Concerts from the Library of Congress, 2015-2016
[Martha Graham in Appalachian spring]

[Martha Graham in Appalachian spring]
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In 1942 the Library of Congress commissioned a ballet from Martha Graham and Aaron Copland that has become an American icon. “Appalachian Spring, the music, the dance, the very phrase have sunk deep into the American consciousness... A great composer is commissioned to do a work for a great choreographer, and America is enriched by the result. (Wayne Shirley)”

The landmark 1944 ballet is today among the most famous of the Library’s nearly 600 commissions, a distinguished roster embodying the tradition established by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Martha Graham danced the role of the Bride in the premiere performance of Appalachian Spring in the 1944 Coolidge Festival. Two other now-classic Graham works were premiered on the same evening, matched with scores also commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation; Mirror Before Me, known today as Hérodiade, was set to music by Paul Hindemith and Imagined Wing, with music by Darius Milhaud, included the twenty-five-year-old Merce Cunningham in its cast. Our Coolidge Collection records the fascinating exchanges among all the creators of these works, as well as the Library’s role as producer, and our Martha Graham Dance Collection documents the seven-decade career of this pioneering figure in modern dance.

[ May O'Donnell and Martha Graham in Cave of the heart][ May O'Donnell and Martha Graham in Cave of the heart]
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Martha Graham Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress

Celebrating the Historic Library of Congress Dance Commissions

From March 24 to April 2 you can sample a mini-series of educational events to enhance your experience of the performances. Dancers, scholars and curators explore the works presented in this series of lectures, panel discussions, and film screenings. Graham’s relationships with her collaborators will be examined using the fascinating exchanges documented in our archives: negotiations, artistic consultations, banter and musings among the principals. Read news release

A special group of events, presented through the generous support of Dr. Sachiko Kuno, provides a focus on Japanese-American artist and designer Isamu Noguchi, an important creative partner of Martha Graham. “Without Isamu Noguchi I could have done nothing,” Graham said. “Always he has given me something that lived on stage as...another dancer.” On display for the day of March 30th, his set for Cave of the Heart sketches a sculptural space for dancers, the kind of spare, abstract environment that sparked Graham’s imagination in nineteen works over the course of their forty-year friendship.

Full Event Schedule

THURSDAY, MARCH 24 at 7:00 PM

WHITTALL PAVILION
Lecture - "Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi," Hayden Herrera, author

SATURDAY, MARCH 26 at 11:00 AM

WHITTALL PAVILION
#DECLASSIFIED - "October 30, 1944: Witness to the World Premiere of Appalachian Spring"

SATURDAY, MARCH 26 2:00 PM

PICKFORD THEATER
Triple Bill Film Screening

  • ISAMU NOGUCHI: THE SCULPTURE OF SPACES (1995) directed by Kenji Hayashi
  • A DANCER’S WORLD (1957) directed by Peter Glushanok
  • ISAMU NOGUCHI (1972) directed by Michael Blackwood

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30 7:00 PM

PERFORMING ARTS READING ROOM, LM-113
Lecture - "Cave of the Heart: Noguchi’s Set for the Graham Ballet," Janet Eilber, Artistic Director, Martha Graham Dance Company (Isamu Noguchi’s original set will be exhibited for the day of March 30, beginning at 10:30 AM)

THURSDAY, MARCH 31 at 7:00 PM

WHITTALL PAVILION
Lecture - "Sculpting Beyond the Pedestal: Isamu Noguchi’s Sets for Dance 1928-1988," Dakin Hart, Senior Curator, Isamu Noguchi Museum

FRIDAY, APRIL 1 at 6:30 PM

WHITTALL PAVILION
Pre-performance conversation with Janet Eilber and choreographer Pontus Lidberg

FRIDAY, APRIL 1 at 8:00 PM

COOLIDGE AUDITORIUM
Performance - Martha Graham Dance Company

SATURDAY, APRIL 2 at 2:00 PM

COOLIDGE AUDITORIUM
Performance - Martha Graham Dance Company

SATURDAY, APRIL 2 at 5:00 PM

WHITTALL PAVILION
Panel - "On Pointe: Composing for Dance at the Library of Congress"

SATURDAY, APRIL 2 at 8:00 PM

COOLIDGE AUDITORIUM
Performance - Martha Graham Dance Company