Martha Graham in the 21st century

by Jesse Factor | 1 May 2018

First published in the December 2001 Scene issue “Going the extra mile: Movement/Dance/Choreography”.

My thoughts on this article in 2018:

Reading this again reminds me of the incredible experiences I am grateful to have had as an ISTA student. I should have specified that the ISTA movement workshop I reference focused on the Baris dance, as there are many forms of dance in Bali and Indonesia that serve a diverse range of functions. Something I remembered while reading this again was the powerful focus of the eyes in this work as well as the sharply percussive use of the limbs. This experience of embodied power still excites me today. I had forgotten about the simple image of the exclamation point and question mark to convey Graham’s contraction and release – I think I’ll start using it again in my classes. As my research and teaching interests have since expanded into forms of compositional improvisation and excessive stylisations, these notions of embodied imagination still feel relevant to ways of thinking about dynamic alignment and expressive physicality. In dance, the body thinks and the mind moves. The core goal of my teaching work continues to encourage physical curiosity, discovery and daring after establishing trust and common language.


One of the wonderful aspects of ISTA that I deeply appreciate is the inclusion of movement and dance as part of festival offerings. As a former ISTA student in the mid/late 90s, I had the unique opportunity to participate in a dance workshop with a local Indonesian dance artist at a festival in Jakarta. We were led through a series of hand and arm positions, gestures and use of the eyes that left me completely spellbound.

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