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Martha Graham

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Dates: May 11, 1894 - April 1, 1991

Known for: one of the 20th century's best known choreographers as a pioneer of modern dance

Occupation: dance teacher and choreographer

Education:

  • Cumnock School
  • Denishawn

Marriage:

  • husband: Erick Hawkins (married 1948, divorced 1954; dancer)

About Martha Graham:

Martha Graham was born in Pennsylvania, and her family moved to California when she was a girl. Inspired by the cosmopolitan culture of California, and a poster of the dancer Ruth St. Denis, the young Martha Graham chose to be a dancer, a profession her father opposed.

After her father died, Martha Graham began to work with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn at their dance school, eventually being asked to be a teacher.

In 1920 through 1923, Martha Graham danced with the Denishawn company, then began teaching and doing choreography, eventually founding Martha Graham's Dance Group, which had its first performance in 1929.

During more than 40 years, based in New York, her choreography and dance troupe shaped the American art of dance. Her dances were rooted in muscle tension and relaxation; to some, this looked more awkward than the classical-rooted movement of Ruth St. Denis or Isadora Duncan.

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