Martha GrahamMay 11, 1894 - April 1, 1991), an American dancer and choreographer, is recognized as one of the foremost innovators in modern dance.
She was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and moved to California as a child. After seeing Ruth St. Denis perform in the 1910s, she took an interest in dance. Not until age 22 (1916) did she pursue her interest professionally by enrolling in the Denishawn. In 1925, Graham became a dance instructor at the Eastman School of Music and Theater in Rochester, New York. She set out on her own, but with the constant support of Louis Horst, an accompanist whom she had got to know while training at Denishawna dn who grew to be her lover and musical mentor. In 1926 she founded her own company, the Martha Graham Dance company. Her unique style of modern dance reflected the modern art of her time. Graham's performances made her famous for innovations in modern dance. The Martha Graham style is widely recognised for its trademarks contraction and realease, the controlled falling to the floor, stag leaps and a developed imagery that goes with her movements.
Graham's dancing life gradually came to a rest starting in the 1950s. In 1948, the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance was established. One of her students was heiress Bethsabée de Rothschild with whom she became close friends. When Rothschild moved to Israel and established the Batsheva Dance Company in 1965, Graham became the company's first director, groomed its first generation of dancers, and choreographed exclusive works for the Israeli group.
Her final dance performances came in the late 1960s and from then on she focused on choreography. Some critics say that even though there is little physical record of her dances, they are more memorable than her choreographic work. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. (Ford's wife Betty had danced with Graham in her youth.) Graham continued to work on the art up until her death in 1991. TIME magazine listed her as the "Dancer of the Century" in 1998 and as one of the most important people of the 20th century.