julia foulkes

Celebration

Part of “This is Your Exhibition,” on view on 3rd Floor, 66 W. 12th St.. Image source: MoMa 

I grew up loving ballet, hating modern dance. Ballet was beauty and grace personified. Modern dance was so defiant and earnest. Wasn’t art about transcendence? A course in feminist philosophy in college, however, shifted my perspective. Now I saw ballet as frivolous and modern dance as ideas in action. At the center of the shift: forceful, demanding, jumping women. Celebration indeed.

It’s no surprise, then, that modern dance found a home at The New School for Social Research, where women lectured, filled classes, and held administrative roles. Here Martha Graham joined Doris Humphrey and Berenice Abbott in creating arts that were a different kind of social research. Not the kind of Thorstein Veblen’s that combined sociology and economics or Charles Beard’s that used the past to meet present concerns. Theirs was a kind of social research forged in collective experimentation, expression – and exuberance.

Featured Image: Martha Graham’s Celebration (Trio), by Barbara Morgan, 1937
Jane Dudley (left), Sophie Maslow (center), Frieda Flier (right)