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Remembering Martha Graham

Remembering Martha Graham — We honor the legendary modern dance choreographer

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By the time of Martha Graham’s death last week at a still active 96, the creator of modern dance had worked with the great names in music (Copland, Stravinsky), ballet (Balanchine, Baryshnikov), even film (Gregory Peck and Bette Davis took her classes). Yet the explosive power of Graham’s choreography came from the woman alone. A descendant of Miles Standish, Graham (right, in 1940) rebelled against the puritanism of classical dance by tapping into the dark sexuality of myth (in pieces like 1958’s Clytemnestra) and into America’s high-kicking exuberance (1944’s Appalachian Spring). Perhaps the key to her jagged energy lay in an anecdote she liked to tell about seeing a Kandinsky painting as a young dancer — a slash of red on cool blue that prompted her to vow: ”I will dance like that.” For most of a century, she kept that promise, as two videos attest. Martha Graham: An American Original in Performance and Martha Graham: Three Contemporary Dances (both from Princeton Book Company Publishers) bring together the words and performances of the tiny revolutionary who changed the world of dance.

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