Interview | Richard Move
The choreographer and TEDGlobal Fellow on how Martha Graham’s work sunk its claws into his mind, on choreographing for the Strangers with Candy film and much, much more.
What I’m trying to get to is, one of the reasons why I became so obsessed with Graham is because no one would let me near her. She was considered old-fashioned, very passé. [Graham dances] were these historical, archival things, and yet I thought they were the wildest, almost futuristic, Hitchcock-like Star Trek episodes or something.
I was very drawn, and this is very important, not to becoming a company member, or even studying at the [Graham] school, because the Graham technique and the Graham work are all from the woman’s point of view. The woman is at the epicenter. There didn’t seem to be any reason for me to go, because I wasn’t going to be the studly, half-naked man. She was a misandrist, in a way. I was just obsessed with this character and with this persona. The extreme beauty of this oracular, high priestess speaking about the communication of dance and what it means to be a woman and these universal themes of love and revenge and lust and hate and the poetry of her words, is what I really fell in love with.
She’s the quintessential diva. She’s like Maria Callas to opera, like Betty Davis to film, Coco Chanel or Diana Vreeland to fashion. Everyone else just pales in comparison and comes second, or followed her. And also, I was drawn in by this ennui and sadness about her, because she had a kind of Gloria Swanson, clinging-to-youth vitality and beauty and physical power and prowess, even at 96, when she died. She went on a 26-city Asian tour, came back and died a month later. She was turning it out until the very end.
I had my own theater, called Mother. A beautiful, miniature theater with, like, a ten-by-seven-foot stage, red velvet curtains, golden gargoyles and 75 small, golden chairs. I knew that I had stumbled upon, or had been led by her, to let her speak again and dance again, at the peak of her power. Or maybe just at the end of the peak of her power, in this context.
What we’re going to do at the Chicago Dancing Festival reflects the [Martha @ Mother] variety-show format. She was a big star in vaudeville, which she writes about, how her act was followed by a bird act, or once, she went on and did a dance after an act of miniature horses. It must’ve been so great.
I had no idea.
A study of Graham is a study of 20th-century art. Her career started in the ’20s and went until the ’90s. Halston was designing for her, said she was the greatest fashion designer ever.