Graham, Martha

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Graham, Martha Gender: F
born on 11 May 1894 at 06:00 (= 06:00 AM )
Place Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 40n26, 80w0
Timezone EST h5w (is standard time)
Data source
From memory
Rodden Rating A
Collector: Rodden
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_taucol.18.gif 20°42' s_mo.18.gif s_leocol.18.gif 10°08 Asc.s_gemcol.18.gif 05°28'

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Martha Graham


American dancer, choreographer and teacher, the world's leading exponent of modern dance.

Graham's parents moved her and her three sisters to Santa Barbara, California from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1904. A psychiatrist, Dr. Graham was able to provide his four daughters with a private education in the arts, history, languages and the sciences. At age ten, Martha became enthralled with dance and movement after seeing Ruth St. Denis perform. Her father felt dance too frivolous and Martha was unable to resume her fascination with movement until after his death in 1916.

St. Denis considered age 22 too old for a beginning dancer but Ted Shawn made Graham his protégé and she appeared regularly in the new Denishawn theater in Eagle Rock in north Los Angeles. Following World War I, Shawn broke with St. Denis and took Graham and several young dancers to New York where they performed in the Pantages and Orpheum houses, introducing their new "aesthetic dance" in the vaudeville programs of that era. In 1919-1920, Shawn temporarily left vaudeville to stage "Xochitl," hailed as the first original American ballet. Graham's first solo appearance was acclaimed, leading to an invitation to join the cast of "The Greenwich Village Follies" and a lifelong interest in the North American Continent as a source of inspiration for the many pursuits in movement which lay ahead.

Between performances she studied Oriental, Greek and Spanish dances. Small, shy and quiet, she saw dance as an inner emotional and spiritual experience.

Graham was invited to teach at a dance adjunct of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. This began her role as mentor to thousands and visionary to millions. She created dances for herself and her students, designed her own costumes and set her own lights. She started a series of concerts at the school in 1926 and always considered this year as her real beginning. Her originality brought critical praise but it would take a while for her dances to catch on; dances in which feet were often stationary and the human form was projected as an angular curiosity piece. She was fulfilling two dreams: to stage dance for movement itself rather than pure aesthetics and to create a voluminous aggregation of work. She said, "I want to make people feel intensely alive. I'd rather have them against me than indifferent." Many were against her. None were indifferent.

In 1930 she was chosen to dance the female lead in the New York premiere of Igor Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" (The Rite of Spring). That same year she began a long professional and romantic association with Louis Horst, former music director for the Denishawn school. She taught in Seattle for a brief period, went to visit her mother in Los Angeles, and on her way back East, stopped in New Mexico where she became intrigued with the American Indian. Graham was descended on her mother's side from Miles Standish, and for the rest of her life Americana became her personal laboratory. She staged "Primitive Mysteries" in 1931. Thereafter she used impressions of tragic Greek women such as Jocasta, Medea and Clytemnestra with those of America's poet Emily Dickinson in "Letter to the World," or in the American ballet "Appalachian Spring," which she said she cherished the most.

In 1932 she was on the program that opened Radio City Music Hall. In 1934, she staged dances for "Romeo and Juliet," Katharine Cornell's most memorable role. She started a course called "Movement for Actors," not, she said, so that they should dance but that they could become "vibrant human beings." Some of those vibrant human beings included Bette Davis, Joanne Woodward, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck and Woody Allen. One of her students, Betty Ford, would become the First Lady of the United States and was on hand in 1976 when President Gerald R. Ford gave Graham the first Medal of Freedom ever awarded a dancer.

She taught at the Juilliard School in New York and helped to establish a school of modern dance at Bennington College in Vermont in 1935. By the 1940s, Graham triumphed over critical adversity staging "Letter to the World" in 1940, "Appalachian Spring" in 1944 and "Cave of the Heart," "Medea," "Night Journey," and "Jocasta." In the 1950s she staged "Seraphic Dialogue," "Joan of Arc" and what many consider the apex of her career, "Clytemnestra," a celebration in motion of the Greek legend.

In 1975, at age 81 and six years after she stopped performing, she produced the longest season of modern dance ever staged in New York. To celebrate her company's 50th anniversary, she choreographed three new works for a four-week, 31-performance marathon at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. One of those new works was for the Russian dancer, Rudolf Nureyev. In 1978 she adapted "the Owl and the Pussycat," and coached Liza Minnelli, who narrated the movements of the Graham dancers. In 1981, she presented "Acts of Light." "Clytemnestra" was seen on public television in 1984. In October 1987, she premiered her final dance, "Persephone," choreographed to Stravinsky's Symphony in C. Applauded for her courage and vision, Graham said, "No artist is ahead of his time. He is his time."

In 1948, she married fellow dancer and protégé, Erick Hawkins. The union lasted ten years.

Graham left a body of work that included 180 dances, insisting on dancing herself until age 75. Only 1.60 m (5' 3"), her height belied the stature of her body of work and courage to persevere. In 1990, while ill, she led her troupe on long tours to Europe and to the Far East. In Japan she contracted pneumonia, returned to New York and was hospitalized, but died at home after a two-month battle, on 1 April 1991, aged 96.

Link to Wikipedia biography


  • associate relationship with Erdman, Jean (born 20 February 1916)
  • associate relationship with Holm, Hanya (born 3 March 1893)
  • associate relationship with Li, Blanca (born 12 January 1964)
  • friend relationship with Halston (born 23 April 1932)
  • role played of/by Peil, Mary Beth (born 25 June 1940). Notes: 2021 TV miniseries "Halston"


  • Family : Change residence 1904 (Pittsburgh to Santa Barbara)
  • Death of Father 1916
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1919 (Ballet, "Xochitl")
  • Work : Begin Major Project 1926 (Concert series)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1930 (Female lead in "The Rite of Spring")
  • Relationship : Begin significant relationship 1930 (Romantic association with Louis Horst)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1931 (Dance, "Primitive Mysteries")
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1932 (Program at Radio City)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1934 (Dances in "Romeo and Juliet")
  • Work : Begin Major Project 1935 (Established school of modern dance)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1940 (Dance, "Letter To the World")
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1944 (Dance, "Appalachian Spring")
  • Relationship : Marriage 1948 (Fellow dancer Erick Hawkins)
  • Work : Great Achievement 1975 (Staged longest ever dance season)
  • Work : Prize 1976 (Medal of Freedom)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1978 (Adapted "The Owl and the Pussycat")
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1981 (Dance, "Acts of Light")
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released October 1987 (Final dance, "Persephone")
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Social : Begin Travel 1990 (Europe and Far East)

Source Notes

Rudhyar quotes her.


  • Traits : Body : Size (1.60 m/ 5 ft 3 in)
  • Traits : Personality : Hard worker
  • Traits : Personality : Shy (Quiet)
  • Diagnoses : Major Diseases : Pneumonia (Two month illness, terminal)
  • Family : Childhood : Advantaged (Private education)
  • Family : Relationship : Mate - Noted (Dancer Erick Hawkins)
  • Family : Relationship : Number of Divorces (One)
  • Family : Relationship : Number of Marriages (One)
  • Lifestyle : Work : Work in team/ Tandem (Several troupes)
  • Personal : Death : Long life more than 80 yrs (Age 96)
  • Vocation : Entertain/Music : Dancer/ Teacher (Dancer, choreographer)
  • Notable : Awards : Medals (Medal of Freedom)
  • Notable : Famous : Historic figure (Name synonymous with dance)
  • Notable : Famous : Founder/ originator (School of dance @ Bennington College)
  • Notable : Famous : Top 5% of Profession
  • Notable : Book Collection : Occult/ Misc. Collection