Topic: ArtDance

Last updated: April 15, 2019

Martha Graham’s Influence in Modern DanceModern dance is an expressive style of dance which originated in the early 1920s. It was created as a revolt against ballet, and it was also greatly influenced by Martha Graham.

She was an American dancer who affected the development of Modern Dance by being the first person to develop a technique for the abstract art form. Her recognizable techniques were also incorporated in her influential choreography in which developed her new ways to produce beautiful performances. The Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts was the first dance school for Modern Dance, and the school Martha Graham attended. Attending this school was a good start for Graham because it influenced her development of her own technique, which made her the first person to develop a technique for Modern Dance. The technique developed was the ‘contract and release’ technique. The contraction section of this technique is done as the body pulls in at the torso as the legs, arms, and head pull toward the torso.

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Then the torso straightens again to represent the release. This dancing method drastically inspired Modern Dance in the years of its development. Martha Graham’s choreography presented abstract movement, and it was usually influenced by societal issues. During the 1920s, America was recovering from the aftermath of World War 1, and the era of parties, carelessness, bootlegging, and The Great Depression was starting to arise. This was also the time Classical Dance began to gain popularity, however it failed to portray any real meaning behind the movements.

This then brought about the idea of Modern Dance. It was also a major influence for Martha Graham’s piece, Lamentation, which movements were choreographed to represent the feeling of grief. Not a woman in grief, rather a depiction of grief itself. Martha Graham used Modern Dance as an inspiration and a way to portray her views on cultural issues. Martha Graham’s performances were authentic and original in the way she produced them. For example, unlike Classical dance which already has music written before the dance is choreographed, Graham would choreograph a piece and then music would be written to accompany the dancing. This truly highlighted the differences between Classical Dance and Modern Dance.

This new concept expressed movements in the most raw, purest form, and it took a great part in influencing Modern Dance. Modern Dance’s development has been hugely influenced by Martha Graham’s introduction of techniques, her new ways of choreographing dance, and through her ideas for new ways to produce performances. Martha Graham is The Mother of Modern Dance.


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