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50 Martha Graham Quotes About Dance, Life, and Art

These Martha Graham quotes from the prolific dancer connect the dots between art, dance, life, and emotion.

Martha Graham was born in Pennslyvania in 1894 and would grow up to reshape the dynamic of the dance industry. In her lifetime, Graham choreographed 181 dances. She believed that dance should reflect human emotion and thus she created techniques that would forever alter the way dancers moved.

Graham’s ballets were inspired by a variety of sources. She included elements of Native American ceremonies and created movement inspired by artwork from the American Frontier and from Greek mythology. Graham favored sharp, angular movement as she felt this type of dance brought out more emotion.

We hope you enjoy these quotes from one of the most iconic dancers of the 20th century.

Don’t forget to also check out these dance quotes to get your body moving.

Martha Graham quotes about dance

1. “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” — Martha Graham

2. “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.” — Martha Graham

3. “All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” — Martha Graham

4. “I feel that the essence of dance is the expression of man – the landscape of his soul.” — Martha Graham

5. “Dancers are the messengers of the gods.” — Martha Graham

6. “Dance is a song of the body. Either of joy or pain.” — Martha Graham

7. “Think of the magic of the foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.” — Martha Graham

8. “I am a dancer. I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living…” — Martha Graham

9. “Dancing is just discovery, discovery, discovery.” — Martha Graham

10. “Nothing is more revealing than movement.” — Martha Graham

11. “The body never lies.” — Martha Graham

12. “We look at the dance to impart the sensation of living in an affirmation of life, to energize the spectator into keener awareness of the vigor, the mystery, the humor, the variety, and the wonder of life. This is the function of the American dance.” — Martha Graham

Martha Graham quotes about performance

13. “Theater is a verb before it is a noun, an act before it is a place.” — Martha Graham

14. “I hope that every dance I do reveals something of myself or some wonderful thing a human can be.” — Martha Graham

15. “Movement never lies. It is a barometer telling the state of the soul’s weather to all who can read it.” — Martha Graham

16. “Dance is communication, and so the great challenge is to speak clearly, beautifully and with inevitability.” — Martha Graham

17. “The function of the body and the awareness of the body results in dance and you become a dancer, not just a human being.” — Martha Graham

18. “The body is your instrument in dance, but your art is outside that creature, the body.” — Martha Graham

19. “The body says what words cannot.” — Martha Graham

20. “All things I do are in every woman. Every woman is Medea. Every woman is Jocasta. There comes a time when a woman is a mother to her husband. Clytemnestra is every woman when she kills.” — Martha Graham

21. “I did not want to be a tree, a flower, or a wave. In a dancer’s body, we as audience must see ourselves, not the imitated behavior of everyday actions, not the phenomenon of nature, not exotic creatures from another planet, but something of a miracle.” — Martha Graham

Martha Graham quotes about determination

22. “Some men have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to when all they need is one reason why they can.” — Martha Graham

23. “Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire.” — Martha Graham

24. “Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” — Martha Graham

25. “There is a fatigue so great that the body cries, even in its sleep. There are times of complete frustration; there are daily small deaths.” — Martha Graham

Martha Graham quotes about passion

26. “Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.” — Martha Graham

27. “Great dancers are great because of their passion.” — Martha Graham

28. “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” — Martha Graham

29. “People have asked me why I chose to be a dancer. I did not choose. I was chosen to be a dancer, and with that, you live all your life.” — Martha Graham

30. “Every dance is a kind of fever chart, a graph of the heart.” — Marth Graham

Motivational Martha Graham quotes

31. “What people in the world think of you is really none of your business.” — Martha Graham

32. “You are unique, and if that is not fulfilled, then something has been lost.” — Martha Graham

33. “There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.” — Martha Graham

34. “You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open… No artist is pleased.” — Martha Graham

35. “First we have to believe, and then we believe.” — Martha Graham

36. “Looking at the past is like lolling in a rocking chair. It is so relaxing and you can rock back and forth on the porch, and never go forward.” — Martha Graham

37. “To me, a building – if it’s beautiful – is the love of one man, he’s made it out of his love for space, materials, things like that.” — Martha Graham

38. “The unique must be fulfilled.” — Martha Graham

39. “The body is a sacred garment. It’s your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor.” — Martha Graham

40. “It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” — Martha Graham

41. “The only sin is mediocrity.” — Martha Graham

More Martha Graham quotes

42. “‘Age’ is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.” — Martha Graham

43.  “No artist is ahead of his time. He is the time. It is just that others are behind the time.” — Martha Graham

44. “Our arms start from the back because they were once wings.” — Martha Graham

45. “At the time I started in ballet they were dancing ‘The Spirit of Champagne’ on pointe, in Paris. I thought, ‘I don’t want to dance the spirit of champagne, I want to drink it!’” — Martha Graham

46. “Those who enter to buy, support me. Those who come to flatter, please me. Those who complain, teach me how I may please others so that more will come. Only those hurt me who are displeased but do not complain.” — Martha Graham

47. “You see when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.” — Martha Graham

48. “America does not concern itself now with Impressionism. We own no involved philosophy. The psyche of the land is to be found in its movement. It is to be felt as a dramatic force of energy and vitality. We move; we do not standstill. We have not yet arrived at the stock-taking stage.” — Martha Graham

49. “Who has not found the Heaven below / Will fail of it above … His eagerness, his voracity, a blood memory, in the sense that he can extract more from his life than what he has really lived. He must have a will to explore unknown feelings and dare to feel them. This may seem terrifying, but it has to be done because there is no other option.” — Martha Graham

50. “Censorship is the height of vanity.” — Martha Graham

What passion puts a fire under your soul?

If you are passionate about something, never let that flame disappear. Let the fire consume you and motivate you so that you live out your passion every day.

Martha Graham was passionate about dance. She saw dance in a unique way and brought her vision out onto the stage. It was her passion and her vision that made her such an iconic part of dance history.

Martha Graham opened a dance company in 1926 where she carried out the visions that danced through her mind. The dance company is still around today and is still creating beautiful performances in her memory.

Did you enjoy these Martha Graham quotes and sayings? Which quote was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

Sckylar Gibby-Brown
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