7 dancers to know on this International Women’s Day
March 8 is International Women’s Day. Today, we recognize all the incredible contributions women have made to society and recognize the persistent discrimination women have overcome and continue to overcome. dancing spirit is here to shine a light on some of the incredible women throughout history who have changed the course of dance forever through their creativity, technique, artistry and tenacity.
Martha Graham has created over 180 choreographic pieces, many of which she performed herself. After leaving Denishawn School, Graham founded his own school and company and codified his own modern Graham dance technique. Her style was both intensely technical and highly emotional, and she often drew inspiration from myths and poems. His company still performs its work to this day.
Agnes de Mille
Agnès de Mille has choreographed many ballets and musicals throughout her career, including Rodeo, for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in 1942, which was unique for being the first ballet to incorporate tap dancing. Her American aesthetic and interest in pushing the boundaries of what dance could say to audiences continued when she choreographed Oklahoma! In 1943. His creation of movement, including the iconic “dream ballet”, marked the first time in American musical theater that dance propelled history rather than paused it. Without Agnès de Mille, the landscape of musical theater choreography could be totally different today.
Katherine Dunham was influential not only as a choreographer and dancer, but also as a cultural anthropologist. After graduating in anthropology, she received a scholarship to travel to the Caribbean to study the dance forms of the people there. His travels led to several books and movement performances, and greatly influenced what is now called “dance anthropology”. She also pioneered the incorporation of African and Caribbean dance techniques into concert dancing, which greatly influenced jazz dance as a genre today.
Simply put, Misty Copeland is the face of ballet today. The first African-American woman to be promoted to director of the American Ballet Theatre, Copeland broke down every barrier placed before her. In addition to interpreting emblematic roles such as the firebird, Fire Birdand Odette/Odile, from Swan Lake, among other things, Copeland became an author, film actress, model, and lecturer.
Born in 1925 and the daughter of a member of the Osage tribe, Maria Tallchief was the first Native American to become a principal dancer in a ballet company and is considered America’s first prima ballerina. She has danced with the Ballets Russes and the New York City Ballet, as well as with the American Ballet Theater as a guest artist. Tallchief also became the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet and the first American to perform at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. In 1999, she received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given to artists by the US government. Throughout her career and despite discrimination, she refused to change her name and remained proud and eloquent of her Indigenous heritage.
One of the most recognizable names in ballet is Anna Pavlova, the famous prima who danced with Imperial Ballet in Russia and gave guest performances in New York and London. She became so popular that she toured as a soloist, dancing variations and excerpts from ballets to delighted audiences. One of those solos was his signature dance, The dying swan. Anna Pavlova is also credited with inventing the modern pointe shoe, when she added a leather sole to form an upper and darned the toe to harden the box of the shoe.
Ruth Saint Denis
As a young dancer in New York, Ruth Dennis came across a cigarette poster with an illustration of the goddess Isis, and was so inspired that she choreographed an innovative modern dance routine – loosely “inspired” by a version imaginary of the dance traditions of the time. Far East, which catapulted her to fame. Later, alongside her husband Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis (as she had come to call herself) founded the influential Denishawn Dance School and Company in Los Angeles. Students like Martha Graham went on to carry on her legacy of evolving and popularizing modern dance. St. Denis also founded the first dance department at an American university, Adelphi University.