Martha Graham (1894–1991)

Martha Graham was one of the most influential modern dance choreographers, teachers, and dancers of the twentieth century. From 1926 to 1949, she choreographed more than 100 dances. Many of these dances were huge theatrical productions involving innovative movement, creative and sculptural set designs, and newly composed music. They made a fashion statement with innovative costuming and props. Some of the themes used by Graham in her choreography included that of the American Indian, ancient dance ritual, American pioneers, and Greek mythology. She expressed raw emotion and symbolic meaning in her work, which was shocking to audiences who were only used to ballet. In addition, she developed an entirely new method of movement, known today as the Graham Technique. This technique involves the contraction and release of the midsection of the body and the use of the floor in movement and warm-ups. She continued to choreograph new works spanning six decades into the 1980s. These include Appalachian Spring (to music by Aaron Copland), Seraphic Dialogue, and Phaedra, which are some of her most famous works.

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