Theater arts professor receives NEH fellowship plus UC President's grant for book on dance legend Martha Graham

Mark Franko

UC Santa Cruz theater arts professor Mark Franko has received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to complete a book on legendary dancer, choreographer, and modern dance pioneer Martha Graham.

Tentatively titled "Martha Graham in the War Years: From Antifascism to Myth," the book will be published by Oxford University Press.

"The impact of Martha Graham's choreography on 20th-century art was comparable to that of Picasso, Stravinsky, T.S. Eliot, Einstein, Joyce, and Gandhi," Franko noted. "Yet, Graham's work has not been explored with the requisite critical, historical, and interpretive breadth."

"The book will address her work between 1938 and 1958, and will include the relation between modern dance and abstract expressionism in the visual arts, a subject that has never been addressed rigorously," he added. "It will analyze not only Graham's choreography, but also her writing--notes, libretti, and letters."

Franko's project will be supported by funds the NEH has designated for its special We The People initiative.

The goal of the NEH initiative is to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history "through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation's history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America."

The NEH grant amount is $25,000. Franko has additionally received a $40,000 UC President's Faculty Research Fellowship in the Humanities in support of his project.

A professor of dance and performance studies at UCSC, Franko is currently editor of Dance Research Journal--the preeminent international journal of dance studies published by Illinois University under the auspices of the Congress on Research in Dance.

He is also director of the Center for Visual and Performance Studies at UCSC, a program in the Arts Division that supports faculty and graduate student research across the Divisions of the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences through an annual speaker series and conferences.

Franko will serve as principal investigator on the center's "Pasolini Project," which was just awarded $15,000 by UCSC's Arts Research Institute for an international interdisciplinary conference in April of 2011.