Culture and Recreation


How did modern dance begin?

American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham (1894–1991) is the acknowledged creator of modern dance. She was 35 years old when the Martha Graham Dance Group made its debut on April 14, 1929, ushering in a new era in dance performance. The new form of dance dissolved the separation between mind and body and relied on technique that was built from within.

Graham’s interest in dance had begun in her youth, and as an astute observer and manipulator of light and space, she came to be regarded later in life as one of the masters of the modernist movement—on a par with artist Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). She is credited with revolutionizing dance as an art form; in her hands it had become nonlinear and nonrepresentational theater. Choreographing some 180 works in her lifetime, she also taught many students who rose to prominence as accomplished and masterful dancers, including Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor.


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