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Meet The Artists

Biography

Martha Graham

choreography / contraction and release / creative longevity

(1894-1991)

Martha Graham's name is synonymous with modern dance in the United States. She began her career as a member of the Denishawn company. Later, she performed in The Greenwich Village Follies before beginning to teach full time. She presented her first concert in 1926.

Graham's early choreographic efforts were reminiscent of Ruth St. Denis' in their exotic themes and music visualization structures. However, she quickly developed her own style that rejected stereotypical femininity in favour of strong, angular movements. Some of her works contained humour, but most were sombre.

The technique Graham developed placed dancers'weight low in their hips and emphasized the contraction and release of the torso. She created several dances inspired by American culture, including Frontier (1935) and Appalachian Spring (1944).

During the 1930s, Graham's all-woman company presented some of her most celebrated compositions, such as Primitive Mysteries (1931). In the late 1930s, Graham began to accept men into her company, including Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor and Erik Hawkins, who later became her husband. After World War II, Graham turned to Greek mythology for inspiration in works like Cave of the Heart (1946), Night Journey (1947) and Clytemnestra (1958).

Graham's creative longevity is remarkable. She gave her last performance in 1969 at age 74. She continued to choreograph until a year before her death. Her last work, Maple Leaf Rag (1990), was a whimsical piece choreographed to ragtime music by Scott Joplin. During her career, Graham choreographed over 180 works.