A seminal figure in the evolution of modern American dance, Martha Graham rejected
literal imagery in favor of abstraction, and introduced powerful new forms of expressive movement filled with tension and emotion. In a quest to give “visible substance to things felt,” Graham created more than 180 works, including the groundbreaking Lamentation (1930), in which the dancer—encased in a tube of stretchable fabric—sought to embody grief itself through dramatic, angular gestures. Equally memorable was Graham’s Appalachian Spring (1944), choreographed to music created expressly for her by Aaron Copland. As founder and director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, Graham also trained the next wave of modern dancers, choreographers, and teachers, among them Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor.
When posing for Karsh’s camera, Graham was seated on a stool in her low-ceilinged New York apartment but “seemed to be dancing as if she had the space of a great stage around her.”