Monday, January 3, 2011
Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille
de Mille precedes the Graham quotation with: "The greatest thing she ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma! when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha. I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft's restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.
According to Agnes de Mille: text "I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. ... I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be." Martha said to me, very quietly,
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive.
de Mille, A. (1991). Martha: The life and work of Martha Graham. New York, NY: Random House.