Errand into the Maze: The Life and Works of Martha Graham (Hardcover)

Errand into the Maze: The Life and Works of Martha Graham By Deborah Jowitt Cover Image

Errand into the Maze: The Life and Works of Martha Graham (Hardcover)


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A New Yorker Best Book of the Year
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Month

“Deborah Jowitt chronicles a life passionately, artfully lived. An essential read about a true legend.” —Mikhail Baryshnikov

“A study in balance and grace.” The New York Times Book Review

From the legendary dance critic Deborah Jowitt, Errand into the Maze is the definitive biography of the visionary dancer and choreographer Martha Graham.

In the pantheon of American modernists, few figures loom larger than Martha Graham. One of the greatest choreographers ever to live, Graham pioneered a revolutionary dance technique—primal, dynamic, and rooted in the emotional life of the body—that upended traditional vocabulary and shaped generations of dancers and choreographers across the globe. Over her sweeping career, she founded what is now the oldest dance company in the country and produced nearly two hundred ballets, many of them masterpieces. And along the way, she engaged with the major debates, events, and ideas of the twentieth century, creating works that cut to the core of the human experience. Time magazine’s “Dancer of the Century,” and the first dancer and choreographer to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Graham was a visionary artistic force and an international cultural figure: hers was the iconic face of what came to be known as modern dance.

From the renowned dance writer and former longtime critic for The Village Voice Deborah Jowitt, Errand into the Maze draws on more than a decade of firsthand research to deliver the definitive portrait of this titan. Beginning with Graham’s childhood in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and her early studies at the Denishawn School; weaving in her offstage adventures, including her relationship with her dancer and muse Erick Hawkins; and chronicling her retirement from dancing at age seventy-five and her remarkably productive final years, this elegant, empathetic biography portrays the artist in all her passionate complexity. Most important, Jowitt places Graham’s creations at the heart of her story. Her works, brimming with raw intensity, are intimately linked with their creator, who played the heroine in almost all that she choreographed: Joan of Arc, Jocasta, Clytemnestra, and Judith, among others. In this volume, Graham is centerstage once more, and Jowitt casts a brilliant spotlight on her life and work.

Deborah Jowitt was the principal dance critic at The Village Voice for more than four decades, and her work has appeared in The New York Times and Dance Magazine, among other outlets. Her previous books include the biography Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance; the essay collection Time and the Dancing Image; and the critical works Dance Beat and The Dance in Mind. A former Guggenheim fellow, she has lectured and conducted workshops worldwide and taught in the Dance Department of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for forty years. Her recent writings can be found on her ArtsJournal blog, DanceBeat.

Product Details ISBN: 9780374280628
ISBN-10: 0374280622
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: January 30th, 2024
Pages: 480
Language: English

Errand into the Maze is . . . a study in balance and grace . . . Jowitt excels at describing, minutely, the work—restoring to readers the novelty of Graham’s now-ingrained concepts; her conviction and distinct style . . . A distinguished biography: its description rich, its author’s rigor unquestionable.”
—Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times Book Review

“Kaleidoscopic . . . An ‘errand’ into the mind of an artist . . . [and] also an errand into the craft of criticism, which Jowitt has practiced for well over half a century. It’s a brilliant capstone to Jowitt’s long career, and a tribute to the indomitable artist who inspired such sustained attention.”
—Elizabeth Zimmer, The Village Voice

“[An] astute biography . . . of the major figures of twentieth-century modernism . . . Jowitt focuses on how Graham approached her work—as a performer, a choreographer, and a teacher—with a philosophical rigor that expanded the expressive possibilities of movement and established a uniquely American idiom.”
The New Yorker

“Martha Graham is one of the most incredible artists that America has ever produced . . . Deborah Jowitt has [an] amazing sense on the page . . . of Martha Graham’s idiosyncratic and revolutionary ideas about movement . . . An amazing woman and an amazing life.”
—Bill Goldstein, Weekend Today in New York

“In [Errand into the Maze] the iconic dancer and choreographer is made new, and radical, again . . . A complete delight to read . . . The convergence of these two dance champions, Graham and Jowitt, is so special as to make this book nothing less than a fully realized gift.”
—Candice Thompson, Fjord Review

“As Deborah Jowitt describes [in Errand into the Maze] . . . [Graham] set worlds afire and built them anew from the ashes . . . Insightful.”
—Sarah L. Kaufman, Wall Street Journal

“Majestically reported . . . So many books about dancers shy away from writing about dance itself. Jowitt’s makes dance the subject . . . Errand into the Maze . . . illuminates Graham, and yields the kind of deep inquiry around which one could develop an entire course.”
—Mindy Aloff, Liber Review

“Gently magisterial and written with compelling fluency, Deborah Jowitt’s Errand into the Maze is piercingly insightful about both the creativity and personal life of the choreographer Martha Graham. Even if you watched Graham’s dances when she was living, you often meet her as if for the first time in these pages.”
—Alastair Macaulay, former chief dance critic at The New York Times

“A meticulous and serious chronicle of Graham’s oeuvre, described in almost forensic detail . . . Deborah Jowitt’s book is an honorable tribute to its subject and a valuable record of her history.”
—Rupert Christansen, The New Criterion

“[A] robust [portrait] . . . [of Graham’s] artistic innovations.”
—Juliana DeVaan, The Drift

“As Deborah Jowitt, a critic and former dancer, shows . . . Graham helped ‘dignify’ dance and elevate it from entertainment to art.”
The Economist

“[A] stunning portrait of the doyenne of modern dance.”
—Jerome Charyn, The American Scholar

“[A] portrait of a modern dance icon. Veteran dance critic [Deborah] Jowitt offers an authoritative, sensitive biography . . . Prodigious research informs an insightful [work].”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Deborah Jowitt lays the groundwork for [Graham’s] revolutionary techniques and methods that reconfigured modern American dance . . . [Errand into the Maze] brings to light Graham’s artistic vision as well as personal experiences that linked her life and work.”
Art in America

“Built on years of research, [Errand into the Maze] paints a well-informed portrait of the iconic artist, infused with anecdotes from Graham’s life and bolstered by Jowitt’s own expertise from years as a dancer, choreographer, and writer.”
—Sophie Bress, Dance Magazine

“A rigorous, authoritative biography of [a legend] . . . Fans will thrill to this comprehensive account of Graham’s boundary-breaking work.”
Publishers Weekly

“As a dancer and choreographer herself, and as a revered chronicler of the ethos of dance for over six decades, Deborah Jowitt takes us into the life and art of Martha Graham from an unmatchable perspective. Jowitt’s embodied understanding of Graham’s radical movement vocabulary, coupled with her deep and inimitable knowledge of the art form, offers us eye-opening access to the mysteries of the Graham legacy. This lyrical, readable biography brings to life the personal journey of a genius destined to revolutionize American art in the twentieth century and invites us inside the ephemeral masterpieces with which she changed the world.”
—Janet Eilber, artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company