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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Martha Graham

b. 1894, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; d. 1991, New York

Martha Graham was a leading figure in the American modern dance movement. She choreographed over 180 works in a career that spanned more than half a century, and performed in most of her productions. Graham used dance as an arena in which to explore and express human emotions, creating such works as Appalachian Spring (1944), Cave of the Heart (1946), Clytemnestra (1958), and The Witch of Endor (1965), which were inspired by her knowledge of Greek mythology, historical figures, and Native American folklore. In 1927, she founded the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, where she emphasized the significance of the breath, lower back, and pelvis in a style of dance that was entirely opposed to the classical tradition of ballet. In addition to her work as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher of many who would go on to significant careers of their own, she published The Notebooks of Martha Graham (1973) and her autobiography, Blood Memory (1991).