Photograph of Peggy Lyman Hayes in Martha Graham's Lamentation (1930).
"This Martha Swope photograph captures perfectly both the tension and the poignancy Martha Graham built into her iconic solo, “Lamentation.” Intended as an expression of the pain of, and hope of relief from, grief the dancer’s effortful stretching against the taut fabric creates a very real kinetic struggle to escape ones own emotional skin. I often wondered if the audience had any idea how physically hard and emotionally draining the solo was to perform. In order to communicate the exhaustion of grief, Martha insisted that we sit on the very edge of the bench with our hips barely touching, a tremendous strain on the legs which hopefully translated to the audience’s experience of the struggle. Each stretching of the fabric required energy from the feet pressing deeply into the floor coursing through the legs forcing the fabric open at the knees, the body twisting, into the arms spreading and reaching, shoulders, neck and head resisting the pressure of the stretching. The physical effort to keep the tautness of the fabric was essential for keeping the fabric from slipping off of the head--every “Lamentation” dancer’s nightmare! The quiet, private power of a woman’s sadness is universal. It was always an honor to bring Martha’s breathing sculpture to life." – Peggy Lyman Hayes
Photograph by Martha Swope