Martha Graham Dance Company

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The Martha Graham Dance Company, founded in 1926, is known for being the oldest American dance company. Founded by Martha Graham as a contemporary dance company, it continued to perform pieces, revive classics, and train dancers even after Graham's death in 1991. The company is critically acclaimed in the artistic world and has been recognized as "one of the great dance companies of the world" by the New York Times and as "one of the seven wonders of the artistic universe" by the Washington Post.[1]

Many of the great 20th and 21st century modern dancers and choreographers began at the Martha Graham Dance Company including: Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, Pearl Lang, Pascal Rioult, Anna Sokolow, and Paul Taylor. The repertoire of 181 works also includes guest performances from Mikhail Baryshnikov, Claire Bloom, Margot Fonteyn, Liza Minnelli, Rudolf Nureyev, Maya Plisetskaya, and Kathleen Turner. Her style and technique are recognized in 50 different countries.[2]


Location and Inception[edit]

Graham began teaching in her studio at 66 Fifth Avenue, near 13th Street, and at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Here she taught her special dance technique to the women who would become the first members of her dance company. They would practice new works for nine months and then give recitals in New York and abroad. During the years of 1938 and 1939, men joined the troupe. Later on, financial troubles would plague the company. At these times, Graham was supported by individual patrons. One of the contributors, Mrs. Wallace, made it possible for the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance find its current home at 316 East 63d Street.[3]

After Death[edit]

After Graham's death the company ran into financial and legal troubles. In her will, Graham left her legacy to Ron Protas giving him all rights to her choreography. His dispute with the Board of Directors came in the midst of financial troubles and talks of closing down the dance center. Protas responded by refusing to allow the company to perform Graham's works.[4] This legal battle was fueled by the company's recent dry spell. Public funding had been cut for a few decades, but after Graham's death, private investors began holding out as well. The company performed on and off for the next decade. In 2000, the company canceled performances for the year and practically declared bankruptcy. [5] By 2004, the company began to perform again after two supreme court cases with Ron Protas, both of which he lost. [6]



The Martha Graham Dance Company continues to both perform Graham's works and create new ones based on the technique she configured. Early works are a part of the "long woolen period" and include works such as "Primitive Mysteries" and "El Penitente." Later, Graham turned to America for inspiration and created works such as "American Document," "American Provincials," "Appalachian Spring," "Letter to the World" and "Salem Shore." Later she turned to Hebrew and Greek mythology for "Cave of the Heart," "Night Journey," "Errand Into the Maze," "Judith," "The Witch of Endor," "Phaedra" and "Clytemnestra." Her later works reflected her retirement as they stopped including a main heroine and focused on more abstract concepts. All of these works are still included in the company's repertoire and are occasionally performed.[7]

Current Company[edit]

In 2005, Janet Eilber took firm control as Artistic Director and Denise Vale took the position of Senior Artistic Associate. Presently (2014), Principal dancers include: Tadej Brdnik, Katherine Crockett, Maurizio Nardi, Miki Orihara, PeiJu Chien-Pott, and Blakeley White-McGuire. Soloists include: Lloyd Knight, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Ben Schultz, and Xiaochuan Xie. Dancers include: Natasha Diamond-Walker, Abdiel Jacobsen, Lloyd Mayor, Lauren Newman, Lorenzo Pagano, Jorge Andres Villarini, Ying Xin, Gildas Lemonnier, and Lucy Postell.[8]

See also[edit]

Martha Graham

Martha Graham School of Dance

Ron Protas


  1. ^ "Martha's back! Famed dance company in residence during June". Scope Online. Skidmore College. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  2. ^ "About the Company". Martha Graham Company. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna. "Martha Graham Dies at 96; A Revolutionary in Dance". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Peters, Andrea. "Financial problems close the Martha Graham dance center in New York City". World Socialist Web Site. International Committee of the Fourth International. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  5. ^ Carvajal, Doreen. "Bitter Standoff Imperils a Cherished Dance Legacy". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Lee, Felicia. "Graham Legacy, On the Stage Again". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna. "Martha Graham Dies at 96; A Revolutionary in Dance". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  8. ^ "Company Bios". Martha Graham. Martha Graham Company. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 

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