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This Spring's Dance Insider coverage of Martha Graham is also sponsored by Nancy Reynolds, Doug Frank, Nora Ambrosio and Slippery Rock University, Karen Bradley, Barry Fischer and Frostburg State University, the Arts Paper, Scott Killian, Sharon Montella and Pine Manor College, Toba Singer, Esaias Johnson, Alice Helpern, and several anonymous donors. And by Karen Potter, Kelly Holt, and by the MFA students, faculty and Friends of Dance at Case Western Reserve University, where dancers receive professional level training in a conservatory setting, and who are are proud to support the Dance Insider's coverage of the Martha Graham Dance Company. To find out about becoming a DI sponsor, e-mail paul@danceinsider.com.

Flash Profile, 6-21: Stuart Hodes
Pillar of the Graham School

By Nicole Pope
Copyright 2002 Nicole Pope

NEW YORK -- Stuart Hodes's Top Three Most Influential Women in My Life: "My mother, my violin teacher and Martha Graham." How did Graham make it onto such a prestigious list? Hodes says it had to do with "the enormous potential she saw in everything," including him.

In his lifetime, Hodes has spent time performing on Broadway in shows including "The King and I," "Paint Your Wagon," "Once Upon a Mattress," and "First Impressions." He also worked on set with Esther Williams, a gig that paid $2,500 -- a fortune compared to the $250 he once received to perform in "Night Journey." It is obviously not a love of money that attracted Hodes to Martha Graham's work; but rather, a deep love of her movement. "In her choreography colors, music, emotions, and feelings can be violent." The hand-shake exchanged between The Husband and The Preacher in "Appalachian Spring" is not friendly, he explains. "They dislike each other." The violence, though subtle, is there.

Violence, or at least volatility, always lurked within Graham, Hodes says. "I felt like an inquiring mind in front of a volcano when I stood next to Martha," he recalls. Sharing dinner with her one evening, Hodes clumsily knocked over a glass of ice water, which quickly made its way over to Graham's end of the table. "She looked at me and asked, 'Stuart, are you trying to destroy me?'" This is a question the Wicked Witch of the West might have asked Dorothy before becoming drenched in water. For Dorothy, the answer would have been "Yes," but there is no question that Hodes would never attempt to extinguish any flame that Graham lit. In fact, in his seventies, he continues to carry the Graham torch through the classes he teaches at the Graham School and through the input he offered earlier this year as the company was preparing for its May 9 return to the stage at City Center. Because he heard Graham's voice day after day, heard her speak about the emotion involved in one single gesture, and because he watched her demonstrate, body and soul, what she wanted from him, Hodes has everything to share with this generation of dancers interested in Graham Technique.

Though demonstrating is less of a possibility these days for Hodes, what he has to say to dancers could be of even more value. In "Night Journey," he describes the dramatic entrance of Tiresias, planting his staff powerfully into the floor with each step that takes him onto the stage. Hodes recalls a movement that somehow has been lost as the role has been passed down to new dancer: "He stands at the corner of the stage and trembles uncontrollably, as if he has just been overcome by the information he must give to Clytemnestra." The tremble lasts only a short few seconds, but the amount of information carried in that gesture is vital to Tiresias's character, and if not for Hodes's memory, could have been lost forever.

Stuart Hodes is tall. He'll read just about any novel you hand him. He rides a bike around the city, to and from work. He's writing a book and he exudes the kind of passion that he expects from each of his students. Last month, I decided to be daring by participating in one of his classes. In a simple across-the-floor exercise, Hodes asked us to walk. In this everyday action, he demanded an emotional intent that, quite honestly, I am not used to being asked for in technique class these days. Back and forth we went, but I felt too sheepish and embarrassed to make the connection he was asking of us; the connection that Graham once asked of him: "Connect your physical being to a dramatic thought." I realized, "I can't do this in one class."

Stuart Hodes has hawk-like features; small, direct eyes, a furrowed brow and an arching nose. In his experienced face, I recognized The Husband from the 1958 film version of "Appalachian Spring," standing at the fence planning next year's crops. "Wheat here, corn there . . ." I wonder, in light of recent events, what Hodes and other Graham veterans are planning to do with the torch they hold as they look out to the horizon at what may come. Who will they pass it on to? What will they do if the choice to pass it on is no longer a choice? Will they extinguish it quietly . . .? I don't think so. "Are you trying to destroy me?" I can think of someone better suited to receive this question from Graham, but it's not so funny this time.

Editor's Note: Stuart Hodes, Dean of Students of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, teaches at the school's Summer Intensive which commences July 8. For more information, please click here. To read about other summer school programs as well, please click here.

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