Martha Graham: Live in Your Time….Interview with James Grissom By Telephone, 1990….
It is perfectly acceptable to be imitative, particularly when you are young, when you are trying to understand the shape of a stage and how your body works on it. You use your history, whatever it is, and mine included so many people with whom I had studied or who had lived in my mind and heart for so long. People were correct to see traces of these people in my movements and in my choreography.
Art is memory. It is the excavation of so many memories we have had–of our mothers, our best and worst moments, of glorious experiences we have had with friends or films or music or dance or a lovely afternoon on a sloping, green hill. All of this enters us and, if we are artists, must be shared, handed over to others. This is why it is so important to know what came before you. It is also important to understand that things will follow you, and they may come along and make your work look pedestrian and silly. This is fine; this is progress. We have to work with what life presents to us, and we have to work as well as we can while we can. We have limitations as well as the occasional resources to overcome them.
This is why I feel it is best to exhaust yourself as much as possible: to expunge all the memories, all the bad habits, all the energy you have. And then begin again. There is always worth in the true artist, but there is also the reality of time and energy expiring, of the world moving on, of the art changing.
Live in your time. Work well in your time. And extend a hand to the past and keep your eyes on the future. There’s my advice.