Arnold Eagle, “Appalachian Spring,” 1945
Premiered in 1944 at the Library of Congress by the Martha Graham Dance Company, Aaron Copland‘s ballet Appalachian Spring tells the story of a newlywed couple building a farmhouse in 19th century Pennsylvania, and a revivalist preacher and his followers. Arnold Eagle‘s photograph perfectly captures the spirit of Copland’s music: the devoted, earnest newlyweds characterized in the music by the use of the Shaker song ‘Tis a Gift To Be Simple, juxtaposed with the jaunty, often agitated, rhythms of the fervent preacher and his flock. The sets—including the strange, striated boulder in Eagle’s picture—are the work of the Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi. A video of this performance is available on the Criterion Collection DVD Martha Graham: Dance on Film.