Martha Graham


1949 Martha Graham premiering “Judith” in Louisville- Conductor Robert Whitney in Background
Photographer: Lin Caufield
University of Louisville Photographic Archives

Martha Graham (1894-1991) was an American modern dancer and choreographer whose influence on dance has been compared with the influence Picasso had on the modern visual arts, Stravinsky had on music, or Frank Lloyd Wright had on architecture. She was the first dancer ever to perform at the White House, travel abroad as a cultural ambassador, and receive the highest civilian award of the USA: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Martha Graham had a close relationship with many of the composers who the Louisville Orchestra commissioned and recorded. The famous collaboration with Aaron Copland that led to Appalachian Spring was part of a triptych of premieres at the Library of Congress’ Coolidge Auditorium, that also included premieres of Herodiade by Paul Hindemith and Imagined Wing by Darius Milhaud. Graham’s relationship with the Coolidge Foundation also produced collaborations with Carlos Chávez, Samuel Barber, William Schuman, and Norman Dello Joio.