Life of Martha Graham

2 February 2017

Life of Martha Graham Martha Graham was born in a town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 11, 1894, one of George and Jane Beers Graham’s three daughters. Her father was a doctor who treated people with nervous disorders. When she was ten years old, and after one of her sisters developed asthma, the family moved to California. Graham became interested in studying dance after she saw Ruth St. Denis perform in Los Angeles, California, in 1914. Her parents did not approve of her becoming a dancer, so she enrolled in the Cumnock School, a junior college. Graham’s father died in 1914, after which she felt free to pursue her dream.

After graduating from Cumnock, she enrolled in the Denishawn Studio, a dancing school operated by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Graham had never had a dance lesson up to that point, but the small, quiet, shy, but hardworking girl impressed Shawn and toured with his troupe in a production of Xochitl, based on an Indian legend. In 1923 Graham left this company to do two years of solo dancing for the Greenwich Village Follies. In 1925 Graham became dance instructor at the Eastman School of Music and Theater in Rochester, New York. She began experimenting with current dance forms. I wanted to begin,” she said, “not with characters or ideas but with movement. “

Life of Martha Graham Essay Example

She rejected the traditional steps of classical ballet; she wanted the dancing body to be related to natural motion and to the music. She experimented with what the body could do based on its own construction, on the rise what was known as “percussive movements. ” Graham’s first dances were performed on a uncovered stage with only costumes and lights. The dancers’ faces were tight, their hands unbending, and their costumes short. Later she added more surroundings and different costumes for effect.

The music was modern and usually composed just for the dance. Isadora Duncan , the first modern dancer, had used music to inspire her works, but Graham used music to make her works more extraordinary. Graham’s progression of design usually began with what she called a “certain stirring. ” Inspiration might come from a classical saga, an event in American history, a story from the Bible, historical figures, current social problems, writings, poems, or paintings. She would then develop a dramatic state of affairs or personality to express the feeling or idea.

She then found music, or asked for new music from her longtime teammate, Louis Horst, to maintain the motivation while she created movements to express it. The purpose of Graham’s dance was to bring about an increased attentiveness of life and a greater perceptive of the nature of man. Dance was to her an “inner emotional experience. ” Graham introduced an amount of other new facial appearance to modern dance. She established the use of moving panorama, used props as symbols, and united speech with dancing. She was also the first to join together her group, using African Americans and Asians in her regular company.

She replaced the long-established ballet folk dress with either a straight, dark, long shirt or the common leotard (a tight, one-piece garment worn by dancers). Using the stage, the floor, and the props as part of the dance itself, she created a whole new language of dance. Her first large group piece, Vision of the Apocalypse, was performed in 1929. Her most significant early work was a piece called Heretic. After Graham’s presentation as the lead role in composer Igor Stravinsky’s American premiere of Rite of Spring, Graham toured the United States for four years in the production Electra.

During this trip she became engrossed in the American Indians of the Southwest. One of the first products of this awareness was Primitive Mysteries. Her increasing curiosity in the American past was seen in her dance based on the lives of American pioneer women, Frontier, and in her famous Appalachian Spring. In 1932 she became the first dancer to receive a Guggenheim fellowship, and she danced for President Franklin Roosevelt at the White House in 1937. Graham founded the Dance Repertory Theater in New York City in 1930.

She also helped establish the Bennington School of Arts at Bennington College in Vermont, where her teaching made Bennington the center of experimental dance in America. With the later organization of the School of Contemporary Martha Graham Dance in New York City, she educated a large number of modern dancers who went on to broaden her ideas and style to the rest of the world. Graham danced her last role in 1969, but she continued to choreograph. In 1976 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A year before her death, in 1990, she choreographed Maple Leaf Rag, a show that featured music by Scott Joplin and costumes by Calvin Klein.

Her name is still linked with modern dance in many people’s minds. Graham has choreographed over 180 dance routines. Martha Graham died on April 1, 1991, known as one of the twentieth century’s revolutionary artists. Over all Martha Graham is truly an amazing choreographer and dancer. She worked hard to make herself and her dancing known worldwide. Graham is definitely someone that demonstrates patience and never giving up on your dreams. Graham did everything in her power to achieve her dreams. In the process of achieving that dream, to become a dancer, being a dance choreographer was just a bonus that was added to her life.

All her great work will be remembered. Her dancing style may not be one of many that people would like to dance, yet they still love her for what she has done. Martha Graham is a role model for many dancers and choreographer.

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