Martha Graham: Dance on Film

Movements came just stark out of the body, as though it had never happened before, says choreographer Agnes de Mille of the dance inspirations of Martha Graham. There’s probably been no better evocation of Graham’s genius for creating dances that are primal and sophisticated, abstract and powerfully physical at the same time. De Mille’s comments on her colleague are caught in the 1994 PBS American Masters documentary Martha Graham: The Dancer Revealed, one of the several films collected in this compelling two-DVD set just issued by the Criterion Collection.

The signature Graham works Appalachian Spring (filmed in 1958) and Night Journey (1961) are riveting viewing, and will reward both the newcomer to Graham’s oeuvre and the longtime admirer. Also revelatory are the 1957 television portrait A Dancer Revealed and the many interviews and extras also included. And for those who have followed modern dance from the 20th century into the 21st — watch for a young Merce Cunningham in rare archival footage of an early performance of Appalachian Spring.