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Performance opens the 2007-2008 Footlights series

The College’s Footlights series at the William Center for the Arts will commence with the “Essential Martha Graham,” a performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2.

Tickets are free for students, $4 for faculty and staff, and $22 for the public. They are available through the Williams Center box office at (610) 330-5009.

Martha Graham Artistic Associate Denise Vail will give a 7 p.m. talk in Williams Center room 108 about the Graham legacy and the content of the evening program. Earlier that afternoon at 12:15 p.m. a company dancer will give a master class for the directing class taught by Michael O’Neill, associate professor of English and director of theater, in room 136 of Kirby Sports Center.

Future performers in this year’s Footlights series are Danny Hoch Nov. 7, $15; Urban Bush Women and Jant-Bi Feb. 12, $22; and the Paul Taylor Dance Company April 8, $25. A subscription to the series costs $69, a savings of 18 percent off the single ticket price.

Referred to as the “mother of modern American dance,” Martha Graham’s mid-century artistic endeavors were pioneering and transcending as well as commanding and strikingly beautiful. So much so that three of her company’s dancers – Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, and Paul Taylor – continued on to make their own noteworthy contributions to dance. The “Essential Martha Graham” highlights dances from this era, with such powerful works as Diversion of Angels, Acts of Light and El Penitente.

Martha Graham was born on May 11, 1894 in Pittsburg, Pa. She and her family moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1908 where, in 1911, she witnessed a performance by Ruth Saint-Denis and decided she wanted to become a dancer.

From 1913 to 1916, Graham studied dance at the University of Cumnoch and went on to study at the Denishawn School in Los Angeles, the school of Ruth Saint-Denis and Ted Shawn. She later began teaching at the Eastman School in Rochester and gave her first recital on the 48th Street Theater in New York City.

In 1927, she opened the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. Her pieces from this era, including Immigrant, Lamentation, Vision of Apocalypse and Revolt, often had to do with contemporary social problems. During the trying economic times of the 1930’s her ballets had no sets and she made most of the costumes herself. She also refused an invitation to dance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin because of the Nazi Regime.

In 1938, she danced at the White House for President Franklin Roosevelt and would go on to dance for six more presidents after that.

Graham’s company toured the United States and Cuba throughout the 1940’s and onto Europe garnering her several awards from the 1950’s through the 1980’s. In 1984, her company was invited to the Paris Opera by Rudolf Nureyev where she was given the L�gion d’Honneur by the French government. As her strength began to deteriorate, Graham made the painful decision to stop dancing in 1970, however, she continued creating performances, including Lucifer and The Scarlet Letter, until her death in 1991.

This tour engagement of Martha Graham Company & Ensemble is funded through the American Masterworks program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius, a major initiative to acquaint Americans with the best of their cultural and artistic legacy.

The 2007-2008 Performance Series at Lafayette College is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by provisions of the Josephine Chidsey Williams Endowment, J. Mahlon and Grace Buck Fund, the Croasdale Fund, the Class of ’73 Fund, the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, the James Bradley Fund, and the Ed Brunswick Jazz Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour; the F.M. Kirby Foundation, the Dexter and Dorothy Baker Foundation, and the New England Foundation for the Arts.

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