Dancing Queens

The American Ballet Theatre recently announced that Misty Copeland would be promoted to the role of principal dancer, the first African-American woman to be named to this esteemed role in the world of ballet. Let's learn about other women like Misty Copeland who have contributed significantly to the world of dance; many created new forms of dance or took dance in entirely new directions. Match the woman with her accomplishment.

____ 1. The "Mother of Modern Dance" introduced free-flowing costumes, bare feet and loose hair.
____ 2. She choreographed beloved musicals including Oklahoma!, Carousel and Brigadoon.
____ 3. Her new style of dance often included "contraction and release."
____ 4. One of the country's leading prima ballerinas from the 1940s through the 1960s, she broke barriers for Native American dancers.
____ 5. A dancer, choreographer, anthropologist and writer, she has been called "The Matriarch of Black Dance," who took dance in new directions by combining ballet and modern dance techniques.

A. Martha Graham
B. Katherine Dunham
C. Maria Tallchief
D. Agnes de Mille
E. Isadora Duncan

"The Mother of Modern Dance" Isadora Duncan moved away from ballet to found what is today called modern dance. Inspired by the ancient Greeks, she wore free-flowing clothing on stage, with bare feet and loose hair, she combined beauty, motion and form. Duncan developed her own choreography, not always to cheers from the public, and combined her dance with music and costumes that she created. Her tragic death in 1927 has not diminished the influence on dance that she has left for all of us.

Also often referred to as the "Mother of Modern Dance," Martha Graham redefined dance; in 1926 she opened the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. Using the expressive capacity of the body, she developed a whole new style of dance. Her most famous works include Frontier and Appalachian Spring. Many of her works reflect the principle of "contraction and release." The recipient of the Medal of Freedom, called by Time magazine "The Dancer of the Century," Martha Graham has been featured on a U.S. postage stamp and is being inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame on October 3, 2015.

A true renaissance woman, dancer, choreographer, anthropologist and writer, Katherine Dunham took dance in new directions by combining ballet and modern dance techniques. Unlike many dance professionals, Dunham received bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in anthropology before embarking on dance as a career. In the 1930s, she revolutionized American dance by choreographing black dance and rituals in a way that reached out to all audiences. Called the "Matriarch of Black Dance", Dunham's dance, formalized through the Dunham Technique, incorporated elements of ballet, Caribbean dance, African dance and African-American rituals. Her many awards included the Presidential Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille reached international fame with her ballet Rodeo created for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1942. As a result of that success, Rogers and Hammerstein asked her to choreograph the dances for their musical Oklahoma! Other musicals followed including such well-known and loved productions as Brigadoon and Carousel. Her advocacy for the arts was legendary and she spoke nationwide in support of government subsidies for the arts. After her recovery from a stroke in 1975, she wrote and composed additional dances. Agnes de Mille has been featured on a U.S. postage stamp.

The first major prima ballerina and the first Native American to hold that position, Maria Tallchief was one of the country's leading ballerinas from the 1940s through the 1960s. In 1947, she became the first prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet - a position that she held for 13 years. In 1947, she also became the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet. Later she served as artistic director for the Lyric Opera Ballet and the Chicago City Ballet. Tallchief, who broke many racial barriers during her career, received the Kennedy Honors and the National Medal of the Arts and she has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. All of these women associated with the field of dance are profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. We enjoy and benefit from their contributions to our culture and life.

(answers: 1-E, 2-D, 3-A, 4-C, 5-B)