There have been many people in the world of dance that have made an impact on lives around the world. Some dancers might have made more than others; Martha Graham is one of those dancers. People say she’s the Picasso of dance and would change the world of dance forever. She was born on May 11, 1894 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her father, George Graham, treated people with nerve disorders where her mother, Jane Beers Graham, had no known job. She also had two sisters and a brother that died when he was two. Her family was very religious and wealthy and was required to attend daily prayers. When Graham was ten, her family moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Santa Barbara, California because her sister, Mary, had severe asthma and the air is much cleaner out there. Moving to California helped spark a passion that would last throughout her whole life.
Graham became interested in dance after watching Ruth St. Denis perform in Los Angeles, California in 1914. Her parents disapproved of her dancing so she in rolled in the Cumnock School, a junior college. Her father died in 1914 and Graham then felt permitted to follow her dream. After graduating Cumnock, she enrolled in the Denishaw Studio in Los Angeles when she was twenty-two and met Ted Shawn. She was told that she was too old and her body wasn't built for it but she was a quick learner. She worked very hard and paid close attention to detail and learned all the techniques. Graham rejected the traditional classic ballet and focused on the freedom of movement. She disliked stiff movements but liked the angular look. People who watched her thought that she was dancing in an “ugly” way. She created “percussive movements” by experimenting with what the body can do based on its own structure. Also through her new methods, she created a breathing movement called “contraction and release” along with the spiral. She developed contracting by watching physical pain and how contraction helps. This method of free movement was the first alternative to classic ballet.
Ted Shawn was her main trainer at the Denishaw Studio where she remained for eight years. He choreographed a dance just for her called “Xochitl” in 1920. Her first larger group piece was in 1926 performed in New York. Graham left the Studio in 1923 to do two years of dancing for Greenwich Village. In 1925 she became a dance instructor at the Eastman School of Music and Theater in Rockester, New York. Later, she founded the Dance Repertory Theater in New York City 1930. She then performed in Ignor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” in 1930 before touring the US for four years dancing the production of “Electra” (1931-1935). In 1931 she choreographed a dance called “Primitive Mysteries” which was simply performed in a basic costumes and lights. She later received the Guggenheim fellowship award in 1932 which was an award that promoted artistic research and creation. It is the most highly respected award that a dancer could receive.
Graham was always interested in the lives in Native Americans and in 1935 she performed Frontier, a dance that was based on the lives of American pioneer women. She then danced for President Franklin Roosevelt in the White House in 1937. Graham was the first dancer to perform at the white house. After, she started choreographing more dances. The first batch was performed in simple costumes with a few lights. She later added more complex