Martha Graham Dance Company in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Mosaic. Photo by Brigid Pierce.
To dancers, modern can mean a couple of things. As a common noun, it refers to a style of moving that emphasizes gravity, freedom, experimentalism, and individuality. The proper noun, Modern, signifies an era in the first half of the 20th century when dance pioneers like Ruth St. Denis, Doris Humphrey, and Isadora Duncan threw off the literal and metaphorical strictures of corsets and tutus.
Whether you’re talking modern or Modern, one figure stands above the rest: Martha Graham. Born in 1894, she created an eponymous technique and 181 dances. Although she died in 1991, the Martha Graham Dance Company, under the artistic direction of Janet Eilber, tours globally to keep Graham’s contributions front and center. It also commissions work from contemporary choreographers — honoring the Modern while staying modern.
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