Ballet for Martha

Making Appalachian Spring
Gr 2—6—If Martha Graham's choreography for "Appalachian Spring" was a "valentine" to the world, as critics wrote in 1944, then this book is a love letter in return. Simple, poetic prose tells the story of the creation of one of the world's most-loved ballets and compositions, and Floca's graceful watercolor illustrations take admirers through every part of its development. Written in the present tense, the narrative has a sense of drama that carries readers along as if the events were happening in real time. Fascinating details about the collaboration among Graham, Copland, and Isamu Noguchi (set design) are well documented in the lengthy "curtain call," notes, and resources pages, which read like a fantastic set of liner notes. Floca varies the illustrations from vignettes to bird's-eye views to landscapes and expertly capture the fluid movements of the dancers. The page layouts are well planned to create the most movement and interest. The authors researched extensively but found a way to crystallize all of the information into a gem that is approachable for young readers. More than anything, this work emphasizes the value of collaboration and celebrates the work that Graham, Copland, and Noguchi did to bring together the performing and visual arts. Readers may be inspired to go to Russell Freedman's Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life (Clarion, 1998) and should be encouraged to check out one of Leonard Bernstein's definitive recordings of "Appalachian Spring" and a video of the ballet.—Cheri Dobbs, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI
After choreographer Martha Graham asked composer Aaron Copland and sculptor/set designer Isamu Noguchi to collaborate with her on a new ballet, the iconic Appalachian Spring was born. Using spare, concise sentences, the authors echo Graham's approach to dance: nothing's wasted, and in such exactness lies beauty. Floca's fluid, energetic line and watercolor illustrations also reflect the plain boldness of Graham's choreography. Websites. Bib.
A behind-the-scenes look at the artists’ processes as they work in their respective fields of dance, music, and design. As Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan provide background about Martha Graham’s style of dancing, they also introduce readers to the story of Appalachian Spring. Brian Floca’s expressive watercolor illustrations bring the artists’ work and the performance of the ballet to life. Biographical information included in the back matter explains the three artists’ different experiences of being U.S. citizens. It seems especially fitting that they came together to produce the celebrated ballet that Graham intended as “a legend of American living.”

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