Martha Graham's ballet 'Errand into the Maze'

Premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City on February 28, 1947, Martha Graham composed a ballet names Errand into the Maze. Errand into the Maze was based off a poem written by Ben Belitt and retells a story from the perspective of Ariadne, who passes through the maze of the unknown facing her fear and conquering the Minotaur that was half-man and half bull.

The dance was choreographed as a duet for Martha Graham and her good friend Mark Ryder. Errand into the Maze is considered a ballet. Though Marth Grahm designed the costumes Isamu Noguchi created the set. Isamu Noguchi was very cleaver when creating her set, the set was round shaped, bird like shaped, included rope and was v-shaped. The V-shaped represented the structure of a women's pelvis which tied the body in relation to earth. Ballets such as The Rite of Spring incorporated the Earth and body as well which shows their cultural relation. But to contrast the two pieces the Rite of Spring was more of an primitive kind of dancing and irregular rhythms (Igor). Additionally, the rope was used to mimic the winding maze Ariadne walked through. Also, the music was created by Gian-Carlo Menotti. The music was very uncanny to represent Ariadne's fear while walking through the maze with the creature. This allowed the audience to become one with the protagonist and feel the emotions she felt which allowed the viewers and the character to form a connection. But, throughout the ballet the music changed; some moments of the ballet the music was louder and more intense to represent how Ariadne fear grows throughout her walk in the maze. As the music changed the movements changed, by doing so it used vivid expressive body language to express the idea of fear. The music overall helped set the pace of movements throughout the performance.

Ariadne the protagonist throughout the dance was facing her fears and defeating the beast that once haunted her. Though she didn’t overcome her fear and overthrow the beast, it took her three times and she finally did. During her trials of overcoming the Minotaur in the performance she begins to throw up her arms while dancing. This gave the audiences a vivid image of her gestures of resistance due to fear. The scene in the performance when she overthrows the creature was an eruption of a wild dance. This wonderful scene in the dance as well as the events that led up to her conquering her fears ties into the recurring theme of overcoming one's fears. Because she did not overcome her fear and defeat the beast the first or second time this added more suspense, this showcased the theme as well by reminding the audience that you should never give up when overcoming something because is she would've stopped the second time around she would've never known that if she would've never given up she would be successful. She then begins to tower over the beast, dances with aggression as she wrestles him until he collapses onto the ground and he is defeated.


  • Igor Stravinsky 'The Rite of Spring' - Malcolm Hayes 2003, printed in programme for BBC Promenade Concert 16 August 2004           
07 July 2022
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