Lamentations (above) is a classic Graham experiment in visual design.
Jose Limon says in his unfinished autobiography,
‘The American modern dance which was to give New York City the distinction of being the world capital of dance, was a phenomenon rare in the long history of dance in Western societies.[…] It took Americans, with their inherited prejudices against European hegemony, to reject, in toto, ballet’s long and revered tradition. Precisely as they had once plunged into the unknown, untamed wilderness with no thought to the danger lurking around them, so now they had the temerity to abandon the security of the academic tradiiton and set out to discover or invent their own. ‘
There are particular choreographic works which embody American legends or tastes, and celebrate being American.
First let us look at a small moment from a recreation of a work by Doris Humphrey, ‘The Shakers’ (1931). ‘The Shakers’ had to do with the pious frenzy practised by a nineteenth century Calvinist sect. Pauline philosophy found a new impetus when transplanted to the English colonies.The motif of this early piece was, ‘My carnal life I will lay down, because it is depraved.’
Martha Graham was born in 1894 and choreographed for seventy years. She was born in Allegheny City which is today part of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her father George Graham was what in the Victorian era was known as an ‘alienist’, a practioner of an early form of psychiatry. The Grahams were strict Presbyterians. Dr. Graham was a third generation American of Irish descent and her mother Jane Beers was a tenth generation descendent of Puritan Miles Standish.
‘Appalachian Spring’ is a Graham tribute to the early pioneers who plowed and settled the land.
Graham speaks about her creation of ‘Frontier’ (1976):
Finally, what could be more American than the rags of Scott Joplin? Here Graham captures another American motif: