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Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life Hardcover – April 20, 1998

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; First edition, first printing (stated) edition (April 20, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395746558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395746554
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Martha Graham (1894-1991) referred to her dancers as "acrobats of God," but in truth it was she who seemed divinely inspired. Graham was a dancer, choreographer, and teacher for more than 70 years, and during that time she changed the landscape of dance forever. An unlikely candidate for a dance diva, she was shorter and more muscular than the principal ballet dancers of her time and she didn't start dancing until age 22--a flower long past her bloom in the eyes of most choreographers. Nonetheless, Graham managed to turn the dance world on its tutu with her innovative approach to movement and teaching and her clear understanding that feelings are not always graceful, but always intense.

Russell Freedman, who won the Newbery Medal in 1988 for Lincoln: A Photobiography and Newbery Honors for The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane (1992) and Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery (1994), has once again crafted a beautiful, intriguing biography. He traces Graham's remarkable life from a childhood filled with imaginative play, to her decision to attend dance school instead of college, through her departure from the Broadway Follies to pursue her own dance style, and onward through her late life, when she continued teaching and creating distinctive performance pieces. The fascinating biography is complemented by exquisite black-and-white photographs that reveal Graham's sense of beauty and her remarkable ability to translate pure, raw emotions into expressive movement. Freedman's lovely tribute makes us fully believe Graham when she says, "I did not choose to be a dancer, I was chosen." (Young Adult/Adult) --Brangien Davis

From Publishers Weekly

Freedman (Lincoln; Eleanor Roosevelt; Franklin Delano Roosevelt) once again animates American history through biography; here he adds culture to the mix as he chronicles the inspiring life of legendary dancer Martha Graham. The venerable author hooks readers in immediately with his description of young Martha learning to move her body by watching a lion pace from one side of its cage to the other. Freedman then seamlessly charts the fiery, passionate Graham's rise from a 19-year-old "homely, overweight" dance student to principal dancer to teacher to the creator of modern dance. The biography points up Graham's commitment to a "uniquely American style of dance," focusing on such works as Frontier, an homage to her ancestral roots, and Appalachian Spring, for which she collaborated with composer Aaron Copland. Freedman acknowledges that the dancer's sources of inspiration and consolation came from other American artists: writer Emily Dickinson (the source of Graham's work Acts of Light) and composer Scott Joplin (Maple Leaf Rag was her last complete work), among them. Her passions were not circumscribed to her work; she also took stands on tough political issues, both in her dance (e.g., Deep Song, 1937, which "expressed her anguish over the brutal Spanish Civil War") and in her life?she refused to perform at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin ("How could I dance in Nazi Germany?"). But Freedman does not paint an unblemished picture. His abundant sources, including unpublished transcripts of an interview with Graham's longtime companion Louis Horst, as well as his own interviews with Graham's former dancers, colleagues and friends, make clear the shadow side of her passionate nature. What emerges from these pages is a multilayered view of a genius who danced and choreographed, and designed her own costumes and lighting, but who was also human?a woman who laughed and cried, hoped and feared, and who unflinchingly followed her dream. Stunning photographs, arrayed chronologically, demonstrate the dramatic changes Graham wrought upon dance as a discipline. Four at the close of the volume, showing Graham in what appear to be a dance sequence, are particularly spectacular. This outstanding biography speaks not only to dancers but to anyone interested in the arts, history or the American entrepreneurial spirit. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sebastien Sabatier Curial on August 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am a former Graham Dancer, and when I saw this book, I had some very intense emotions, it shows Martha in her best years, the pictures are beautiful, some of them are very rare to see, and if you want to see the beauty, or the drama, of that Incredible American Woman, this is the book you need to own. As a Graham Based Dance Teacher, I use this book to show some intentions in the movement, or I simply quote her, I wish you a wonderful Journey in the world of Martha Graham...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on April 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's a great book, I read it for my book report book, and i just absolutely loved it! It's great for kids over 9+. It teaches you the whole life story, and some people she worked with, including Liza Minnely, and Madonna. And her whole family, to her dad, mom, sisters, to her nanny, look inside this book for another persons life, that you just get lost in, when i read it, i thought i was there.

Hope Ya Read It!!!!!

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Julie Jordan Scott on July 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is a beautiful, concise study of her life. Studying Martha Graham's life is an awakening experience. Reading Graham's memoir "Blood Memory" simultaneously provides a beautiful counterpoint, knowing the subject will not observe herself in the same way as her biographer.
I dance away from this book with a definite appreciation for Graham's brilliance in creativity and willingness to navigate the many rough patches she encountered AND give such a gift to humanity at the same time.
The numbers of influential people she touched is amazing and enlightening.
I suggest this book for any creative thinker: there are applications for all of us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K Hall on March 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Martha Graham: A Dancers Life by Russell Freedman, the full-length biography of Martha Graham, takes a deep look into Martha and the peole around her. She was a dancer, teacher, and choreographer who changed the world. Her life began in Pittsburg where she was born in 1894. The book also tells about the lives of her dancers, students, close friends, and lovers. The biography goes into great detail up until the day she died in 1991.
I liked this book because of all the details it gives about her life and the way it tells about all the heroic things she did. I would recommend this book to dancers and people who enjoy the things Martha did in her 97 years of life.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Qidwai on December 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after reading an interesting article about Martha Graham in the New Yorker about a year ago. I was attracted to the book by the beautiful photography, in evidence on the cover (and throughout the book, as I soon learned). However, I was interested in reading about Martha's "demons" and character flaws, as well as her relationships and focus on archetypal figures in dance. Unfortunately, this book is a pretty happy-go-lucky, bland account of her life. In fact, it's so bland that I would have given it three stars if the pictures in it were not so beautiful and well-suited to the descriptions given in the text.
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More About the Author

Russell Freedman received the Newbery Medal for LINCOLN: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY. He is also the recipient of three Newbery Honors, a National Humanities Medal, the Sibert Medal, the Orbis Pictus Award, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and was selected to give the 2006 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Mr. Freedman lives in New York City and travels widely to research his books.

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