Martha Graham

Martha Graham (May 11, 1894 Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, † April 1, 1991 in New York) was an American dancer, choreographer and dance teacher. Graham applies in the professional world as an innovator of Modern Dances.

Life and work

Martha Graham was the eldest daughter along with two other sisters of George Graham, a psychiatrist, and Jane Beers. After the death of her father, she began in 1916 with a dance training in Los Angeles at the Denishawn School and joined the Denishawn Company Also to. Denishawn was led by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, where even classical ballet was taught. At the invitation of Rouben Mamoulian then taught from 1925 at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and from 1930 at the Cornish College of the Arts. Until then, their style was eclectic and romantic, but that should change with her ​​own studio in New York soon.

Dance style: body language as an expression of "inner music "

In 1926 she founded in Manhattan Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, later the Martha Graham Dance Company emerged from the. Here Graham revolutionized classical ballet by not more subordinated the forms of dance to a standardized sequence of movements, but the feeling and the emotion was the unconditional priority over the movement. In repeated attempts of self-exploration, they eventually built their range of dance techniques on the elementary constituents of tension and relaxation and breathing. Your now even standardized Martha Graham technique is characterized by powerful, dynamic, rugged and tense motor skills and movements. The ballet by Martha Graham was also also inspired by a wide variety of cultural influences such as modern painting, the American pioneer era, the religious ceremonies of the Native Americans and Greek mythology.

Staff and students

She has worked with artists from other sources, together with composers such as Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and her mentor Louis Horst. Also sculptors such as Isamu Noguchi and fashion designers like Halston, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein worked with in their projects. Stars of classical ballet as Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov (1987 to 1989) danced in her pieces. In addition, she also taught well-known actors like Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Madonna, Liza Minnelli, Gregory Peck and Tony Randall. Their most famous pupil was the choreographer Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp. 1934 to 1938 she directed, in addition to Doris Humphrey, Hanya Holm Charles Weidmann and the Bennington School of Dance in Bennington (Vermont ). During the summer Bennington festivals they showed their latest dance programs. Merce Cunningham and Erick Hawkins came from 1939 to 1942 to Bennington and was a principal dancer in her company still gather annually at this " Contemporary Dance Festival " seven weeks, all the important representatives of modern dance.

In its over 60 years of stage work Graham created 181 works. At the age of 75 years she was with deep regret their own last dance performance. Even with 96 years she choreographed her dance pieces.


"Dance is the hidden language of the soul. "

Awards (excerpt)

  • Presidential Medal of Freedom ( 1976)
  • Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award (1981 )
  • National Medal of Arts ( 1985)
  • Ingenio et arti (1986 ) For videnskab og art medaljen ( Medal of the Danish royal family for Science and Art )
  • Dancer of the Century (1998) Time Magazine