Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Martha

Today I opened my trusty Firefox browser to the Google homepage, at the behest of my dear friend Jackie Surpriseme... and was stunned. Quite literally, my breath was taken away.

Today is 117th birthday of the late Martha Graham, one of the giants and pioneers of modern dance, and one of my personal heroines... no... not "my personal brand of heroin"... the other type. Lady hero. Google rocked my dance-nerd world and celebrated this day with an animated Google Doodle of a dancer performing signature movements from the most notable of Graham's choreographic pieces to spell out the letters in GOOGLE.
Graham was born in 1894 and is known for creating a completely new style of dance in the 1920s and 1930s. She started her own dance company in 1926 and created 181 dances throughout her life, until she passed away in 1991. Some of her most well-known works are charted in today's Google Doodle.

I want to explain each of the dance movements, but writer Chloe Albanesius already did this so beautifully:
The first image is the shrouded figure from "Lamentation," Graham's well-known solo from 1930. According to the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance , the solo was Graham's desire to "chart a graph of the heart" with her dances.
"The innovative costume, a tube of stretchy wool, accentuates the torque and pull of the movement, becoming the sculptural evocation of grief itself," the center said.

The second image is from 1932's "Satyric Festival Song," in which Graham mocked the new-found fame she had gained from works like "Lamentation." It also takes its inspiration from the clown figures used in Native American ritual, showcasing her love of all things American southwest.

The dancer then spins to her knees and reaches forward to re-enacts the bride role from "Appalachian Spring," a ballet she created in 1944. Graham collaborated with composer Aaron Copland and sculptor Isamu Noguchi for a work they all considered to be their contributions to the war effort, the center said.

The bride then jumps, her legs rising above the two "Os" in the Google logo for Graham's famous "contraction" move. This particular doodle image is from 1947's "Night Journey," which tells the story of Oedipus through flashbacks from his mother and wife, Jocasta.

Finally, the doodle ends "with a sweep of the skirt and the determined finish—feet planted firmly, head erect and focused." The young woman is from 1935's "Frontier" solo, which "reminds us of Graham's reverence for individualism and self-empowerment and of her unquenchable 'appetite for the new,'" according to the center." -Chloe Albanesius

This animation awestruck me on different levels. As you know, I've got this boy who does the animation thing at Brigham Young University (meaning the LORD'S SCHOOL, folks. This is big time.... ugh)... and he takes class from the genius animator/artist Ryan Woodward who created this doodle, taking inspiration from Blakeley White-McGuire, a principal dancer with the current Martha Graham Dance Company. Talk about worlds combining...

Happy Birthday Martha Graham, dancer, choreographer, and acrobat to the gods.


  1. Google rocked my un-dance-nerd world. That was awesome. I reloaded the page about 14 times.

  2. Wait, so she was a dancer?

    Kidding. We all know about her egalitarian contributions to the form.