Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review: Martha Graham (Russell Freedman)

Title: Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life
Author: Russell Freedman
Genre: Adult Non-fiction
Pages: 162
Rating: 4 out of 5
Challenges: One Two Theme
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library
Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Martha Graham, the American dancer, teacher, and choreographer, revolutionized the world of dance. An electrifying performer and a major artist of the twentieth century, she possessed a great gift for revealing emotion through the dance she created, expressing beliefs and telling stories in a way utterly new to the world of dance.

Review: What I thought I knew about Martha Graham before I read this book could be summed up in one sentence: She is the founder of Modern Dance and she attended the same high school as me, Santa Barbara High.

Well, obviously, there is so much more to her than that. Here are the things that I found most interesting:
  • She was fairly short and stocky, different from most dancers in the early part of the 1900s
  • She really did attend my high school, playing basketball, doing student council, and writing for the literary magazine (now the yearbook).
  • She used the lions at the zoo for some of her inspiration when she wanted to create a new type of dance. I was surprised to find that she set out specifically to create a new and different style of dancing in the 1930s
  • She is considered the creator of modern dance, a term she never liked
  • She added men to her company, which was unusual outside the ballet
  • She introduced the idea of the floor as a "direction" in dancing, using the floor for movement and expression of the human body and also of dancing barefoot
  • She refused to go to Nazi Germany to perform for Hitler
  • She was the first dancer to serve as US Cultural Ambassador
  • She performed until she was 75 years old!
  • She died at the age of 96 in 1991
Geography Connection
Martha Graham's life consisted of so many geographical locations: Pennsylvania where she was born, California where she grew up, New York City where she made it as a dancer, Bennington, Vermont where she taught, and more. So, no specific location for this one.

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