Picks and Pans Review: Deep Song

updated 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Ernestine Stodelle

Scarcely a moment in Martha Graham's life—her professional life, anyway—has escaped Stodelle's attention, from Graham's earliest inspiration by St. Denis to her somewhat tardy retirement from the stage at age 76. Graham, perhaps the most distinctive, celebrated and even parodied dancer-choreographer of our time, has left her imprint on all forms of contemporary dance. Not only did she spawn such lights as Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor and John Butler, but she also created works for such classicists as Nureyev and Fonteyn. She was a fundamentally American artist; her stark, expressionistic style seemed a natural outgrowth of the Depression era in this country. Her dance dramas, light on beauty, heavy on symbolism, are the heart of this book. Stodelle, a dance teacher, exhaustively details how, when and where they were choreographed and staged; what each section consisted of, almost to the individual steps; and what they meant, as works in themselves and to dance history. Although the average reader might find this slow going, Stodelle has performed an important service. These were seminal works and are too rarely seen today. Graham's personal life is treated almost as an afterthought. She emerges from these pages a monument, not a woman. (Schirmer, $25.95)

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