From Chapter 12 - "Post-Martha Syndrome"


At Needle Trades High School, I premiered a dance to Kristof Penderecki's Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, dancing in it myself. We were invited to open Wilson Morelli's Ballet Soiree. Armando Zetina peeked out through the curtain.
    "It's Martha Graham!"
    She was coming slowly down the aisle with Leroy Leatherman.  Afterward, she came back stage, and said, "Your dancers dance beautifully!"  I was sure that meant she'd hated my choreography.

Clinging to me horizonally is Mariano Garcia, with Teresa Hill lunging between my knees.

Sara Hook on my back in "Dirty Old Man"


Vivid Sara Hook is giving me a hard look in Steve Koplowitz's Dirty Old Man. I greatly admire Steve but didn't hesitate to tell him I hated his title for a dance that had, I felt, much more to it than what the title implies. The fine photo is by  Steven Speliotis.

"The Sound of Wings"


Fourteen years after Amelia Earheart flew the Atlantic solo in a single-engine plane, I flew it with a crew of nine in a four-engine bomber. I thought of that when writing "The Sound of Wings" for Elizabeth, a musical about Amelia Earhart.  Two of its songs. I Can Fly! and The Highest Place gave me real satisfaction. We made videos of practically every show, and my hope is to digitize one and put it up here and on YouTube.  

     A young singer looking for material is welcome to audition "The Sound of Wings."

"Dancing On Air with Fred Astaire"

When I retired from Borough of Manhattan Community College, I dug out my old tap shoes, and Liz and I learned Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers numbers from the screen by putting the TV behind us and watching the screen in the mirror, the moves magically reversed to be exactly as we had to learn them.
    And one day we had our prize: Dancing on Air, With Fred Astaire. In it, we told how Fred Astaire had inspired us to dance, me an aviation cadet on a Sunday off in Bakersfield, California, Elizabeth captivated by every Astaire film that played Suffern, NY, although when The Red Shoes came along, it sidelined Astaire until she got classical ballet out of her system.

Arthur Mitchell: "Well why do they ask for criticism if they don't want it?"


   In China, we were  invited to watch many dance classes. Most of the teachers were Chinese, plus a few aged Russians.  Many smoked while teaching. Tea was served by retired dancers.  After their dancing days were over, everyone got a job of some kind with their own or another school or troupe.
    After each class, someone would say, "And now we will be grateful to hear your criticisms so that we may learn from your expertise." 
   Our criticisms were pro forma and laudatory until one day, after a pointe class for eight-year-olds, Arthur Mitchell and Michael Smuin decided to tell it like it was.
    "They're asking us to criticize," said Mitchel, whereupon he and Smuin pointed out that the children were not mature enough to be on pointe, and could be hurt.  The Chinese listened with bland smiles, and offered polite thanks. 
   Afterward, our American translator said they'd been shocked and scandalized. Arthur Mitchell was annoyed.
   "Well why do they ask for criticism if they don't want it?"

"That tree is like the artist..."


   Martha took a proffered arm, mounted the dais, sat on an armchair, leaned forward, gazed at the audience, and spoke about the artist and society. 
   Of a vanished culture, she said, "They had no poets, so they died."
   She described a tree that had taken root outside a chain link fence surrounding the garden of her school in New York City.  Seeking light, the tree grew through the fence and now shaded the whole rear of the garden.
   "It's trunk is straight and strong, but you can trace the scars left by those links of steel to the very top of that tree. 
   "That tree is like the artist, growing through and beyond whatever obstacles and barriers life erects, offering shade and comfort to others, yet carrying still his scars."

The photo, left, taken by musician, Reed Hansen, is the amazing tree of which Martha spoke, torn down, along with her buiilding and its garden, leaving memories, like scars, in all who had danced there..

The Adventure of a Lifetime

     Poets, philosophers, and scientists may dream of answering the big questions: What is life? Why are we here? What is it all for?  Dancing produces no answers, but while I dance, all questions vanish.
    No rational person would choose to live with demons that command every relationship, every act, every thought.  Martha's life chose her, and some were compelled to choose Martha.  Amid the laughter and groans, revelations and furies, it was life in the eye of a storm, at the epicenter of an earthquake. Having flown and fought as a 19-year-old, I could live with nothing less. 
    Martha was brilliant, irrational, flirting, rejecting, generous, vulnerable, impenetrable, isolated, surrounded, and for me, impossible not to love.  Looming over all were those fleeting transcendent moments in her rehearsals and on her stage.  Working with Martha was like going into battle, physically demanding, emotionally charged, and fraught with danger. Martha Graham was the adventure of a lifetime.   


I snapped the picture, left, through the co-pilot's window flying south from Pisa to Foggia. Beyond the cowling of the number three engine and the spinning prop of number four, is a glorious Italian sunset. The photo is black and white, but my memory is full living color, like my memories of Martha, and dancing. I hope you'll explore them further by downloading  PART REAL-PART DREAM. -  Stuart Hodes.

This is Chapter 12 - Click links to other Chapters and CONTACT.

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 9  - Asia
            Chapter 4 - Martha                           Chapter 10 - Dance Master
            Chapter 5 - Her  Little Crackers     Chapter 11 - A Dancing Fool