A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Zilpha Keatley Snyder (The Egypt Game), Francine Jacobs (Sam, the Sea Cow), Juanita Havill (Jamaicaâ€™s Find), Peter SĂ¬s (Tibet Through the Red Box), and Jane Sutton (Donâ€™t Call Me Sidney).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Sheila Burnford (1918-1984), The Incredible Journey.
- Painter Salvador DalĂ (1904-1989) was also born on this day. Read The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Salvador Dali by Angela Wenzel.
- Happy birthday Minnesota, the 32nd state as of 1858. Read V is for Viking: A Minnesota Alphabet by Kathy-jo Wargin, illustrated by Karen Latham and Rebecca Latham.
- Itâ€™s National School Nurse Day. Read Cherry Ames: Boarding School Nurse by Helen Wells.
On May 11, 1894, Martha Graham was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the age of sixteen, she saw her first dance performance â€śand that night my fate was sealed.â€ť In her early twenties Graham moved to Greenwich Village, New York, and joined the Follies, with assorted animal acts and chorus girls. In 1926 she started her own dance company and evolved a new type of dance based on â€śemotion, breathing, and spare, angular forms.â€ť The Martha Graham Company also became the first racially integrated dance company in the United States.
Of all art forms, dance, which depends on movement, remains the hardest to convey in a bookâ€”particularly a book for children. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan took on this task in Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring and succeeded brilliantly. At the beginning of the book, they write that though art is sometimes created by one artist, other times â€śit is the result of artists working togetherâ€”collaboratingâ€”a forge to something new.â€ť Then they introduce three fabulous artists: Martha Graham, who created the dance; Aaron Copland, who fashioned the music; and Isamu Noguchi, who constructed the stage setting. Readers watch each of them work on their contribution to the ballet. Noguchi carves marble, granite, and wood to create a stage. Copland chooses the Shaker hymn â€śItâ€™s a gift to be simpleâ€ť as the melody for the â€śBallet for Martha.â€ť Graham trains the dancers. Not all goes smoothly; at one point she has a tantrum, screams, yells, and even throws a shoe.
Then on October 30, 1944, in Washington, D.C., the first performance of Appalachian Spring occurs. Up until this point in the book, many passages of text are needed to explain the development of the dance. Then the authors cut back their words, allowing artist Brian Floca to work his magic. Using small vignettes and double-page spreads he brings both the dancers and the dance to life. They jump and leap and dominate the stage. Flocaâ€™s strong portraits of the individual dancers allow readers to feel, for several pages, as if they are witnessing this historic event.
Those who want to watch a performance to round out their experience of the book can check out the easily accessible video. In a tribute to three artists, Greenberg, Jordan, and Floca, themselves a triumvirate, show how creative people work together to fashion something new. If you love the arts, dance, or simply creative information books for young readers ages six through twelve, you will not want to miss this performance. Bravo! All three deserve a standing ovation.
Hereâ€™s a page from Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring:
Originally posted May 11, 2011. Updated for .