Article Martha Graham Timeline: 1894-1949

Martha Graham, a pioneer in the establishment of American modern dance, was one of the principal choreographers of the twentieth century. Her work, which spanned more than seven decades, resulted in the development of a movement technique and a body of 180 choreographic works. Known also for her innovative collaborations, Graham worked with sculptor Isamu Noguchi, who designed over thirty-five sets for Graham works; lighting designer Jean Rosenthal; costume designer Halston; and many composers, including Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Robert Starer, William Schuman, and Louis Horst, who acted as accompanist, composer, and music director for Graham from 1926 to 1948. Graham founded a dance company in the 1920s that continues to perform her repertory.

This timeline documents Martha Graham and her choreographic works, beginning with her birth in 1894. Part I of the timeline (shown below) covers her life up to 1949. Part II (coming soon) will span 1950 until her death in 1991. Moving images and published articles about Graham also will be included.

Dancing Times
"This Modern Dance," Ruth St. Denis
with students at the Denishawn
School. [clipping] London: Dancing
Times, 1938.

1894

Martha Graham is born on 11 May in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

1916

Graham begins studies with Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis at their Denishawn School.

1918

Graham begins teaching at the Denishawn School.

1919-1923

Graham dances with Denishawn, appearing in title roles such as Xochitl, Serenata Morisca, and Spanish Suite I.

1923-1925

Graham appears in John Murray Anderson's Greenwich Village Follies, dancing Ted Shawn's Serenata Morisca and Michio Ito's The Garden of Kama.

1925

Graham establishes her first dance company and begins to develop her specialized dance technique.

1926

Graham presents her first independent concert on 18 April at the 48th Street Theater in New York City, assisted by the Martha Graham Concert Group. The New York Herald Tribune noted "Miss Graham gave a successful performance, showing ability to present a mood or a picture, with the assets of grace, agility, effective poses and well chosen costumes."

Premier: 18 April 1926, 48th Street Theater, New York City

Premier: 9 May 1926, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Premier: 27 May 1926, Eastman School of Music, The University of Rochester

Premier: 20 August 1926, Peterboro, New Hampshire

  • Ribands (Music by Frédéric Chopin)

Premier: 28 November 1926, Klaw Theatre, New York

1927

Premier: 27 February 1927, Guild Theatre, New York

Premier: 2 August 1927, Anderson-Milton School, New York

Graham did not dance on this program that featured students from the Anderson-Milton School.

Premier: 16 October 1927, The Little Theatre, New York

Historians have claimed that this work premiered on 16 October 1927 at The Little Theatre, New York City.

  • Revolt (Music by Arthur Honegger) see Danse

Premier: 10 December 1927, The Cornell Dramatic Club

On 10 December, Graham performs at The Cornell Dramatic Club on a program billed as The Adolph Bolm Dance Recital. Other performers on the program included Ruth Page, Vera Mirova, Berenice Holmes, and Marcia Preble.

  • Scherza (Music by Robert Schumann)

1928

On 29 January, Graham dances for The MacDowell club of New York City. Other performers on that program included Michio Ito, Adolf Bolm, and Angna Enters.

Premier: 12 February 1928, Civic Repertory Theatre, New York

  • Chinese Poem (Music by Louis Horst "On listening to a flute by moonlight")
    This choreography was likely reworked from the original 1926 Three Poems of the East and the 1927 Two Poems from the East. East Indian Poem was also performed on a program of 12 February 1928.

Premier: 16 October 1927 at The Little Theatre, New York City

Graham begins an association with the Neighborhood Playhouse and, in conjunction with the Cleveland orchestra, she performs in "Nuages" and "Fetes" (music by Debussy) with dancer/choreographer Michio Ito.

Premier: 22 April 1928, The Little Theatre, New York

1929

Graham performs for a second time at The MacDowell Club of New York City at a dinner in honor of Mrs. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge.

Premier: 20 January 1929, Booth Theatre, New York

Premier: 24 January 1929, Bennett School, Millbrook, NY

Premier: 20 January 1929, Booth Theatre, New York

Premier: 3 March 1929, Booth Theatre, New York

Premier: 14 April 1929, Booth Theatre, New York

The performance of 14 April 1929 marked the debut of Graham's concert group.

26-27 April 1929

Graham appears for a second time with the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Cleveland Orchestra, dancing in Richard Strauss's Symphonic Poem, "Ein Heldenleben" and Debussy's "Nuages" and "Fetes." Other notable performers on this program included Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Anna Sokolow, and M. Senia Gluck.

19 May 1929

New York Times critic John Martin notes that Graham's "strides in the past year, both as a solo dancer and choreographer, place her in the first line of modern dances, whether native or foreign."

1930

Graham joins with Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and [Helen] Tamiris to form The Dance Repertory Theatre. The goal was "to give annually a season of continuous dance programs which will be representative of the art of dance in American and will give native artists an outlet for their creative work." The group's inaugural concert took place on 5 January at Maxine Elliott's Theatre, New York City.

Premier: 8 January 1930, Maxine Elliott's Theatre, New York City

20-22 February 1930

Graham performs for the third time in a program sponsored by The Neighborhood Playhouse and the Cleveland Orchestra. Graham dances in "A Pagan Poem," op. 14 (music by Charles Martin Loeffler) and "New Year's Eve in New York," Symphonic Poem (music by Werner Janssen). Other performers included Bessie Schöenberg, Anna Sokolow, Charles Weidman, and Henry Fonda.

11-14 April, 1930

Martha Graham performs in the American premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (choreographed by Leonide Massine) with the Philadelphia Orchestra (conducted by Leopold Stokowski). This program, presented in cooperation with The League of Composers, also featured the American premiere of a staged production of Arnold Shoenberg's "Die Glueckliche Hand."

1931

Premier: 2 February 1931, Craig Theatre, New York City

Premier: 6 December 1931, Martin Beck Theatre, New York City

1932

Premier: 28 February 1932, Guild Theatre, New York City

Premier: 2 June 1932, Ann Arbor, MI

Premier: 15 November 1932, Broad Street Theatre, Philadelphia

Premier: 20 November 1932, Guild Theatre, New York City

Graham performs in the inaugural program of Radio City Music Hall. Other artists on the program include, ballerina Patricia Bowman, The Tuskegee Choir, tap dancers the Berry Brothers, German modern dancer Harald Kreutzberg, Ray Bolger, and Radio City Music Hall "Roxyettes."

Premier: 27 December 1932, Radio City Music Hall

1933

5 & 12 February 1933

Graham stages Six Miracle Plays that date from the 13th to the 15th centuries. She takes on the role of The Virgin Mary in four of the plays, which were presented at the Guild Theatre, New York City.

Premier: 20 February 1933, Fuld Hall, Newark, NJ

  • Tragic Patterns (Music by Louis Horst)
    "Chorus for Furies" was first performed as part of the inaugural concert for the opening of Radio City Music Hall in December 1932.

Premier: 4 May 1933, Guild Theatre, New York City

12 June 1933

Graham choreographs dances for Cecil Lewis's play Iron Flowers with music by Paul Creston. The performances run for a full week at Westchester Country Center in White Plains, N.Y.

Premier: 19 November 1933, Guild Theatre, New York City

1934

Premier: 18 February 1934, Guild Theatre, New York City

Premier: 22 April 1934, Alvin Theatre, New York City

Premier: 11 November 1934, Guild Theatre, New York City

1935

Premier: 10 February 1935, Guild Theatre, New York City

Premier: 28 April 1935, Guild Theatre, New York City

Premier: 14 August 1935, Bennington, VT

  • Panorama (Music by Norman Lloyd; Mobiles by Alexander Calder)

On 12 October, Graham performs a concert at the Six Plenum Celebration, Jewish Section, IWO, New York.

In November and December, New Theatre publishes two articles "Modern Dance Forms" by Paul Douglas and "'Revolutionary' Dance Forms" by Irving Ignatin. Both articles are complementary to Graham's work.

Premier: 10 November 1935, Guild Theatre, New York City

15 December 1935

Graham and her dance group performed at Carnegie Hall in a program sponsored by International Labor Defense, a legal defense organization then headed by the Workers Party of the United States.

1936

Premier: 23 February 1936, Guild Theatre, New York City

In February, Graham receives an invitation to appear at the Olympics, to be held in Berlin, Germany. On 14 March, she sends a letter, which declines the invitation.

Premier: 7 April 1936, Philharmonic Auditorium, Los Angeles

In October, Graham appears in a joint concert at Carnegie Hall with the Hall Johnson Choir.

Premier: 20 December 1936, Guild Theatre, New York City

1937

14 February 1937

Graham appears as a speaker at a symposium titled "Nazi War Over Europe," sponsored by the American Committee for Anti-Nazi Literature, New York City. Read article from the Dance Observer.

25 February 1937

At the invitation of President Franklin D. and Mrs. Roosevelt, Graham is the first dancer to appear at the White House.

Premier: 30 July 1937, Bennington School of the Dance, Burlington, VT

Premier: 19 December 1937, Guild Theatre, New York City

Premier: 26 December 1937, Guild Theater, New York

1938

Graham takes Erick Hawkins, the first male, into her ensemble. Hawkins appears courtesy of Ballet Caravan and performs in American Document.

Premier: 6 August 1938, Vermont State Armory, Bennington, VT

In December Graham publishes an article, "This Modern Dance," in London's Dancing Times.

1939

5 February 1939

New York World's Fair
[New York World's Fair], Barbara
Morgan, photographer, 1939.

Graham participates in the Second Annual Dance for Spain, presented by the Medical Bureau and North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy.

In May, Graham and her group appear at the New York World's Fair.

Premier: 27 December 1939, St. James Theatre, New York City

Merce Cunningham becomes the second male to join Graham's company.

1940

15 February 1940

Graham and her Company appear as guest artists in a concert with Betty Carper and Group, Lyric Theater, Richmond, VA.

Premier: 11 August 1940 Bennington College Theater, Bennington, CT

1941

5 June 1941

Via a German radio program, Dr. Otto Koishwitz addresses a talk to Graham. The NBC Shortwave Monitoring Service provided a transcript to Graham.

Premier: 10 August 1941, Bennington College Theater, Bennington, VT

The name of the company is changed to the Martha Graham Dance Company during the summer of 1941.

1942

On behalf of Graham, Erick Hawkins begins a dialogue with arts patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge that leads to the eventual commissioning of Appalachian Spring (1944, music by Aaron Copland), Herodiade (1944, music by Paul Hindemith) Imagined Wing (1944, music by Darius Milhaud), Dark Meadow (1946, music by Carlos Chávez), and Night Journey (1947, music by William Schuman).

Premier: 14 March 1942, Chicago Civic Opera House

1943

Premier: 18 July 1943, Bennington College, Bennington, CT

Premier: 26 December 1943, 46th Street Theater, New York City

1944

Premier: 30 October 1944, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Auditorium, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Sets by Isamu Noguchi; Costumes by Edythe Gilfond

1946

Premier: 23 January 1946, Plymouth Theater, New York City

Premier: 10 May 1946, McMillin Theater, Columbia University, New York City

1947

Premier: 28 February 1947, Ziegfeld Theater, New York City

Premier: 3 May 1947, Cambridge High School, Boston, MA

1948

Premier: 13 August 1948, Connecticut College, New London, CT

Graham marries Erick Hawkins.

1949

Graham did not choreograph any new works in 1949.

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Martha Graham Timeline: 1894-1949
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Article. Article. Graham did not choreograph any new works in 1949.
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