By Brenna Kischuk

Fresh off the heels of their 90th birthday and poised for the 2016-2017 season, photographer Hibbard Nash captures the strength, grace, and movement of the Martha Graham Dance Company.

The Martha Graham Dance Company is one of the most prestigious and innovative members of the artistic community. Founded in 1926 by Graham herself, the Company is embarking on its 2016-2017 season titled Sacred/Profane, which explores ritual, mystery, and magical thinking.  

Martha Graham’s work transcended boundaries. Using the human body as both inspiration and instrument, Graham distilled movement down to its pure essence, and in doing so created the foundation for modern and contemporary dance. Her choreography drew from a practice of intentional, controlled movements that enhanced, rather than sacrificed, raw emotion. She was not afraid to incorporate controversial subjects like sexuality, religion, and sociopolitical themes into her work and while much of her repertoire occupies specific moments in history, it also remains timeless.  

In addition to pushing creative boundaries, the Company is committed to community engagement and dance education. Artistic Director Janet Eilber often begins performances with an introduction to Martha Graham and her work, offering insight into the artistic and historical context of a specific piece. They also contributed to the launch of Google’s Cultural Institute for the arts, where much of Graham’s work will be digitized and archived to reach a larger, more global audience.   

To deepen that reach even more, the Martha Graham Dance Company has seized opportunities arising from the recent popularity of dance-focused television shows. Increased avenues of engagement have made modern dance more accessible and audiences are seeking out dance in record numbers. When the Company enlisted So You Think You Can Dance choreographer Sonja Tayeh for their Lamentation Variations series, the website crashed. This popular and ongoing series invites a diverse set of contemporary choreographers to create a short piece under specific conditions, all inspired by Graham’s iconic 1930 solo work, Lamentation.   

The upcoming Sacred/Profane season will showcase a selection of Graham’s original work (Dark Meadow, Primitive Mysteries, and Clytemnestra, Act 2) alongside new work from choreographers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Annie-B Parson, the latter of whom used Graham’s Punch and Judy as inspiration to explore the dark side of the domestic. The season will also continue their global outreach and cultural exchange as they participate in the Havana International Ballet Festival, returning to Cuba for the first time since the 1940s.  

For more information on the Martha Graham Dance Company and their upcoming season, visit: www.marthagraham.org. Photography by Hibbard Nash.