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Martha Graham was one of three daughters born to a physician in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. At the dangerously late age of 22, she began her career as a dancer when she became a student of Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn at their dance school, Denishawn. She later became a teacher for the school before moving to New York. Her debut performance as an independent dancer was April 18, 1926 at the 48th Street Theatre. Her innovative style initially baffled audiences, but she also received a great deal of recognition. Her audiences warmed to her austere sets and the harshness of her movements, and she became the most influential figure in American modern dance for fifty years. Collaborating with Japanese-American sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, one of her stage innovations was the use of sculpture rather than flats and drops.

Graham created more than 150 works in 50 years with the height of her career in the 1940s. She did 52 productions with Jean Rosenthal over a span of 37 years. Modern composers such as Aaron Copeland and William Schuman wrote music especially for her dances. She was the first dancer to receive a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and she was honored with the Medal of Freedom at the end of her career. Graham worked almost to the end of her long life, choreographing RITE OF SPRING by Igor Stravinsky when she was 90. She died at the age of 97 in New York City.

CHRONOLOGY

1894 She was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. (May 11)

1909 She moved with her family to Santa Barbara, California.

1913 She began studying at the Cumnock School of Expression in Los Angeles.

1916 She began to study with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn as Denishawn.

1918 She became a teacher at Denishawn

1923 She became a featured dancer in the Greenwich Village Follies revue.

1924 She began teaching at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

1926 She made her debut in New York as an independent artist at the 48th Street Theatre. (April 18)

1931 She received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.; PRIMITIVE MYSTERIES

1935 She established the School of Modern Dance at Bennington College in Vermont.

1939 EVERY SOUL IS A CIRCUS

1940 EL PENITENTE

1943 DEATHS AND ENTRANCES

1944 APPALACHIAN SPRING

1956 CAVE OF THE HEART

1948 She married Eric Hawkins.

1954 She and Eric Hawkins divorced.

1958 CLYTEMNESTRA

1960 ALCESTIS

1962 PHAEDRA

1963 CIRCE

1965 THE WITCH OF ENDOR

1970 She received a Distinguished Service to Arts Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.; She retired as a dancer.

1976 She was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Ford.

1991 She died in New York, New York.