Martha Graham

Recognized as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Martha Graham created a movement language based upon the expressive capacity of the human body. Her creativity crossed artistic boundaries and embraced every artistic genre. She collaborated with and commissioned work from the leading visual artists, musicians, and designers of her day, including sculptor Isamu Noguchi; fashion designers Halston, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein; and composers Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti.

Influencing generations of choreographers and dancers including Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp, Ms. Graham forever altered the scope of dance. Artists of all genres were eager to study and work with her, including classical ballet dancers Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. She also taught many actors how to utilize their bodies as expressive instruments including Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Madonna, Liza Minelli, Gregory Peck, Tony Randall, and Joanne Woodward.

She founded The Martha Graham Studio in 1926 after teaching a group of dancers who had been drawn to her work. She remained at the helm for 66 years. During her illustrious career, she created 181 masterpiece dance compositions that continue to challenge and inspire generations of performers and audiences. Through her compositions she personified a commitment to addressing challenging contemporary issues that distinguish her as a conscientious and politically powerful artist, capturing throughout the ages the soul of the American people.

Her many honors included receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford, the National Medal of the Arts, named as “Dancer of the Century” by TIME magazine, and featured on a U.S. postage stamp. In 1986, her theater colleagues presented her with the Local One Centennial Award – an honor given only once every 100 years. The first dancer to perform at the White House and to act as a cultural ambassador abroad, she captured the spirit of a nation and expanded the boundaries of contemporary dance.


Year Honored: 2015
Birth: 1894 - 1991
Born In: Pennsylvania
Achievements: Arts
Worked In: New York, United States of America