Martha Graham Quotes

Martha Graham in Phaedra, 1966
Martha Graham in Phaedra, 1966. Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

Martha Graham (1894-1991) was one of the best known teachers and choreographers of modern dance.

Selected Martha Graham Quotations

• All things I do are in every woman. Every woman is Medea. Every woman is Jocasta. There comes a time when a woman is a mother to her husband. Clytemnestra is every woman when she kills.

• You are unique, and if that is not fulfilled, then something has been lost.

• Some men have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to, when all they need is one reason why they can.

• The body is a sacred garment.

• There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.

• The body says what words cannot.

• The body is your instrument in dance, but your art is outside that creature, the body.

• Our arms start from the back because they were once wings.

• No artist is ahead of his time. He is his time. It is just that the others are behind the time.

• Dance is the hidden language of the soul.

• Dancing is just discovery, discovery, discovery.

• Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.

• Dance is a song of the body. Either of joy or pain.

• I did not want to be a tree, a flower or a wave.

In a dancer's body, we as audience must see ourselves, not the imitated behavior of everyday actions, not the phenomenon of nature, not exotic creatures from another planet, but something of the miracle that is a human being.

• I am absorbed in the magic of movement and light. Movement never lies. It is the magic of what I call the outer space of the imagination.

There is a great deal of outer space, distant from our daily lives, where I feel our imagination wanders sometimes. It will find a planet or it will not find a planet, and that is what a dancer does.

• We look at the dance to impart the sensation of living in an affirmation of life, to energize the spectator into keener awareness of the vigor, the mystery, the humor, the variety, and the wonder of life. This is the function of the American dance.

• Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It's a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.

• Dancing appears glamorous, easy, delightful. But the path to paradise of the achievement is not easier than any other. There is fatigue so great that the body cries, even in its sleep. There are times of complete frustration, there are daily small deaths.

• We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.

• It takes ten years, usually, to make a dancer. It takes ten years of handling the instrument, handling the material with which you are dealing, for you to know it completely.

• Misery is a communicable disease.

• In 1980. a well-meaning fundraiser came to see me and said, "Miss Graham, the most powerful thing you have going for you to raise money is your respectability." I wanted to spit. Respectable! Show me any artist who wants to be respectable.

• I'm asked so often at ninety-six whether I believe in life after death. I do believe in the sanctity of life, the continuity of life and of energy. I know the anonimity of death has no appeal for me. It is the now that I must face and want to face.