Women and Success
IN 1911, when Martha Graham was seventeen, she went with her father to see Ruth St. Denis dance. The occasion inspired her so profoundly that she never lost its meaning: “The rest of her life was to be spent trying to realize in her own person the vision that she saw in Ruth St. Denis,” writes her biographer.* She was nearly ten years too old to think of a career in ballet-they begin at eight or nine-and with her father’s death two years later, and the need to help support her mother and sisters, there was little reason to predict much success as a dancer for Martha Graham. Indeed, not until she was thirty-two did she give her first independent dance recital, accompanied by Louis Horst-thirty-two, what a ridiculous age for a dancer!-and the future was not promising. Frequently it was dismal, during the Depression and war years, when Martha Graham often despaired over her work, and when there was never any money. Now, these many years later, her career shows different proportions: she not only stands upon the long and remarkable achievement of a great dancer’s life, but at eighty she has once more renewed herself and her work. It could be called success at this point, by almost anyone’s standards, although many times in the past it did not look like that.
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