Martha Graham - Modern Dancer, Family and Personal Life

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Martha Graham's Personal Details

Martha Graham was a prominent American dancer who was the first dancer ever to perform at the White House

InformationDetail
BirthdayMay 11, 1894
Died onApril 1, 1991
NationalityAmerican
FamousChoreographers, Modern Dancer, Dancers, Ballet Dancers, Contemporary Dancers, Choreographers
SpousesErick Hawkins
Universities
  • Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts
  • Santa Barbara High School
Birth PlaceAllegheny County
GenderFemale
FatherGeorge Graham
MotherJane Beers
Sun SignTaurus
Born inAllegheny County
Famous asModern dancer and choreographer
Died at Age96

// Famous Modern Dancer

Martha Graham's photo

Who is Martha Graham?

The first ever dancer to perform at the White House, American dancer Martha Graham was an artist beyond compare. In a career spanning over half a century, she revolutionized modern dance and created more than 180 works as a dancer and choreographer. She believed in revealing the inner man and saw the art of dance as a medium for the expression of intense human emotions. Her influence on modern dance has often been compared with the influence Picasso had on the modern visual arts and Stravinsky had on music. A highly creative person, she saw dance as a “movement language” that allowed human beings to artistically express their inner most desires, fears, and ecstasies. As an artist, she collaborated with not just other dancers, but also with painters, designers and musicians to produce works of art that were as aesthetically appealing as they were profoundly touching. Through her experimentation with social, political and psychological themes, she influenced generations of choreographers and dancers including Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp. She founded the Martha Graham Dance Company, which is today the oldest American dance company; the company served as the launch pad for many of the great 20th and 21st century modern dancers and choreographers.

// Famous Choreographers

Childhood & Early Life

She was born on May 11, 1894, as one of the three daughters of George Graham, a physician, and his wife Jane Beers, in Pennsylvania. Her father practiced psychiatry and was interested in the bodily expression of human behaviour.

She joined the Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, founded by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, in the mid-1910s. The newly established school explored different types of dance styles including folk, classical, experimental, Oriental, and American Indian, thus introducing her to the rich cultural heritage of dances from around the world. She studied here till 1923.

Ted Shawn, who was her mentor at the school recognized her potential and guided her to perform an Aztec ballet, ‘Xochitl’. Her performances at various concerts and vaudeville were met with great success.

She performed an Egyptian dance with Lillian Powell—again under Shawn’s guidance—in a short silent film by Hugo Riesenfeld, in 1922.

Career

She left Denishawn in 1923 and became a featured dancer in the Greenwich Village Follies revue. She went to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York in 1924 where she taught dance.

Her made her debut as an independent artist in New York, in 1926. She loved experimenting with dance movements and this was reflected in her performances. Some of the performances she gave during this time were ‘Three Gopi Maidens’ and ‘Danse Languide’.

She founded the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1926, as a contemporary dance company. The company went on to become a very famous institution for dancers and choreographers.

In 1927, she performed a program, ‘Revolt’, set to the avant-garde music of Arthur Honegger. This was an original dance that was considerably different from her previous works and was not received positively by the audiences. But this did not dampen her imaginative spirit.

Over a period of time her genius mind and creativity began attracting the attention of critics and by the time she choreographed ‘American Document’ in 1938, her fame as an innovative choreographer had spread far and wide.

She believed dance to be a powerful medium of expression and explored several social, political, psychological and sexual themes through her performances and choreography.

Her works in the 1940s reflected her views about the human society and its complexities. Some of her best known works from this period include ‘Deaths and Entrances’ (1943), ‘Appalachian Spring’ (1944), ‘Dark Meadow’ (1946), and ‘Errand into the Maze’ (1947).

The Martha Graham Company premiered the ballet ‘Clytemnestra’ in April 1958 which went on to become a roaring success. It was her largest scale of work and the only full-length work she ever produced.

Some of her later works are ‘The Witch of Endor’ (1965), ‘Cortege of Eagles’ (1967), ‘The Archaic Hours’ (1969), ‘Mendicants of Evening’ (1973), ‘Lucifer’ (1975), ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ (1978), and ‘Frescoes’ (1980).

Major Works

She founded the Martha Graham Dance Company which is today the oldest continually performing dance company in the world. The company has till date trained many world famous dancers and choreographers and has been recognized as "one of the seven wonders of the artistic universe" by the Washington Post.

Awards & Achievements

In 1976, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the USA, in 1976 by President Gerald Ford who declared her "a national treasure”.

She was inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame, in 1987.

‘Time’ magazine named her the “Dancer of the Century” in 1998.

Personal Life & Legacy

A dancer named Eric Hawkins joined her troupe in 1939 and played the male lead in many of her works. Eventually the two developed a relationship and got married in 1948. The couple divorced in 1954.

She became addicted to alcohol at one point of time following her last performance as a dancer. She became so depressed that she even tried to commit suicide. However, she bounced back by quitting alcohol and revived her career as a choreographer.

She lived a long life and continued choreographing till the very end. She died of pneumonia on April 1, 1991, at the age of 96.

// Famous Dancers

Martha Graham awards

YearNameAward

Other

1976 - Presidential Medal of Freedom
highest civilian award of the USA

Martha Graham biography timelines

  • // 11th May 1894
    She was born on May 11, 1894, as one of the three daughters of George Graham, a physician, and his wife Jane Beers, in Pennsylvania. Her father practiced psychiatry and was interested in the bodily expression of human behaviour.
  • // 1922
    She performed an Egyptian dance with Lillian Powell—again under Shawn’s guidance—in a short silent film by Hugo Riesenfeld, in 1922.
  • // 1923
    She left Denishawn in 1923 and became a featured dancer in the Greenwich Village Follies revue. She went to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York in 1924 where she taught dance.
  • // 1926
    Her made her debut as an independent artist in New York, in 1926. She loved experimenting with dance movements and this was reflected in her performances. Some of the performances she gave during this time were ‘Three Gopi Maidens’ and ‘Danse Languide’.
  • // 1926
    She founded the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1926, as a contemporary dance company. The company went on to become a very famous institution for dancers and choreographers.
  • // 1927
    In 1927, she performed a program, ‘Revolt’, set to the avant-garde music of Arthur Honegger. This was an original dance that was considerably different from her previous works and was not received positively by the audiences. But this did not dampen her imaginative spirit.
  • // 1938
    Over a period of time her genius mind and creativity began attracting the attention of critics and by the time she choreographed ‘American Document’ in 1938, her fame as an innovative choreographer had spread far and wide.
  • // 1948
    A dancer named Eric Hawkins joined her troupe in 1939 and played the male lead in many of her works. Eventually the two developed a relationship and got married in 1948. The couple divorced in 1954.
  • // Apr 1958
    The Martha Graham Company premiered the ballet ‘Clytemnestra’ in April 1958 which went on to become a roaring success. It was her largest scale of work and the only full-length work she ever produced.
  • // 1976
    In 1976, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the USA, in 1976 by President Gerald Ford who declared her "a national treasure”.
  • // 1987
    She was inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame, in 1987.
  • // 1st Apr 1991
    She lived a long life and continued choreographing till the very end. She died of pneumonia on April 1, 1991, at the age of 96.
  • // 1998
    ‘Time’ magazine named her the “Dancer of the Century” in 1998.

// Famous Contemporary Dancers

Martha Graham's FAQ

  • What is Martha Graham birthday?

    Martha Graham was born at 1894-05-11

  • When was Martha Graham died?

    Martha Graham was died at 1991-04-01

  • Where was Martha Graham died?

    Martha Graham was died in New York City

  • Which age was Martha Graham died?

    Martha Graham was died at age 96

  • Where is Martha Graham's birth place?

    Martha Graham was born in Allegheny County

  • What is Martha Graham nationalities?

    Martha Graham's nationalities is American

  • Who is Martha Graham spouses?

    Martha Graham's spouses is Erick Hawkins

  • What was Martha Graham universities?

    Martha Graham studied at Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, Santa Barbara High School

  • Who is Martha Graham's father?

    Martha Graham's father is George Graham

  • Who is Martha Graham's mother?

    Martha Graham's mother is Jane Beers

  • What is Martha Graham's sun sign?

    Martha Graham is Taurus

  • How famous is Martha Graham?

    Martha Graham is famouse as Modern dancer and choreographer