MARTHA GRAHAM: A Biography by Don McDonagh


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In the ingrown, fractious ""Amazonian world of modern dance"" she was simply Martha, the high priestess, the dowager empress, an almost holy oracle. Temperamental, imperious, egotistical, vain, hot tempered (""She whispered louder than most people scream""), insufferable to many who did not adore her, doggedly disciplined and determined, Graham single-handedly raised the modern dance from romantic and exotic vaudeville to an austere and all-American art form, giving theatrical kinesics a new vocabulary. Graham's Company -- until 1938 a dedicated band of vestal virgins with no need for men -- moved ""as an extension of herself"": in choreographing Primitive Mysteries, Appalachian Spring, Clytemnestra, etc. she worked out her personal vacillation between passion and duty, rebellion and submission, irremediable sin and possible expiation. But in the course of becoming an institution she found herself immured on a lonely pinnacle, deserted by long-time associates and regarded as a fossil by the latest dance generation; a capricious semi-alcoholic, she insisted on performing until her own company forced her retirement by staging a palace revolt. McDonagh, author of The Rise and Fall of Modern Dance, has found the person behind the persona, but, unfortunately, gives us little insight into the artist's art. (There is no mention of the Graham Notebooks, KR, p. 1026). This book has not eclipsed Leatherman's Martha Graham as a guide to this dancer's world.

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1973
Publisher: Praeger