Martha Graham: Innovation In The World Of Dance

By: John-Mark Slade


Everyone has some period of their life where they experience a feeling of rebellion. There are very few people who experience the kind of rebellion that changes the way people perceive an art form. And most never move the world with their creation.

When you think of art and the innovators who have carved a new and exciting path, you most likely think of Picasso and Pollock. These artists created a new look that had never been seen or even though about before. The same is true of Martha Graham for her contribution to the art of dance.

When we think about the artists who have created a new way of looking at art, we probably think about Picasso and Pollock. These two artists created an art that had never been seen and forced the people of their generation to see things in a different way. Martha Graham is an artist who has changed the way that people see and experience dance.

Martha Graham lived in New York City during the 1930's. As you can imagine devastating poverty and hopelessness surrounded her. It was her thought that the stage productions that were on Broadway were nothing more than a way for some in society to escape the reality of the stark conditions of their city. Instead of creating more of the same, Graham incorporated the turmoil and hopelessness into the dances that she created.

The theater on Broadway provided a means of escape, but only for those who had the money to indulge. Graham saw the stage as an escape from the real world that surrounded it. Her vision was to bring the reality of life to the stage and give movement and motion to the turmoil of the real New York City.

The stage is a black box with the twelve women dancing a dance that can only be described as agony set to motion. The undulations of the women as they move across the stage are a depiction of the collective downward spiral of so many that was living in society during that time. It was a dance that very few people could classify or even understand.

The audience was faced with something that had never been done on the stage before. This dance was not ballet, nor was it any of the dancing that had previously been the trend during this era in society. That was exactly the point of the dance, to take apart what was the typical escapism and bring realism to the world of the dance.

Martha Graham could be classified as a trailblazer because of her ability to do something that hadn't been attempted before her. She was able to take dance and turn it into a social and political statement of the conditions of her world as she saw it. Now, people understand that the dance can be a political statement or any other expression that we wish it to be.

This pioneer was not afraid to let the world see her vision. She did not fear the words of the critics or the condemnation that might be directed toward her. She took her passion and artistic sense and created a world that sees dance as an art.

It takes a brave few to push the envelope in the art world and move beyond what is currently the trend. It is the trend setters and the artists that step over boundaries and move their art forward without regard for their reputation or material wealth that we remember for centuries. No matter what the medium that is used, it takes innovation and forward thinking artists to continue to push the limits of what we perceive as art. Martha Graham is one of these artists.

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Slade is an accomplished dancer, choreographer, fashion model and a mentor at Asia's Premier Film School, the International Academy of Film and Television.

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