Form and Content
The eleven chapters of Walter Terry’s biography Frontiers of Dance: The Life of Martha Graham chronicle Graham’s life—from her childhood in the early years of the twentieth century as the daughter of a doctor in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, through her triumphs as a dancer and choreographer, to her work as an emissary sent world-wide by the U.S. State Department when she was more than eighty years old. Terry’s personal friendship with Graham and his experience as a dance critic with the New York Herald Tribune and The Saturday Review provide helpful insights to the work. Photographs illustrate the descriptions of Graham’s dances, and a choreographic chronology provides dates, places, and credits for Graham’s most important works.
In his first chapter, “The Curtain Rises,” Terry recounts an early exchange between the five-year-old Graham and her doctor father when she had told a lie. He said to his shamed daughter that “you always reveal yourself to me through movement.” Many years later, the famed dancer admitted that this was her first dancing lesson, one that she did not forget. Graham, whose works explored the deepest truths of human beings, never lied with her body onstage.
Terry notes that, in addition to the austere heritage of her Presbyterian family, Graham was influenced by the music and rituals of the Catholic church, to which she was introduced by the family’s Irish maid Lizzie, and the...
(The entire section is 484 words.)