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Interview with Mark Ryder, 1979

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Interview with Mark Ryder, 1979
Ryder, Mark, 1921-2006 (Interviewee)
Bohen, Tullia (Interviewer)

Dance Oral History Project

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1979-04-14
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZTO 5-945
Frankel, Emily
Hawkins, Erick
Graham, Martha
Ryder, Mark, 1921-2006
Graham, Martha -- Letter to the world
Graham, Martha -- Night journey
Graham, Martha -- Diversion of angels
Martha Graham Dance Company
Dark meadow (Choreographic work : Graham)
Haunted moments (Choreographic work : Frankel and Ryder)
Oral histories
Content: For transcript of interview see *MGZMT 5-945.
Venue: Interview with Mark Ryder conducted by Tullia Bohen on April 14, 1979, in Glenwood, Maryland.
Content: Sound quality is good.
Funding: The processing and cataloging of this recording was made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The support of the National Endowment for the Arts is also gratefully acknowledged.
Content: Title supplied by cataloger.
Content: Recorded for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division Oral History Project.
Physical Description
Audiotape reel
Extent: 1 audiotape reel (approximately 2 hours and 36 minutes) : analog, half-track, 1.875 ips, polyester ; 5 in.
Streaming audio file 1 (approximately 52 minutes). Mark Ryder speaks with Tullia Bohen about his first dance lessons, with Blanche Talmud, and performances, at the Neighborhood Playhouse (in New York, N.Y.); the eclectic nature of the techniques taught and seen at the Neighborhood Playhouse including for example, Martha Graham's The rite of spring; studying ballet when he was a teenager; taking class with Martha Graham and being invited to dance with her company [the Martha Graham Dance Company; then known as the Martha Graham Group] in her work Letter to the world; learning Graham technique including his conception of the contraction; his childhood and family background including his parents' involvement with left-wing causes; how he came to take classes at the Neighborhood Playhouse; Charles Weidman, Doris Humphrey and some of their works including Humphrey's Parade; his training and experience prior to dancing in the Martha Graham Dance Company; performing in Letter to the world; Erick Hawkins, including reasons he was disliked by (most of) the dancers and how this affected the Company; the large physical stature typical of the men and women in the Company at that time (before World War II); Sophie Maslow including her work Folksay; his thoughts on abstract dance; reminisces about performing in Graham's Punch and the Judy; returning from military service in World War II to find dancers of smaller physical stature, for example Yuriko, in the Company; himself as a dancer [ends abruptly but continues directly on streaming audio file 2]. Streaming audio file 2 (approximately 42 minutes). Mark Ryder speaks with Tullia Bohen about himself as a dancer; working with Martha Graham on his role as the Seer in her work Night journey; Graham's use of dancers' abilities and personalities (including her own) in her work; Graham's work Dark meadow; being cast for Graham's Errand into the maze; Graham's reluctance to allow anyone to witness rehearsals; Graham's working on costumes as a way to dispel her anxiety before a performance including an anecdote about his costume for NIght journey; his costume (as the Minotaur) for Errand into the maze including the bull's head designed by [Isamu] Noguchi; more on how Graham worked with her dancers when choreographing; his taking on the role of the Preacher in Graham's Appalachian spring after Merce Cunningham's departure,including why he found the role difficult; performing in Letter to the world; Graham's work Diversion of angels including an anecdote about how a certain gesture may have come to be part of the choreography; how he characterizes this work as compared to earlier and later works. Streaming audio file 3 (approximately 52 minutes). Mark Ryder speaks with Tullia Bohen about why he thinks that Martha Graham's works should not be revived; Merce Cunningham as a dancer and as a choreographer; Emily Frankel, his future wife and professional partner, including how they first met; their founding of the Dance Drama Duo including some of their earliest works; similarities and differences of his choreographic style and aesthetic sense with that of Graham's; distinguishing between the obscure and the profound in choreography; his and Frankel's work Haunted moments; other works they created during this period; his reasons for leaving Graham's company; more on his and Frankel's company [as of 1953, the Dance Drama Company] and its diverse repertory including ballet; his personal and professional split with Frankel; his one-year hiatus from dancing after his divorce (and remarriage to Ann Dumaresq); teaching and his return to dancing [ends abruptly but continues directly on streaming audio file 4]. Streaming audio file 4 (approximately 10 minutes). Mark Ryder speaks with Tullia Bohen about his career after his split with Emily Frankel [gap]; the inflexible way in which Graham technique is currently taught at the Graham studio [Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance] and the problems with this approach; his impressions of current performances by the Company and of Graham's new work, O thou desire [O thou desire who art about to sing]; [ends abruptly].
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 81359327
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b12118847
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 9835a370-033a-0138-e6fe-3747a56ff9e8
Rights Statement
The New York Public Library holds or manages the copyright(s) in this item. If you need information about reusing this item, please go to:

Item timeline of events

  • 1921: Creator Born
  • 1979: Created
  • 2006: Creator Died
  • 2020: Digitized
  • 2022: Found by you!
  • 2023

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Mark Ryder, 1979" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1979.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Mark Ryder, 1979" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed August 11, 2022.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (1979). Interview with Mark Ryder, 1979 Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Mark Ryder, 1979, (1979)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=August 11, 2022 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Mark Ryder, 1979