Booktalking "Ballet for Martha" by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

  • by Miranda J. McDermott

    I was struck by the gorgeous, exalted look of the dancers in the illustration on the cover of this book. Isamu Noguchi, an artist, made the stage set for the ballet, Martha Graham was the choreographer, and Aaron Copland was the American composer who helped create the ballet Appalachian Spring. The first performance of this classic ballet was on October 30, 1944 at the Library of Congress. The three created a dance about America, a story communicated through movement. Martha creates unusual dance moves, and her choreography is not always popular. As she says:

    "My dancers never fall to simply fall. They fall to rise."

    The ballet is a story set in Pennsylvania. A farmer and his wife celebrate their wedding day. The choreography, music and set were created via trial and error. Martha gave Copland instructions, he checked back with her and revised the music. The same with the artist Noguchi. He was given instructions, then checked back with Graham and made revisions. Eventually, it came together and they turned their art into a classic ballet that has been performed countless times in front of different audiences.

    The ballet begins when the bride and groom walk onto the stage. The preacher joins the couple in marriage, the couple dances together, and it ends when the couple enters their new house. I had a chance to watch a performance of the ballet on YouTube, and the characters' leaps of joy and happy dancing completely told the story of their wedding ceremony and it was terrific to watch the dancers' artistry.

    Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, 2010

    Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

    Books on ballet