Martha Graham is one of the most influential American dancers and choreographers of modern dance. For more than 50 years, Graham created more than 180 works, from solos to large-scale works, in most of which she starred in. She gave modern dance new depth as a vehicle for the intense and forceful expression of primal emotions.
Graham’s professional career began in 1916 at Denishawn, the schools and dance company founded in Los Angeles by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, where as a teenager she was introduced to a repertory and curriculum that, for the first time in the United States, explored the world’s dances—folk, classical, experimental, Asian, and Native American. She was entranced by the religious mysticism of St. Denis, but Shawn was her major teacher; he discovered sources of dramatic power within her and then channeled them into an Aztec ballet, Xochitl. The dance was a tremendous success both in vaudeville and in concert performance and made her a Denishawn star.
Graham created The Graham Technique which focused on contraction and release of the body, dualing the “fall and recovery” of Modern Dance pioneer Doris Humphry’s technique. The Graham Tehcnique also focused on spiraling the body and floorwork, creating tension with the contraction and release in and out of the floor.
Founded in 1926, The Martha Graham School is the oldest professional school of dance in the United States and the only one primarily focused on the Martha Graham Technique and repertory.