Martha Graham Influence On Modern Dance

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In the wake of the 20th century, a canon known as modern dance emerged. Dissatisfied with the shallow characteristics that ballet embodied, dancers began searching for a more meaningful form of movement. Not often receiving the public attention and appreciation that dance styles require to earn artistic respect, modern dance was perpetually pushed away from art culture (Foulkes). It lacked the strictness of curriculum, which held ballet in such high esteem. I am going to discuss one of, if not the, most important figure in modern dance history, and show how her accomplishments helped to secure the modern dance canon. Martha Graham demanded that her work be accurately reproduced, so she created rules for her movement. Moreover, modern dancers …show more content…
Then, I will explain exactly how her work supports the existence of the modern dance canon, and how in establishing a curriculum for modern dance, it legitimized it’s form. Following this, I will talk about the nature of dance as a form of art to further stress the need for curriculum, and finally, I will talk about the practical use of her style of movement in various modern dance schools, including the Martha Graham School.

Martha Graham began dancing independently in the early 1930’s. The Denishawn Company was where she had done most of her formal training (Foulkes), however, overtime, several factors contributed to her leave. First of all, she felt very much restricted by her teachers, in the sense that she did not have enough artistic freedom. She was also aware of the discrimination that went on within the company’s administration, such as preventing certain people from joining the dance school based on their ethnicities rather than on their skill (Foulkes). Martha felt that that discrimination contradicted some of the foundational values that the modern dance philosophy had been built on, namely, the empowerment of minority groups,
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You could read about the performances in newspapers, however it was only those who came to the shows who actually ever experienced the dances. This shows that dance is time sensitive and actually disappears upon it’s ending. As Foulkes put it, “each move erases the previous one“ (Foulkes). This characteristic also means that it cannot be consumed in the same way that other forms of art may be, like poetry, or music, which can be re-read and re-listened to. This fact, of not being able to consume dance as you might another form of art, contributed to it being seen as an inadequate form of art (Foulkes). In dance, the art depends on the presence of the artist. This characteristic has the potential ground in explaining why modern dance was demanding something concrete for it’s survival (Foulkes). Dance demands years and years of practising different kinds of movements, which target different aspects of one’s technique. It is important to have a consistent repertory of movement, because it is favourable for the quality of practise. Graham created such an expansive vocabulary of movements, which acted as the foundation upon which modern dancers could be

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