern dance artists would reject the formalism of modern dance, and include elements such as performance art, contact improvisation, release technique, and improvisation.American modern dance can be divided (roughly) into three periods or eras. In the Early Modern period (c. 1880–1923), characterized by the work of Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, and Eleanor King, artistic practice changed radically, but clearly distinct modern dance techniques had not yet emerged. In the Central Modern period (c. 1923–1946), choreographers Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Katherine Dunham, Charles Weidman, and Lester Horton sought to develop distinctively American movement styles and vocabularies, and developed clearly defined and recognizable dance training systems. In the Late Modern period (c. 1946–1957), José Limón, Pearl Primus, Merce Cunningham, Talley Beatty, Erick Hawkins, Anna Sokolow, Anna Halprin, Paul Taylor introduced clear abstractionism and avant-garde movements, and paved the way for postmodern dance.Modern dance has evolved with each subsequent generation of participating artists. Artistic content has morphed and shifted from one choreographer to another, as have styles and techniques. Artists such as Graham and Horton developed techniques in the Central Modern Period that are still taught worldwide, and numerous other types of modern dance exist today.

Pearl Lang

Pearl Lang (May 29, 1921 – February 24, 2009) was an American dancer, choreographer and teacher renowned as an interpreter and propagator of the choreography style of Martha Graham, and also for her own longtime dance company, the Pearl Lang Dance Theater.

Principal dancer

A principal dancer (often shortened to principal) is a dancer at the highest rank within a professional dance company, particularly a ballet company.

A principal may be male or female. The position is similar to that of soloist; however, principals regularly perform not only solos, but also pas de deux. Principal dancers can be hired into a dance company or can also be a company dancer that is a corps de ballet dancer that gets promoted from within the company. That process can take multiple performance seasons or even years to achieve based on skill level and company interest. It is a coveted position in the company and the most prominent position a dancer can receive. The term is used mostly in ballet but can be used in other forms as well, such as modern dance. They are usually the star of the ballet. The term senior principal dancer is sometimes used as well.

Talley Beatty

Talley Beatty (22 December 1918 – 29 April 1995) was born in Cedar Grove, Louisiana, a section of Shreveport, but grew up in Chicago, Illinois. He is considered one of the greatest of African American choreographers, and also bears the titles dancer, educator, and dance company director. After studying under Katherine Dunham and Martha Graham, Beatty went on to do solo work and choreograph his own works which center on the social issues, experiences, and everyday life of African Americans. Beatty and his technique and style of dancing were both praised and criticized by critics and dancers of his day.

Ted Shawn

Ted Shawn (21 October 1891 – 9 January 1972), originally Edwin Myers Shawn, was one of the first notable male pioneers of American modern dance. Along with creating Denishawn with former wife Ruth St. Denis he was also responsible for the creation of the well known all-male company Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers. With his innovative ideas of masculine movement, he was one of the most influential choreographers and dancers of his day. He was also the founder and creator of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts, and "was knighted by the King of Denmark for his efforts on behalf of the Royal Danish Ballet".

Yuriko (dancer)

Yuriko Kikuchi (born February 2, 1920), known to audiences by her stage name Yuriko, is an American dancer and choreographer. She is best known for her work with the Martha Graham Dance Company.

Awards for Martha Graham
Social context
Major present-day genres
Regional traditions
Dance companies in the United States

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