Martha Graham Dance Company

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MARTHA GRAHAM DANCE COMPANY. Launched in 1929 in New York City, the Martha Graham

Dance Company represented the fulfillment of a dream for its original principal ballerina, director, and choreographer, Martha Graham. She felt that ballet should express extreme emotion; through spastic movements, tremblings, and one-count falls, she and her dancing expressed a range of emotion on stage. She often sought a visceral response from the audience to her explicitly sexual and violent performances. Graham's dancers followed her lead with techniques of breathing and muscle control that she referred to as "contraction and release," originating in the tension of the contracted muscle and culminating in the release of energy from the body as the muscles relaxed.

Graham was the first modern dance choreographer to actively seek collaboration with other artists, using Isamu Noguchi, the Japanese American sculptor, to design her sets, and Aaron Copland to create the musical scores. This is perhaps best seen in her performance of "Appalachian Spring" in 1944, considered to be the apex of her career. Graham continued to dance until 1969 and then worked as a choreographer until her death in 1991. Prone to controversy, including her relationship with artistic director Ron Protas, Graham's radicalism continued after her death. The March 2000 firing of Protas, who owned the rights to the Graham Company name, demonstrated that Graham's memory was still alive.


Aloff, Mindy. "Family Values: The Legacy of Martha Graham Dwindles." The New Republic 213, no. 11 (1995): 30–36.

Hering, Doris, and Gia Kourlas. "Two Views of the Martha Graham Company Season." Dance Magazine 73.5 (1999): 66– 70.

Philip, Richard. "The High Cost of Conflict." Dance Magazine 74.6 (2000): 12–13.