Throughout the twentieth century, the art of dance went through significant changes. Although ballet is one of the most traditional forms of dance, exceptional choreographers helped to modernize and expand the definition of classical ballet. Two of these influential choreographers are Martha Graham and Agnes de Mille.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s Martha Graham (1894-1991) revolutionized the world of dance. Although she began dancing at the late age of twenty two, Graham quickly excelled at the art form and opened a dance company in 1929. Graham’s company differed from other ballet companies of the time by rejecting traditional methods of dance and by not wearing pointe shoes. Although Graham had her last performance at age seventy five, she continued to choreograph into her late seventies and early eighties. Because of Martha Graham’s unique style of choreography, she influenced the creation of a modern dance movement that is influential to this day.
One of Martha Graham’s most successful protégés and friends is Agnes de Mille (1905-1993). Unlike Graham, de Mille started dancing at age three and danced throughout her entire childhood and college career in California. After she completed college, De Mille went to New York where she began her professional career. Agnes de Mille spent most of her career between the United States and Europe, but in 1939 she joined the American Ballet Theatre in New York for their premier season. During her career, Agnes de Mille was an exceptional performer and choreographer, who choreographed both dance and Broadway productions. Because of her remarkable career, Agnes de Mille is remembered as one of America’s most influential choreographers.
The Martha Graham and Agnes de Mille stamps were designed by Ethel Kessler and were issued at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Victoria Theatre.