Martha Graham on Dancing, from Jack Anderson’s Ballet & Modern Dance, a Concise History:
“I am a dancer. I believe that 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. In each it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.
“I think the reason dance has held such an ageless magic for the world is that it has been the symbol of the performance of living. Many times I hear the phrase … the dance of life. It is close to me for a very simple and understandable reason. The instrument through which the dance speaks is also the instrument through which life is lived … the human body. It is the instrument by which all the primaries of experience are made manifest. It holds in its memory all matters of life and death and love. Dancing appears glamorous, easy and delightful. But the path to the paradise of that achievement is not easier than any other. There is fatigue so great that the body cries, even in its sleep. There are are times of complete frustration, there are daily small deaths. … Movement never lies. It is the barometer telling the state of the soul’s weather to all who can read it.
“And there is grace. I mean the grace resulting from faith … faith in life, in love. in people, in the act of dancing. All this is necessary to any performance in life which is magnetic, powerful, rich in meaning. In a dancer there is reverence for such forgotten things as the miracle of the small beautiful bones and their delicate strength. In a thinker there is a reverence for the beauty of the alert and directed and lucid mind. In all of us who perform there is an awareness of the smile which is part of the equipment or gift of the acrobat. We have all walked the high wire of circumstance at times. We recognize the gravity pull of the earth as he does. The smile is there because he is practicing living at the instant of danger. He does not choose to fall.”