Left: Katherine Crockett as the Pioneer Woman in Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring. Inset: Martha Graham. - Britt Festivals

Revolutionizing dance

The most celebrated dance company in the United States, The Martha Graham Dance Company, will perform Graham's dances "Diversion of Angels" and "Acts of Light" plus sketches from her "Chronicle" Friday and Saturday nights at the Britt Festivals in Jacksonville.

Graham, who died in 1991, was one of the most famous U.S. dancers of the 20th century. She founded her company in 1926, when she lived and worked out of a tiny studio in Carnegie Hall in mid-town Manhattan.

Graham once explained 1948's "Diversion of Angels" as representing three aspects of love, the adolescent, the erotic and balanced, mature love. "Chronicle" (1936) evokes images of war, including the devastation of the spirit. "Acts of Light" celebrates the dancer an instrument of expression.

The company has danced in more than 50 countries all over the world.

The company is best known for Graham herself, who danced from the group's inception until the late 1960s. But it's also been an artistic home to such dancers as Merce Cunningham and Pearl Lang, and an artistic partner to Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Margot Fonteyn.

Graham experimented with movement, building a vocabulary of movement that would "increase the emotional activity of the dancer's body." She aimed to expose depths of emotion through sharp, angular, jagged, direct movements.

In her long career, Graham choreographed 181 works, including "Heretic" (1929), "Cave of the Heart" (1946) and "Maple Leaf Rag" (1990). For seven decades, she conceived each element of each work — dance, music and costumes.

When Graham wasn't working with dancers she was teaching movement and dance at The Neighborhood Playhouse to actors such as Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Madonna, Liza Minnelli, and Gregory Peck.

President Gerald Ford declared her a "national treasure" in 1976 and awarded her the Medal of Freedom.

Members of the company will conduct master classes for students age 12 and above who are intermediate level and above. The workshops will focus on Martha Graham's "body language" technique.

Classes are at 11:30 Friday and noon Saturday. Cost is $20. Call 773-6077, visit the box office at 216 W. Main St., Medford, or visit www.marthagrahamdance.org online.

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