May 4, 1998 Library of Congress Acquires Martha Graham Archives

Martha Graham Company Presents New Work at Library May 16

Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
Public Contact: Vicki Wulff, Library of Congress (202) 707-5503 | Todd Dellinger, Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance (212) 832-9166

The Library of Congress has just agreed to purchase the Martha Graham dance archives from the Martha Graham Trust as one component of a longer term relationship with the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance.

The other two components of this new relationship are: (1) an agreement with the Martha Graham Trust for the Martha Graham Dance Company to perform a new piece based on the music of George Gershwin, "Gershwin Graham -- But Not for Me," at the Library; and (2) a five- year joint Martha Graham Legacy Project to preserve, make accessible and perpetuate the legacy of Martha Graham.

"I am very enthusiastic about the prospect of preserving the Martha Graham legacy here at the Library," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in announcing the acquisition. "This extraordinary collection was accumulated during her life by Martha Graham, one of this century's great geniuses, not only as a dancer and choreographer but also as a catalyst for new directions in all the arts. It complements the already extensive dance materials in the Library of Congress."

Comprising the most complete extant documentation of Miss Graham's pioneering work in the field of modern dance, the Graham archives of some 100,000 items include letters, photographs, videotapes of rehearsals and performances, films, music manuscripts, scrapbooks, and posters. Highlights of the collection are Martha Graham's personal stenograph notebooks and choreographic notes, correspondence between Graham and other major figures of the 20th century, and annotated musical scores and videotapes of Graham at work. They provide a unique look into her creative process.

Created by well-known Broadway choreographer Susan Stroman, who received the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for her work on the 1993 musical Crazy for You, the new ballet will be performed in the Library's Coolidge Auditorium on May 16. The work was commissioned by the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust in the Library of Congress and supported by AT&T, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Harkness Foundation for Dance.

Also on the evening's program is a re-creation of Appalachian Spring, the ballet commissioned by the Library for Aaron Copland and Martha Graham (originally called Ballet for Martha) that premiered in the Coolidge Auditorium in 1944. The dance performance is free, but tickets are required. They are available for a small service charge at TicketMaster outlets or by calling (202) 432-SEAT.

The third component of the agreement with the Martha Graham Trust is the Martha Graham Legacy Project. Historically, dance has had no standard medium to capture its ephemeral, three-dimensional nature. The Legacy Project would fill this critical need by developing a comprehensive approach that uses multimedia technology and the advanced theoretical models promoted by the Dance Heritage Coalition and others in recent years. Techniques developed to preserve and record Graham's work - dancing, teaching, and collaborations - will, therefore, have universal application for other dance and cultural organizations.

As part of the Legacy Project, Ron Protas has been appointed the Harold Spivacke Consultant for Contemporary Dance/Theater Projects and Consultant in Modern Dance to the Library. "As Martha Graham's friend and colleague for over thirty years, I know how deeply moved she would be to have her legacy become part of the nation, part of the Library of Congress," said Mr. Protas in commenting on the project. "It is an exciting part of the Trust's and Center's vision for the future."

The three-part Legacy Project will: (1) create the Martha Graham Collection at the Library of Congress as the premiere source for information about her creative output and the significance of her work for future generations; (2) create multimedia reference products on essential Graham choreographic works as well as a complete record of the Graham dance technique; and (3) perpetuate Martha Graham's work and techniques through live performance of her ballets as well as the commissioning of new works by leading choreographers using the Graham technique.

The Martha Graham materials will arrive at the Library in September and will be available for use in the Performing Arts Reading Room after they are processed.


PR 98-064
ISSN 0731-3527