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Martha Graham

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Submitted By lsmithsonian17
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Many consider Martha Graham to be one of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the twentieth century. She set in motion an entirely new concept of modern dance; one that transformed its nature in both movement and tone. Her career spanned seventy years, during which she choreographed more than one hundred and eighty dance compositions (PBS). She inspired hundreds of aspiring dancers. Many of her pupils later distinguished themselves as acclaimed choreographers (Terry). Her dance movements impacted the everyday life of many people, and taught one to appreciate every beautiful moment. Graham was immersed in the study of movement from the moment she was old enough to observe the fluidity of the body. Her father, a doctor who specialized in nervous disorders, believed strongly in diagnosing through observation. He focused on watching how his patients moved physically through a space. This stuck with Graham, who later incorporated the relationship between body and space into all of her work. Graham's interest in dance turned into a passion after she attended a performance of Ruth St. Denis, a premier ballerina in her day. Graham's parents were not thrilled with her career choice and had her attend a junior college. After her father's death however, she enrolled in the Denishawn dance school (Graham). While Graham began her career in ballet, her passion was for modern dance. Once she began teaching, she was able to have complete control over what she loved to do. The study of the body's relationship with movement, was the foundational piece of Graham's vision (JFK). She choreographed her dances to embrace harsh emotions, incorporating what she called "contraction and release" breathing. This allowed for jerky movements, sharp bends, elasticity of the body and various falls. Often, her work had very sexual themes and explicit moves. Graham's dance pieces embraced and connected to the wilderness of the human body (PBS).

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