Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Martha Graham's 117 Birthday And Facts - strangefacts

  • Martha Graham (May 11, 1894 - April 1, 1991), an American dancer and choreographer, known as one of the foremost pioneers of modern dance
  • Martha Graham is to modern dance as Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) is to the modern art school of cubism Indeed, for many dance connoisseurs, Martha Graham is synonymous with modern dance
  • She developed innovations in structure, style, technique, costuming, and in the training of choreographers and dancers that defined the movement
  • She rejected the traditional view of women dancers as beautiful, lithe, and graceful, and instead she viewed female dancers as powerful and intense
  • Her colleagues have described her long career as an American archetype, because with only a few exceptions, only Graham herself—or her company—ever performed her compositions, making Graham one of the most individualistic dance artists of the 20th century
  • Born on May 11, 1894, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and raised in Santa Barbara, California, Graham began her formal training at Denishawn School of Dance, a Los Angeles academy started by the dancer Ruth St. Denis (1879-1968) and her partner Ted Shawn (1891-1972)
  • In 1923, Graham left Los Angeles to join the Greenwich Village Follies in New York, specializing in exotic Spanish and Indian dances
  • She taught dance for two years at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, all the while preparing herself for her debut as a soloist in 1926
  • Martha Graham gave birth to modern dance, in the sense that she changed people’s minds about what dancers—especially female dancers—could do
  • Whereas traditionally, female dancers had been used by choreographers to symbolize beauty and decoration, Graham de-sentimentalized the female body by emphasizing its power, intensity, and, in her fall sequences, its recovery from defeat 
Graham’s varied and evolving career can be divided into four overlapping phases :-
  • In the first stage, which began after her debut, Graham choreographed short solos and group works for all-women companies. Most of these compositions were based on historical figures and styles of art. Her debut, for example, included two pieces called From a XII Century Tapestry and Maid with the Flaxen Hair. She also experimented with dances that explored a single emotion, such as Lamentation (1930). In this piece, Graham developed one of her signature modern characteristics: manipulating costume to enhance the theme of her dance. Lamentation featured a tube-shaped piece of cloth that encased Graham from her neck to her feet. She remained seated throughout the dance, in which she struggled to rid herself of the tube. The dance, which has been satirized as often as it has been praised, viewed the process of grieving as being similar to feeling trapped in extreme sorrow, from which one searches for an escape. Critics have compared the dance to Kathe KOLLWITZ’s drawings of grieving women
  • The second phase of Grahams career coincided with her growing interest in the theater, with the drama of American history, and with the formation of her own dance company. She also began choreographing for men; two male dancers, Erick Hawkins and Merce Cunningham, joined her troupe in the 1930s. During the Great Depression in the United States (1930-41), some of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs focused on the arts in American culture. While Graham did not participate directly, her dances from this period reflected the focus on American history as worthy of artistic recording and celebrating. Her Appalachian Spring (1944), for example, depicted the pioneer experience in American history
  • In the third period of her career, which lasted from 1944 onward, Graham interwove two related themes in her work: Greek mythology and Freudian interpretations of myths (for more on the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, see Anna FREUD). Most of the characters she focused on were women, and often, her dances had a feminist twist. For example, in Night Journey (1947), Graham portrays the female character Jocaste, in Sophocles’ play Oedipus, as the victim, rather than Oedipus. Graham also produced two dances about JOAN OF ARC, The Triumph of St. Joan (1951) and Seraphic Dialogue (1955)
  • In the fourth and final phase of Graham’s career, she returned to the abstract themes of her earlier period. These dances are not attached to any particular historical figure or to a plot. Acrobats of God (1960) and Adorations (1975) both reflect Graham’s signature dance techniques: spiral movements and linear stage patterns. The spiral movements were movements in which Graham tended to view the human body as “collapsible,” and the stage on which she performed as part of the dance, not a surface merely there to be danced upon. Unlike traditional choreography, her spiral movements involved fall sequences in which she emphasized the recovery from the fall, not the descent to the ground. The stage, then, often seemed as though it was a taut drum off of which Graham and her dancers would bounce. Furthermore, Graham choreographed dances in which she used her corps onstage as though they were architecture. For example, she would use a row of dancers, rather than a stage setting, to build a wall that moved when the scene changed
  • She died in New York City on April 1, 1991
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