Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern

Knopf Oct. 2022. 576p. ISBN 9780385352321. $40. DANCE
Baldwin’s (The American Revelation) comprehensive and engaging biography places choreographer Martha Graham and her athletic, furious, demanding, powerful dance technique in the milieu of music, art and poetry of the time. Graham founded her female dance company in 1926, to embody dance’s dramatic potential, rather than feature the smooth elegance of ballet. Erick Hawkins, the first male dancer, joined the company more than 11 years later. Graham and her dancers incorporated audible breathing, flexed feet and dramatic contraction and release to show the effort dance required. Baldwin includes detailed descriptions of specific recitals, Graham’s jersey-fabric dance wear, the lives of her dance colleagues (Ruth St. Denis; Ted Shawn; Lincoln Kirstein) and artists of the time (sculptor Isamu Noguchi; composer Aaron Copland). Side trips into Graham’s sometimes-complicated personal life (she married musician Louis Horst, and later, dancer Hawkins) broaden the book’s appeal. Almost 70 pages of research notes and a 40-page bibliography speak to Baldwin’s dedicated and detailed forays into correspondence and dance notebooks, papers, film footage, reviews, and his consultations with archivists and special collection librarians. Photos add to interest.
VERDICT A worthwhile addition to modern dance collections.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing