Martha Graham's Modern Dance and its Impact on France during the Fifties

Camelia Lenart


My paper explores the role that modern dance and its leader, Martha Graham, played in the cultural offensive of the United States during the Cold War. After decades of being considered a country which produced just culture for entertainment, the United States wanted to show the world that it had not only brilliant scientists and engineers, but creative artists too. Graham, one of the cultural ambassadors of her country, and her company toured Europe in 1950 and in 1954. But the way they were received showed that the European cultural borders were hard to be conquered, and that the Western European countries were not open toward American culture. While Graham’s tours were not a success in the fifties, just a decade later Graham was already a celebrity in Europe. Were the fifties a “special decade”, when the Europeans wanted to preserve at least their cultural superiority over the United States? Or is the fact that the American culture did not have a “tradition” in Europe the reason why modern dance, an American innovation, had to struggle to be accepted as a part of the big family of arts? Or, perhaps, did Graham herself not pick the best strategy in order to show the power of American culture outside of its borders? The goal of our paper is to answer these questions, being also homage to one of the most fascinating personalities of world culture, who made modern dance an art without frontiers: Martha Graham.

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New Readings — ISSN: 13597485


Published by: Cardiff School of Modern Languages