"Blood Memory" is the story of Martha Graham, from a difficult childhood in the American West and her "wild" days in the Greenwich Village Follies to her own company that began with only two students. Her views on dance are interspersed with anecdotes about Charlie Chaplin, Louise Brooks, Indira Gandhi, Margot Fonteyn, Woody Allen, the Pope and Madonna including her collaborative relationships with Isamu Noguchi, Halston, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Louis Horst.
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``People have asked me why I chose to be a dancer. I did not choose. I was chosen to be a dancer, and with that, you live all your life.'' This is Martha Graham, all right: intense, imperious, passionate, and at times surprisingly funny. She died early this year, still choreographing, still bitterly protesting old age, still fretting over her company's financial and artistic future. This, her own account of her life and work, is her vivid last word. Graham was born in 1894 (``Grover Cleveland was in his second presidential term...Victoria was still Queen''), in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. She reveals herself as a solitary, dramatic child in an unusual family: ``My childhood years were a balance of light and dark...the coal industry was dominant and everything we wore was eventually covered in soot.'' She takes us through her development as a dancer and choreographer, and is open and focused about the motivation and meaning of her work: ``There are always ancestral footsteps behind me, pushing me...gestures are flowing through me.'' On the strong female roles she has created: ``All the things I do are in every woman. Every woman is a Medea. Every woman is a Jocasta....'' This is not to say that men are not important to Graham: ``Men in all walks of life have sustained me. I adore men. Many have adored me.'' Many other choreographers and figures from the dance world figure here (her remarks on Lincoln Kirstein are priceless), as well as such varied personalities as Helen Keller, Madonna, and Halston. And Graham offers an honest, touching account of her brief marriage to choreographer Erick Hawkins; she tells us simply, ``There never was anyone after Erick.'' Paramount Pictures once offered a large sum to film her life story, Graham says. But she replied, ``No, absolutely not. I can ruin my own reputation in five minutes. I don't need help.'' These brief memoirs can only enhance her reputation by helping us remember the human side of a creative giant. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
Both of these books come not long after Graham's death in April at the age of 96. In her memoir, the legendary Graham, the leading exponent of contemporary dance, speaks of her remarkable life. She recounts her early apprenticeship with the Denishawn School, her stint as "Art" in the Greenwich Village Follies, and the struggle to form and maintain her own company. Her poetic musings on life and dance, which are at times almost as abstract and powerful as her dance images, were written shortly before her death. She speaks with affection and candor of her friends, lovers, and coworkers, including composers Louis Horst and Aaron Copeland, designers Isamu Noguchi and Halston, and fellow dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, and Dame Margot Fonteyn, as well as many other famous names who have studied "movement" with her. Illustrated with 100 photographs, this memoir is essential to most dance collections. DeMille, Graham's lifelong friend, held off publication of her book until Graham's demise. DeMille's strong writing, combined with her personal knowledge of Graham and all the important players in Graham's life--accompanist/lover Louis Horst, husband Erick Hawkins, competitor Doris Humphrey, etc.--provide insights into the 20th-century American dance world and Graham's life that only a fellow dancer, choreographer, and woman could. Though admiring Graham's accomplishments and recognizing her genius, DeMille is not adulatory. While Graham skims lightly over the surface of her life in Blood Memory , DeMille digs deeply into events and personalities. Dance collections and most large public libraries will want both books. Graham's book was previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/91.
- Marcia L. Perry, Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, Mass.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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