Martha Graham is an American dancer and choreographer whose influence on modern dance makes her one of the most important pioneers in 20th century dance. Many of her techniques and principals are still highly regarded and implemented all over the world.
Graham was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania in 1894 to a wealthy family (Her father was a doctor specializing in nervous disorders, believing in diagnosis through attention to physical movement and the body’s ability to express its inner senses - which was one of the reasons the lead Martha to pursue dance).
When Martha was 17, she saw Ruth St. Denis perform at the Mason Opera House in Los Angeles. She was immediately spellbound, and begged to be given dance classes, but her parents were both strong Presbyterians and did not allow their daughter to dance. It wasn't until after Graham's farther died that she was able to join the newly opened Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, founded by Ruth St. Denis and her husband, Ted Shawn.
Martha Graham danced for overs 70 years (though she officially retired at 55), a phenomenal length of time, and even after she stopped dancing, she continued to teach and choreograph up until her death in 1991. She was the first dancer to dance at the White House, and was given the key to Paris. Just a few of her well-renowned works (A total of 181) include; Primitive Mysteries (1931), Appalachian Spring (1944), and Rite of Spring (1984).
Today her legacy is continued through The Martha Graham Company, which was founded in 1981, and The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, which has the distinction of being the longest continuously operating school of dance in America.
“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. ” ~ Martha Graham