Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This biography of the modern dancer and choreographer is a substantial, carefully considered, highly personal portrait never compromised by the author's clear adulation for her subject. Photos. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
Eye-opening, riveting, enlightening, uplifting—Martha Graham's life and times seen through the discerning, appreciative eye of Agnes de Mille. This is an earthier, more human Graham than in her own Blood Memory (p. 839); it is also a more detailed look at the era. Graham's vision was so focused that she was unaware of, or thought unimportant, the surroundings, players, intrigues; she was also extremely private. De Mille can and does give us the fuller picture. De Mille met Graham in the early Denishawn days in California; their lives and careers intertwined ever after with varying degrees of intensity. They were friends, worked with many of the same people, and kept a critical eye on each other's work. Graham's strength and will were apparent certainly by her teens; her genius was apparent early, too. De Mille follows the development of that gift, and along the way explores in depth Graham's contemporaries, technique, and the dance world generally. This is meaty, detailed stuff, and all in de Mille's wonderful voice. On Doris Humphrey: "...she analyzed everything. It was not enough that a fall or lean could be lovely. She had to explain why...Her own dancing seemed to have little personality, while Martha's was electrifying." On the relationship between a choreographer's physique and his work, and Graham's in particular: she claimed that she always choregraphed falls on the left because the heart is on the left. "Maybe so," says de Mille, "but to this dancer it seems that it really was because her left leg and thigh were stronger and more stretched out." De Mille drops a number of bombshells here, particularly in her discussions of Graham's emotional life. She had stormy,sometimes physically abusive (by both parties) relationships in her life. De Mille describes the two most intense crises: Graham's failed marriage to Erick Hawkins; and her forced retirement as a dancer, in 1968, at age 72. This latter precipitated a physical collapse that de Mille names convincingly as being alcoholic. "Martha got well, in her own way, in her own time, and without alcohol. Martha rose from the dead, and verily, she was changed now." A loving, respectful, but always cleareyed account of the human Graham. A must for fans of Graham's, de Mille's, dance—indeed, anyone wanting a clear picture of a creative era that is fast drawing to a close. (Thirty-two pp. of b&w photos—not seen.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394556437
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/20/1991
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 509

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