“No artist is ahead of his time. He is his time; it is just that others are behind the times.”
The Revenge of Martha Graham
Every educational dance school, from the private arts college to the University of New Mexico, will hire a professional work to be put on their students. This is a very expensive thing, so it only happens about once every six years.
The professional dance companies love to have their work done and it is lucrative. The long standing modern companies like Martha Graham, Paul Taylor and Trisha Brown all do the same thing; they send two of their company to protect the piece and ensure faithful execution of the choreography.
Basically you have Martha Graham for modern dance and George Balanchine for ballet and then you have everyone else. Those two were the best of all time.
I remember my school hosting two Graham pieces over the time that I was there. Steps in the Street and Panorama. We had on our faculty at least two ex-members of the Graham company from “back in the day” when Martha was still alive and would never let the two hired guns from the company push anyone around. They loved their legacy.
Graham work is hard. College dancers have to really work to get their technique up to the standard. The choreography is challenging and you have to be strong, very strong. There is a lot of pride in doing this work and everyone strives to achieve. Good stuff, good experiences.
The Graham look, if you will, is pretty severe. Hair is pulled back tight into a bun. The make-up is all the same. The costumes of the time are re-created.
I asked my two faculty members why there were smiling so big during dress rehearsals. They answered, with satisfaction, “false eyelashes”.
I read the True History of False Eyelashes and learned that they came into style around 1920. It was the same time that everyone saw Clara Bow on the silver screen and women everywhere started wearing make-up. False eyelashes went out of favor in the 1960s and never made a come back for the everyday woman.
So, when I asked my faculty guys, I got the even better answer. Our young students would be wearing double fake eyelashes! Yes, they told me that Graham had her dancers double them up.
I had to smile too!
Here is a clip of Steps in the Street. Choreographed in 1936, the same year that Ms. Graham turned down Adolf Hitler’s invitation to dance at the Berlin Olympics.
Watch for a while and see how hard this work is and … how brilliant!