Dancing With Martha Graham

by Nancy King


Martha Graham 1948 via Wikipedia Commons LicenseThe Martha Graham School of Dance was in an old mansion on East 63rd street between 2nd and 3rd avenues in New York City. Walking into the building was like entering the temple of a high priestess whose devotees all looked alike—the men, gorgeous, tall, well built, strutting around in tights so revealing I blushed each time I tried not to look. The women, tall, thin, yet muscular, their long dark hair pulled into buns or twists, not a hair daring to disturb the sleek coiffures. 

Although the bus ride to the school was long, the distance I traveled meant leaving a world I sort of knew how to manage for one filled with unexpected challenges, where I could be unceremoniously discarded, not fit for living, dumped onto a pile of rejects. When I found the courage to speak, it felt like a shout but was probably barely a whisper. “I’m here to register for the Beginning Graham Technique Class,” I said to the young woman, whose jet black hair was pulled into a painfully tight chignon, her cheekbones jutting out from her sculptured face, her dark eyes rimmed with black, the red of her lipstick looking like a bloody wound. She was too busy flexing her arches to pay attention to me, but I wasn’t about to let anyone keep me from the class. “I’m here to register for Beginning Graham.”

“Name, please.” I told her. She deigned to look it up on a clipboard on her desk. “Right. Advanced class—meets at 5:30. Be here no later than 5:15, dressed, warmed up, ready to begin promptly. Martha doesn’t tolerate latecomers. 

“Martha? Me? Advanced class? There’s been a mistake!

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