From Chapter 9 - "Asia"

Picture
   
   At the press conference in Calcutta, a slender young man asked, "Why are there no dances in your company about social justice and the dignity of man?"
    In the murmur of disapproval, I heard a muttered, "... Communist paper,"
     Martha quieted them with a glance. "If I did not believe in social justice and the dignity of man, I could never have made a single dance.  If you come to my performance, you will see that all my dances are based upon social justice and the dignity of man.  But I want them to be art, not propaganda."
    "That's well answered," said a voice, followed by applause.
    Calcutta was not the first time Martha had faced those who wanted to use her for their own purposes.  She had told us about a visit in the mid-1930s by a pair from a worker's group.  They demanded her support, adding that they were in a position to offer or withhold theirs.
    "Yes, you fill my balconies," she'd replied.  "But I cannot make dances for anyone's message but my own."


In the press photo above, Martha is effusively greeted by Uday Shankar, who, to my knowledge, she had never met. He was India's most famed dancer in the West.  I'd seen him dance in New York, but by 1955 his star was fading. Martha gave him all she had in this photo op.


Flight to Teheran

Picture
   We departed for Teheran in an ancient twin engine Douglas DC-3, soon plunged into clouds and turbulence.  Seasoned travelers, no one gave it a thought, or that our airplane was a museum piece. When we dropped out of the clouds we were close to the snowy tops of rugged mountains. I unlimbered my movie camera.
    The turbulence intensified, forcing the stewardess to cling  to seat backs as she made her way down the aisle.  The plane climbed back into the clouds and when we dropped down again, it was in a valley ringed by mountains whose tops disappeared into the clouds. An alarm tingled. The service ceiling of a DC-3 was well below those peaks. When the pilot stood the plane on one wing, I recognized a "panic turn," 180 degrees, back where you came from. I asked the stewardess if we were heading back to Abadan.
    "No."
    "We just made a 180 degree turn."
    "No we didn't."
    She was lying! The plane was bucking like a jeep crossing a ploughed field and snowy crags could be seen through the scudding clouds below.  It occurred to me that the film I was shooting might never be developed. I put the camera away and settled into my seat resolved to die well. Ethel Winter turned to me with a hopeful smile, "Did you ever fly through air pockets this bad?"
    Air pockets?  "Dozens of times," I lied.
    A few minutes later the pilot announced that we were heading back to Abadan and forty minutes later we were on the ground.  Cheerfully, he told me we'd lost or gained fifteen hundred feet in some of the drafts.  He spotted Martha. "Miss Graham, as soon as I check the weather we'll be ready for take off."
    "Not in this plane!," she said. "I will not subject my company to another such flight. You will find us a four-engine plane.  Call the ambassador. Call the Department of State.  Until it arrives we will be there," and pointed to the terminal.
    It was dark when an old, un-pressurized, four-engine Douglas DC-4 arrived.  It rose above the clouds and a stewardess offered breaths from an oxygen bottle.  Later, Martha told us that during the worst of the turbulence she'd been dancing Errand Into the Maze.  "I did it through it three times from beginning to end.  And then we landed safely."


This is Chapter 9 - Asia. Click links to other Chapters

Go to:   HOME                                               Chapter 6 - Critics Say
            Chapter 1 - Dance Lessons            Chapter 7 - TKO'd in {Paris and London
            Chapter 2 - Making Dances            Chapter 8 - The Grand Tour
            Chapter 3 - On Stage!                     Chapter 10 - Dance Master
            Chapter 4 - Martha                           Chapter 11 - A Dancing Fool
            Chapter 5 - Her  Little Crackers     Chapter 12 - Post-Martha Syndrome
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