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What is Graham Technique?

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By Danielle Pierce-Master, MA Dance / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance(Performing Arts)

Martha Graham once said, “My dancing is not an attempt to interpret life. It is the affirmation of life through movement.” Her choreography is known for its dramatic exploration of the human psyche and interpersonal relationships, with inspiration coming from sources including her childhood in rural Pennsylvania and Greek Mythology. 

She choreographed more than 180 dances and developed a codified dance technique that is foundational in the study of modern dance. Graham technique is rooted in the principles of contraction and release, with a strong emphasis on movement from the core and the limbs simply following the core’s impulse. 

A Graham class begins on the floor with codified exercises that develop the dancer’s strength and spinal mobility. The Graham technique is copyrighted and only officially taught at the Graham School in New York City, but many Graham based or Graham inspired classes exist throughout the world.

As Graham created choreographic work, she realized she needed to train dancers differently than they had been previously studying, which was the genesis of her development of her technique. According to Graham, “In dancing, we try to discover our animal nature and, at the same time, to be completely human.” Graham’s work is often considered one of the roots of the “Modern Dance Family Tree.” Her company was all female until the late 1930’s when Erick Hawkins joined the company, followed eventually by Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor, all of whom continued to develop modern dance as an artform in their own rights.

This page is just one of hundreds of definitions of the many styles and genres of dance. This library is being continually added to by the writers and contributors of Dance Parent 101!