The Mother of Modern Dance
Who was Martha Graham?
Leaping into the World and Early Influences
Martha Graham was born in a suburb of Allegheny (now Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania on May 11, 1894. She was the oldest of two sisters, Mary and Georgia but a younger brother died of Scarlet fever before his second birthday. As a child, Martha was influenced by her father George Graham, a doctor who used physical movement to cure nervous disorders. Dr. Graham believed that the body could express its inner senses, and that idea fascinated his daughter. Her father would play the piano and songs for his children and Graham's nurse as a child, Elizabeth Pendergass, had a love for theater. She would often help the children stage plays while she was watching them. In 1908, the Graham family moved to Santa Barbara, California because Mary suffered from chronic asthma and couldn't be around the unhealthy air. Martha went to Santa Baraba high school, but California was also the home of the Denishawn company, which would later become the school of her dreams.
At Santa Barbara High School, Graham was the school's literary magazine editor, named Olive and Gold as well as being a seam stress and playing baskstball on her school's team. In the year 1911, Martha was with her parents and saw a poster advertising a dance show by Ruth St. Denis on April 24th-29th in Los Angeles. She begged her parents to go and her father allowed it. He bought her a new outfit for the show as well. Martha saw Ruth St. Denis, leader of the Denishawn School, perform and decided she wanted to learn and study dance, but being sa strong Presbyterian, her father insisted that she obtain a "real" education by going to a four year university. However still in high school she stopped playing basketball and put theather it its place. In the fall, she studied theater and dance at the University of Cumnoch, a school of Expression. She was only allowed to go because her friend Marguerite Andrus was also going. Graham's father died after her first year in college, and funds were small, but her mother made sure that Martha and her sisters got the best education possible. She graduated from college in 1916 to begin dancing with the Denishawn School in Los Angeles that same year.
Dancing into the Spotlight
Sissoning into Success
Influencing and Teaching
End of Career
Words to Know
Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis- owners of the Denishawn Company, and very successful choreographers
Denishawn- the Denishawn School is school of dancing and related arts. It was founded in 1915 by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn in Los Angeles, California and it is the first dance academy in the United States to produce a professional dance company as well as perfecting many dancer's
"Dance is the language of the soul of the body."
"People have asked me why I chose to be a dancer. I did not choose. I was chosen to be a dancer, and with that, you live all your life."
"Dancers are the messengers of the gods."
"The body says what words cannot."
"You are unique, and if that is not fulfilled, then something is lost."
"I feel that the essence of dance is the expression of man- the landscape of his soul. I can hope that every dance I do reveals something of myself or some wonderful thing a human can be."