Martha Graham: Always Be Hungry

Martha Graham/Imogen Cunningham/1931

Interview with Martha Graham
Conducted by James Grissom
New York City

You absolutely must remain enthusiastic; you must remain curious. You have to realize--to really understand--that you are in service to an art, a great and beautiful entity, that is vast and deep: None of us can fully understand it, and none of us can really make a dent in its history. We are truly pebbles thrown into this vast ocean of creativity and history. But we must keep throwing in our pebbles, and we must stand at the shore and watch as others do the same.

When I stand before a company of dancers, I am very ruthless: I tell them they are foolish to study or follow certain things; to like what I think is so much meringue for the mind. I do not do this with people who are asking for advice or who are just beginning to learn what it is they would like to do or become. To those people I say: Look at all of it. Learn for yourself what is foolish or false. Learn for yourself what speaks to you and inspires you, and compels you to add to its story. There is nothing more exhilarating or challenging than to feel you need to fight a premise or a move made by someone else. Respond to everything life brings to you, and go out and see and share and love and hate everything. You will learn in time--with books and films and friends and situations--what you can and cannot entertain or endure, but until you attain this wisdom, take it all in. Be generous and patient and persistent. Ask of everything--what did this teach me? And then go to your studio or desk or private room and answer it, challenge it, defy it.

Always be hungry for more.

© 2014  James Grissom


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