Week 17 - 2016

We count a dancer

© Arnold Newman, Martha Graham, New York City, 1961. Preus museum's collection.

We count a dancer

29 April is International Dance Day, which is celebrated to give attention to all forms of the art of dance across political, cultural, and ethnic boundaries. Here in Norway we note and celebrate the day around the entire country with dance from varied genres and on all levels.


Dancer Martha Graham (1894-1991) has been said to have as much importance for modern dance as Picasso for modern painting and Igor Stravinsky for music. She was inspired by fundamental, expressive human movements and enriched the dance with electric, raw, sharp, and direct physical motion—a modern form of dance that distinguished itself from the dominant style of the time.


Standing there in a black cape she looks directly at us like a firm pyramid solidly grounded to the floor's black surface as if she is being charged with energy. The barre along the wall arrows through her. It is almost as if we can imagine ourselves shoving her crosswise on an abacus we're using to count. We are counting a dancer. She is ready to move and to move us.


Arnold Newman (1918-2006) wanted his portraits to show the special relationship the person had with her or his world via symbolism and physical surroundings. The world of a life was portrayed in the image. In Newman's portrait of Graham it is as if he is conscious of the frozen character of photography and the moving rush of the dance through time. Graham stands still but gives the feeling that at any moment she is ready to burst into dance. The frame of the image creates boundaries, but the conciseness of the symbolism points to a rich life and body of work.


On 3 May the exhibition "Arnold Newman" opened on the Wall of Fame. Here you can see this picture and several of his other portraits.