Martha Graham Goes to the Shrink
January 17, 2012

In July 1999, Janet Eilber said she glanced at the the newspaper before putting on her glasses—see photo above—and exclaimed, “Who is that dancer doing a contraction on the front page?!” This was a very cute ending to a long, serious and Martha-Graham-style-dramatic evening, in which Eilber, artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, presented during the 2012 American Psychoanalytic Association’s National Meeting.


During the seminar, “Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Music: “Revealing the Inner Landscape”: Martha Graham and Dance,” Eilber gave a two-hour lecture on Martha Graham, her choreography and her approach to movement. I’m not exactly sure the purpose of the lecture—maybe it was solely to introduce Graham’s work to doctors, since she used one’s inner turmoil as the soul of her choreography. Graham created an entire vocabulary based on primal and raw movements of the torso, and her famous quote “Movement never lies” was Eilber’s attempted focus of discussion. This statement wasn’t revolutionary to the doctors; and it was a relief that their interest lied mainly in the current MGDC dancers’ preparation for challenging roles, instead of discussing Graham’s minimal role in movement therapy.


Eilber included film clips and photographs of Graham, including rarely seen footage of her performing with Denishawn in Three Hopi Maidens (1926). While the lecture was pretty much a basic overview of Graham’s career and choreography, it was a HUGE plug for MGDC’S upcoming season at the Joyce Theater starting March 13. MGDC even held a ticket raffle during the seminar—which by the way is a great idea. Close to everyone in the room offered their business card for a chance to win tickets; now MGDC has their email addresses and contact info. (Do it at your next event to add names to your e-newsletters and recital ticket sales e-mails!)



A few interesting facts from the lecture:


–Martha’s father was an alienist—a psychiatrist specializing in the legal aspects of mental illness—and patients used to visit their house. This definitely aided her ideas of primal movement, and gave her fodder for the heavily dramatic scenes in her ballets, like in Deaths and Entrances.


–When Graham choreographed for the Greenwich Follies in the 1920s, she taught a neighborhood dance class. Bette Davis and Orson Wells (among other prominent actors of the day) attended her classes.


–Martha studied Pilates.


–In 1939, Erick Hawkins and Merce Cunningham became the first male dancers in the MGDC.





Are you teaching a proper Graham contraction? Click here and here to make sure.




(Picture of Brandi Chastain in contracted ecstasy after the US Women’s Soccer Team defeated China in the 1999 World Cup.)


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