Praise for Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern

Jul 24, 2022 | 0 comments

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – “New biography emphasizes dance icon Martha Graham’s Pittsburgh roots” – Bill O’Driscoll, 90.5 WESA/NPR Pittsburgh – November 28, 2022.

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – “Neil Baldwin admirably roots [Martha Graham] in a Midwestern family…He is even better when situating her in the constellation of early twentieth-century artists and thinkers who sloughed off the influence of Europe and instead sought inspiration from America…[and], helpfully, Baldwin contrasts Graham with another one-woman dancing wonder, Isadora Duncan — ‘A California girl by birth, Duncan achieved renown in the capitals of Europe; Graham traversed the length and breadth of her own land to articulate a new dance language, staking out native terrain.'” — Peter Tonguette, The Washington Examiner Magazine/Life & Arts, November 18, 2022.

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern Graham Deconstructed at The Graham Studio praised by dance critic Wendy Perron – November 8, 2022 – “Charming and devoted, Neil Baldwin has written an engrossing new biography of Martha Graham as an American Modernist. At the Studio, he was in scintillating conversation with Janet Eilber and also read from his book while we watched archival films and two terrific live performances.” ***Watch the video here.***

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – featured as one of 5 HOT BOOKS by The National Book Review – November 7, 2022. “A robust, propulsive biography…illustrating [Graham’s] volatile relationships and her creative imagination.”

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – featured as one of 10 Books to Read: The Best Reviews of October – by The Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2022 -“The pioneering figure of modern dance was a daring innovator, a technical perfectionist and a preternaturally gifted performer. While she transformed the way a generation of dancers thought about movement, she looked for ways to claim her art purely as an American one.”

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – chosen by ALA booklistonline as their “REVIEW OF THE DAY” for October 26, 2022

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – chosen by Katie Yee at LitHub as one of “16 new releases to support your out-of-control book-buying habit”; and featured by LitHub: “How Martha Graham Was Inspired by Wassily Kandinsky – Neil Baldwin on the Shared Artistic Visions of Modern Dance and Modern Art” – October 25, 2022

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – Charlie Tyson, in The Secret of How We Move, The Atlantic – October 18, 2022 – singles out NB’s “new biography…[and MG’s] achievement…to take the language of classical dance and explode it, discovering new expressive possibilities…The result was the making of modern dance.”

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – praised by Donna Seaman, adult trade books editor of ALA BOOKLIST – in her STARRED REVEW – October 18, 2022 – as “an enlightened, engrossing and richly-illustrated portrait…written with dynamic clarity and fluid empathy…a vital and defining biography.”

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – selected by the editors of Town and Country – October 6, 2022 -as “One of the 13 Best Books to Read this October – “The life and work of dance legend Martha Graham goes under the microscope in Neil Baldwin’s crackling biography, which tells the story of how Graham came to be the first lady of modern dance, but also explores the world in which she lived—and the mark she left on it that’s still visible today.

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – praised by Hamilton Cain in The Wall Street Journal Fall Books Issue – October 8, 2022 – “Through his fiery, inexorable protagonist, Mr. Baldwin seeks the headwaters of American dance, much as 19th-century European explorers pursued the source of the Nile…Mr. Baldwin’s research is rigorous, his prose eloquent and muscular…His scrupulous attention to form—the choreographer’s own credo—shapes ‘Martha Graham’ into a biography that belongs on the same shelf as Heather Clark’s magisterial ‘Red Comet’ and Caroline Fraser’s award-winning ‘Prairie Fires.’ Here the ‘Picasso of dance’ springs—and lunges, and twirls—to life again, in all her fury and glory.”

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – selected by the book editors of OPRAH DAILY as one of “20 of the Best Fall Nonfiction Books of 2022” – September 27, 2022 – “A lush, capacious biography…Stellar cultural history, played out in one woman’s body and how it moved through space and time.”

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – selected by book editors of The New York Times as one of “15 New Memoirs and Biographies to Read this Fall” – September 8, 2022

Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – selected by book editors at AARP as one of “45 of Fall’s Best New Books” – September 1, 2022

Biographer Neil Baldwin (Edison: Inventing the Century) reveals how the visionary Martha Graham (1894–1991) revolutionized dance and choreography, making them modern and free in this mesmerizing portrait. Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Graham learned early on that “movement never lies.” The shy bookworm began to blossom once she arrived in exotic Santa Barbara. Inspired after attending a recital by the passionate diva Ruth St. Denis, Graham “knew at that moment I was going to be a dancer.” Studying first at the Cumnock School of Expression in Los Angeles, she trained under St. Denis and the innovative Ted Shawn, “coming to life” under his tutelage, and realizing “a dance must dominate me, completely, until I lose sense of anything else.” Influenced by contemporaries like Isadora Duncan, Michio Itō , Wassily Kandinsky, and Rouben Mamoulian, Graham learned to “do things in a new way,” emphasizing movement out of stillness and believing that “any great art is the condensation of a strong feeling.” The trailblazing Graham seemingly sculpted modern dance out of thin air, creating indelible works like Heretic, Lamentation, and Primitive Mysteries, always looking to the future. Provocative and passionate as the dynamo herself, this richly detailed and insightful page-turner will delight dance aficionados. (Oct.) Publishers Weekly – STARRED REVIEW

Neil Baldwin’s majestic biography of Martha Graham comes at a time in these comic book days when our souls need to be inspired by the austere passion of this American pioneer, this fanatical ‘prophetess’, whose dances unleashed primitive sacred energies in the earth and created a new vocabulary for the human body.  Baldwin’s meticulously researched, immensely readable biography puts Graham shoulder to shoulder with those other avatars of the Modern, Frank Lloyd Wright and Gertrude Stein, who created frontiers that still demand exploration.  — John Guare – Tony, Dramatists Guild, and Obie-award winning playwright.

Neil Baldwin’s definitive biography of pioneering dancer Martha Graham is a compelling and brilliant study of a complicated, dedicated woman who gave everything she had to modern dance. Baldwin reminds us what a modernist Graham was: bringing dance directly from the domination of ballet into a modern American idiom. Baldwin draws upon his incisive knowledge of the stars in the panoply of modernism—from Mabel Dodge Luhan to Lincoln Kirstein—to a dramatic narrative of Graham’s development and success. Just as Graham made the many parts of a modern dance piece, from music to costumes, and, of course, her brilliant vision for the performance–work together, so Baldwin brings together the elements of
Martha Graham’s colorful life, writing with wit, verve, critical discernment, and a powerful lyricism. — Mary V. Dearborn – author, Ernest Hemingway : A Biography

Neil Baldwin’s (The American Revelation) comprehensive and engaging biography places choreographer Martha Graham and her athletic, furious, demanding, powerful dance technique in the milieu of music, art and poetry of the time. Graham founded her female dance company in 1926, to embody dance’s dramatic potential, rather than feature the smooth elegance of ballet. Erick Hawkins, the first male dancer, joined the company more than 11 years later. Graham and her dancers incorporated audible breathing, flexed feet and dramatic contraction and release to show the effort dance required. Baldwin includes detailed descriptions of specific recitals, Graham’s jersey-fabric dance wear, the lives of her dance colleagues (Ruth St. Denis; Ted Shawn; Lincoln Kirstein) and artists of the time (sculptor Isamu Noguchi; composer Aaron Copland). Side trips into Graham’s sometimes-complicated personal life (she married musician Louis Horst, and later, dancer Hawkins) broaden the book’s appeal. Almost 70 pages of research notes and a 40-page bibliography speak to Baldwin’s dedicated and detailed forays into correspondence and dance notebooks, papers, film footage, reviews, and his consultations with archivists and special collection librarians. A worthwhile addition to modern dance collections.Maggie Knapp (Library Journal)

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