Saturday, April 29, 2006

Martha Graham and Agnes De Mille “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.....no artist is pleased…there is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than others” The great dancer and choreographer, Agnes De Mille, wrote about what the great Martha Graham said to her in her Biography. Those words above, are that quotation....there is more to this, I believe, but this is all I've ever seen.... In 1984, my dear friend Betty Garrett was in a beautiful Tony nominated play called “Quilters” here in Los Angeles at The Mark Taper Forum, (part of The Los Angeles Music Center Complex.) This is a wonderfully inspiring play honoring the indominability of the American Pioneer Woman and all she had to endure to survive. The play involves seven women. An “every mother” and her six “every daughters”. In this production, Betty played the ‘every mother’ role. Combining songs, music, dance and dramatic scenes, this play pays eloquent tribute to the courageousness and the spirit of our nation’s pioneer women. Each scene is defined by story blocks in a quilt presented as a backdrop for the show and it is based on actual oral history’s of American frontier women in the mid-1800’s represented in a ‘Heritage Quilt” that the ‘every mother’ character prepares for her ‘every daughters’. The production at The Taper was exquisite. It was moving and original in its concept and staging and all the actresses were first rate. I saw the show three times and was deeply moved by it each time. This is one of those shows where the cast bonded in a fantastic way during their extended rehearsal period and because of that bonding and the great love and reverence they all had for this material, they began this special ritual before every performance. The seven actresses would meet in Betty’s dressing room about 15 minutes before curtain and stand in a circle holding hands, almost like a meditation, and each night one of the actresses would share something inspiring with the others…something that gave them a sense of community as ‘artists’ together. These moments before the curtain, were used as a way to drop the days stresses and trauma’s, to leave behind the cares of the day as preparation for the work they were about to do, and to become again, the superb ensemble that they had become during their ten-hour-days-six-week-rehearsal process….needless to say, this nightly ritual served the show beautifully. Part of the ritual was that whatever was shared was then written down in a “Quilters” Diary so that there was a record of what had taken place…weather it was a poem or a song or an inspiring piece of writing such as this quotation from Martha Graham to Agnes De Mille… Betty invited me to come down to the theatre one night to be their ‘inspiration’ for that performance. She wanted me to sing a particular song from “Spoon River” that she felt would 'center' the group and be a lovely way to contribute to this nightly preparation ritual. I was quite honored to say the least. It was pretty awesome to be a part of this beautiful show in whatever way possible. And it was a bit daunting and it felt like a huge responsability to know that whatever I did would set the tone for that performance. But, I felt very privelaged to be participating. So I was in Betty's dressing room before it was time for all of the women to get together, and as Betty was doing her make-up, she showed me the “Quilters” diary so I could look at it and also so I could write down what I was going to do before the performance on that particular evening. I began leafing through the diary after I had written down what I was contributing that night and came across that quotation of Martha Graham’s, (Incidentally Betty G. had studied with Martha Graham when she first went to New York and had performed in her dance company on Broadway, as well) . I had not been aware of this quotation before. I’d never heard it or read it or anything. I found it so moving and important to me personally, that it brought tears to my eyes. As an artist, as a creator this quotation reached right into my soul; right into the core of me. Betty felt the same way as I did and so did the rest of the “Quilters” cast…I could see why one of the cast members had brought this quotation into to their circle for inspiration. I copied this quote on a small piece of yellow note paper, right there and then. And when I got home that night I put it on my bookcase in my bedroom where I could see it every day of my life and be reminded of these profound words. This piece of note paper has been sitting there on my bookcase for these 22 years. It is frayed and kind of faded but for me it is just as fresh and deeply inspiring as it was, the first time I read it. Martha Graham was a fantastic innovator. American Masters said about her: “Martha Graham’s impact on dance was staggering and often compared to that of Picasso on painting, Stravinsky on music, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s on architecture. Her contributions transformed the art form, revitalizing and expanding dance around the world. In her search to express herself freely and honestly, she created the Martha Graham Dance Company. As a teacher, Graham trained and inspired generations of fine dancers and choreographers.” And The Kennedy Center had this to say about Agnes de Mille: “Although Agnes de Mille seemed destined to perform on Broadway, since her paternal grandfather, father, and Uncle, Cecil B. de Mille were all successful writers and actors involved in the theatre, she avoided the easy path to The Great White Way. Instead, she struggled in obscurity and poverty, courageously pursuing a career as a dancer and choreographer. When her amazing talent was finally recognized, and she made her way to the stage, she transformed the world of musical comedy and ballet forever.” Both these great great woman artists lived a very long time. Martha Graham was 97 when she died and de Mille was 88. How many women—how many people have both these artists inspired and touched and enlightened with their great talent and their wise understanding of what it is to be an artist and to live the life of an artist…? How very many people have read those words of Martha Graham’s and said to themselves, ‘yes’….I must never forget the importance of these words. I have shared this quote with so very many young people from time to time over the years, especially when I see someone struggling with what to do with their lives and/or being discouraged by how difficult what they have chosen to do or be, is….The struggle and discouragement that faces artists is so very difficult and often depressing in it's lonliness and sometimes very killing to the spirit…these words of the great Martha Graham remind you that you are unique….”there is only one of you in all of time”, and further, that “if you block it, it will never exist through any medium and be lost….”. If we are to cherish something let us cherish ourselves. Let us nurture ourselves and honor that which would not exist if we do not do this, and by cherishing this, we allow who we are and what we are to grow and to be expressed in whatever way is true to ourselves. Amen, Amen.







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51 Comments:
had this to say:

aaaaaaah the art of quilting.....
Over from the other Micheles today..
I usually just come on my own....

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 12:03:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Boy, there's a lot here, but I read and enjoyed every word.

I have a quilt that my Mama and her mother made together when my mother was pregnant with her first child. (My sister Mary.) While Mary was dying, she gave the quilt to me. Every child and grandchild in our family has slept under it in their turn. It was always returned to Mary of course. Now it is mine. (I was the baby of the family.)

Mary herself made beautiful quilts. Two of my three daughters and I took lessons together, and made some quilts. Mary couldn't understand why we would BUY material to make quilts. Quilts are "supposed to be something from nothing," she said. I have pieced tops that Mary and my father's mother pieced, but never got around to quilting. *sigh*

Looks as if I won't get around to doing the actual quilting either. But the pieced tops have fabic from dresses that I remember.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 12:03:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Old Lady, you've got CLASS. The more I learn about you, the more I like and respect you. Wow.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 12:46:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

It would be something to figure out how many people those two women inspired not just in the arts community, but outside of it as well. I think anyone my age or older has heard of them, knows their contribution to the arts--which really does go beyond "entertainment"--and I'm better younger people also have at least a vague notion of who they were.

Funny, though, I never made the name connection and did not know Agnes de Mille was related to Cecil B. De Mille...

Here via Michele's again :)

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 12:51:00 PM PDT 

Blogger T.
had this to say:

hey Naomi. Was thinking of you and thought I'd pop on over to see how you are doing. I'm glad I did. My mom and my grandma are (and were) big quilters. I have several lovely pieces made by them both. While I can't profess to have their skills, I certainly have enjoyed their art!

I'm off now, to go find one of these quilts and have a snuggle. Thanks for the great post. As always.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 12:54:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

There's an interesting dichotomy here, Naomi. The quote is wonderful for an artist--but more analytical pursuits tend to regard reproducible results as the acme of achievement. Squelching the random entrance of individual variation--quite a contrast to the view and ambitions of the artist. Something to think on, I guess.

Hey from Michele's.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 1:21:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a beautiful tribute! I read this quote some time ago, but couldn't recall where and lost it. I am so glad to have found it here! As an artist, it truly helps to make the path seem worth the struggles! What a rich experience for you to have! I loved reading this...thank you:)
Here from Michele's!

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 1:37:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

This is SO cool.......

Sort of 'To thine own self be true'....

Took me years to learn to stand up and be me :-)

Thank you Naomi - and keep spreading the message....

cq

Michele sent me but I come every day anyway :-)
ps - the quote from the film is by the Genie in Disney's Aladdin :-)

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 2:02:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I have always loved Martha Graham, but never read that quote. Love the quilts, too...especially the bottom one!

Here via michele, but I don't need to be!

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 2:34:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I was bought up more in the tradition of "classic" ballet so it took a long time for me to appreciate Miss Grahams style and contribution ( I am embarassed to say lol)
Also just a reminder while I am hereAuditions
start tomorrow

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 3:38:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I want that quilt! I wish I could read the note you copied the quote on. Martha Graham was marvelous. I have seen lots of photos of her and I am amazed at the positions she had achieved. Fluidity is the word I use for her movements.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 4:29:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Your words teach me that an artist's accountability is not only to create, but to inspire. And that inspiration is open-ended: it has power long after those who initiated it have passed on.

I'm with Mamacita: the more I read, the more I want to know about the amazing and inspirational experiences you have had.

Part of me wishes I could have witnessed them. Then I realize that in reading you, I already have.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 4:48:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

i am here via michele but just as i arrived my children took to beating one another with toys. i really want to read this and so will return once they are in bed.

http://honestyrain.com

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 5:01:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Man, that second quilt is gorgeous.

My mother once told me that Martha Graham was the epitome of human sculpture. I have never forgotten that, because it sounded so mysterious and ethereal as a kid.

Nice post, as usual. You are the master and remembering the theatrical past. I wish you would write a book about it with all your memoirs.

Here via Michele

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 5:04:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Thank you for sharing the quote with us today. It is a wonderful reminder to many of us need.

Stopping in by way of Michele's tonight.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 6:03:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

You know it has been only in the last few years that I have stood up and been strong enough to be me, true to myself....I so love what you wrote. That quote is amazing as I am sure the woman who said it was too.

You always inspire me, thank you my friend!

Who knows, maybe next time hubby heads out to LA on business I can tag along and we can "do lunch!" ;o)

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 6:16:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Lady,
Thanks for stopping by my blog! I love the quote, too - so inspirational. And as a quilter and theatre major, I loved the rest of your post.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 7:20:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a wonderful piece. I wish that I had come across the Martha Graham quote when I was much younger. In fact, this is the first time I ever read it. It isn't the kind of message sent to the youth of America, sadly. Here in the North Jersey suburbs, this sort of thing is virtually frowned upon.

It's great to read about the creative camaraderie of artists. I've had that at times. Right now, there aren't many like-minded people around. At least I haven't hooked up with them. Isolation is not a good thing. But it does give you time to work with that individual voice that you are responsible for. I like the idea of responsibility to one's self as an artist in Graham's quote.

It's good that you share this quote with up and comers. I'm sure it's made a difference.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 8:26:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Beautiful post as always...thank you for that quote. It came at a very appropriate time. :)

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 8:56:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I took a dance class in college from a guy that had trained in Martha Graham's company though I'm sure she was out of the picture by then. But maybe not. The fellow wasn't all that young at the time and it was 25 years ago when I took the class...

Anyway, she's certainly left quite a legacy and your quote from her is just one little piece though it certainly exudes her dedication to self expression.

Michele sent me!

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 10:12:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I can see why you've had that quote in your daily site for so many years. It is very powerful & profound. Thank you for the tribute to two remarkable woman. You are really an amazing story teller.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 10:32:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Thank you for sharing..

The quote is inspiring.

Ive never heard fo the play but it is certainly interesting and wow to be a part of it! Even if the role is the role of inspiration.. What an honor!

Here via Micheles tonight and also because of your visit to my blog.. Thanks for the congrats on there!

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 10:43:00 PM PDT 

Blogger Joe
had this to say:

Hello from Michele's!

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 10:53:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

hiya - from michele

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 11:40:00 PM PDT 

Blogger Joe
had this to say:

Thanks for your comments on my blog! I was glad to see you stop by again!

Joe

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 12:15:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You know, whenever I read your posts, the 1st thing I want to say is: WOW!
But I must get beyond that word, LOL. I wanted to say WOW, not only because this was such a touching story, but because I was going to highlight the part of her quote that really struck my soul & oddly enough (it shouldn't come as odd anymore) it was exactly the part that you chose to reprint! About us being unique & we're the only us this world would ever have.
But this is kinda how our relationship is, huh Naomi? It's almost like, at times, we can finish each other's thoughts. Well, at least you can mine.
Thank you for sharing this & those quilts are so beautiful.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 1:07:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

It's me, back again via Michele :-)

Love the pictures on this post, Naomi :-D

cq

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 2:07:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

i am finally back and very glad i returned. that was a wonderful read. thank you.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 6:02:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, you're one of those people that I want to sit down with over coffee and just listen to ALL of your stories. You have the most amazing ones, and I know that stories you share with us here are probably just the tip of the ice burg. Thank you for being here and sharing with us!!

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 8:59:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

A very articulate post that was most enjoyable.

Michele sent me this way. Today is my 1st Blogaversary. Hope you'll drop in.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 9:17:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

An amazing quote that goes further beyond the subject for which it was written. Great post

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 9:23:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I did not the story of Lloyd Riglar, how interesting! My hubby is a huge classical music fan and I have learned to appreciate it. The stories you share are wonderful to read!
Here from Michele's!

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 9:47:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

That quote was fantastic and I truly agree with every word.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 11:34:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

That quote was fantastic and I truly agree with every word.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 11:35:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Sounds like a good time and a truly inspirational woman! ~ jb///

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 1:00:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I learn alot each time I come here! Thank you.
Michele sent me

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 2:20:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

[stands up straight and 'projects']

'I was directed here by Wendywings...!'

How cool is that Winged Person??

Hi Naomi :-)

cq

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 2:31:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

the aging of inspiration tests us all as to the character of our selves.

Michele sent me, today.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 2:42:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Have you ever considered a career as a motivational counselor? I loved the whole post, thank you for sharing!

Here from Michele's, today!

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 2:46:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I love quilts! You blog is so interesting! Stopping by today via Wendys.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 3:42:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh Wow what an inspiring post. I loved reading it and too love the quilt.

Thanks for visiting me tonight. It has been fun playing that game at Wendy's this evening. It is a bank holiday (public holiday) in the UK so we get Monday off. I can therefore stay up late tonight :)
look after yourself. Feel free to visit th ducks any time.

oh and the shredder episode is going to be discussed!!! ;)

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 4:21:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What an amazing woman Betty seems to have been. How fortunate to have been in her circle of friends. I'm imagining your friends feel the same way about you. Here via Michele (again) ;-)

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 4:23:00 PM PDT 

Blogger srp
had this to say:

What a lovely post. I will come back and let my Nyssa read it, after exams are over. It is a great lesson for all of us.

I hope they decided to publish their diary so all could enjoy and be inspired.

Here from Michele this time.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 4:24:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Such a wonderful post!

I'm here via Wendy's. :)

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 5:07:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Thanks for a look at a world very different from mine, but that somehow reminds me of why I live the way I do. Lovely!

Here from Michele, hello!

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 5:14:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Good to see you again! Wendy directed me here.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 5:43:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Michele sent me tonight, but you know i'd be here anyhow....=)

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 9:52:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I was thinking of ou earlier tonight. PBS was playing a rendition of South Pacific with Reba MacIntyre and Alec Baldwin and a whole bunch of other actors that were familiar but I never got to see the cast list. It was unusual in that it appeared to be in Lincoln Center, there were no sets, only some 'costumes' but not really costumes, and all the polynesians were black. But OTHERWISE, it was fun to sing along and just try to remember what the sets looked like when I saw it on Broadway as a kid. Or at least recall the movie. I loved that movie.

Here from WENDY! Aha, Gotcha!

Monday, May 1, 2006 at 12:24:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Beautiful post Naomi. Like I said before, you are a wealth of knowledge!

I love quilts and that log cabin one pictured is awesome!

Monday, May 1, 2006 at 6:06:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What an inspiring post, Naomi. You have the most amazing stories and experiences. I wish you would write a book about your memories. Would be great! The quote is inspiring. Love the quilt, too.

Last but not least, I have a desire: hear your voice singing. Where can I buy your CD?

Monday, May 1, 2006 at 8:27:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I'm glad to have found your rich and inspiring blog these many years after this post. As it is Martha Graham's birthday, I found your post. So glad her words and dance is living on in all of us.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 6:42:00 AM PDT 

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Name: OldOldLady Of The Hills
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