Martha Graham (1894-1991)

“U.S. dancer, teacher, choreographer, and foremost exponent of modern dance. Born in Pittsburgh, she trained from 1916 under Ted Shawn at the Denishawn school. She left in 1923 for New York, where she founded her own school in 1927 and a performing company in in 1929. She choreographed over 160 works, creating unique “dance plays” and using a variety of themes to express emotion and conflict. Many are based on American themes including Appalachian Spring (1944); other works include Primitive Mysteries (1931), El Penitente (1940), Letter to the World (1940), Cave of the Heart (1946), Clytemnestra (1958), Phaedra (1962), and Frescoes (1978). She collaborated for many years with Louis Horst, her musical director, and Isamu Noguchi, who designed many of her sets. She retired from dancing in 1970 but continued to teach and choreograph. Her technique became the first significant alternative to classical ballet, and her influence extended worldwide through her choreography and her students.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

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