Appalachian Spring premiered on October 30th, 1944, at the Library of Congress, Coolidge Auditorium in Washington DC, with Martha Graham dancing the lead role. Created during the darkest days of War World II Graham wanted to create inspiring art that came out of the American experience. Graham spoke of the work, “To be great art… it must belong to the country in which it flourishes, not be a pale copy of some art form perfected by another culture and another people”.
Appalachian Spring remains one of Graham’s most celebrated works; it explores the lives of a young pioneer husband and his bride beginning a life together on the American frontier. Opposing forces dominate the dance—youthfulness versus maturity, and physical love opposed to spiritual devotion. The couple is in love, full of joy, hope and optimism.
The symbolism extends beyond the 19th century setting; it is the excitement of new beginnings, and the promise of the future. The work concludes with a reflective majesty more thunderous and profound than any crescendo or coda. The artist best sums it up saying, “The entire piece ends quite simply. It has the feeling of the town settling down for the night, the kind of thing that happens when one hears a call in the twilight, the voices of children in the distance, a dog barking, and then night.”
Composed by Aaron Copeland the ballet is scored for a thirteen-member chamber orchestra, and was commissioned by Martha Graham with funds from the Coolidge Foundation. Copland was awarded the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his achievement. Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi designed the set.
The cast includes:
Martha Graham– the wife
Stuart Hodes– the husband,
Bertram Ross– the preacher
Matt Turney– pioneer woman
Helen McGehee, Ethel Winter, Yuriko and Miriam Cole– Worshippers
To read more about Appalachian Spring click below:
In Photo: 1) Martha Graham 2) Martha Graham and Erick Hawkins in the first production of Appalachian Spring, October 30, 1944 3) Martha Graham, Stuart Hodes and Bertram Ross 4) Bertram Ross, Matt Turney, Helen McGehee, Ethel Winter, Yuriko and Miriam Cole
1) Barbara Morgan photographer 2) Acquired by the Coolidge Foundation (as part of the terms of the commission) 3&4) taken from video