Dorothy Bird (1912-1996) was a hand-picked member of Martha Graham’s dance troupe from 1930 to 1937. Following a decade-long career on Broadway-during which time she worked with Balanchine, Helen Tamiris, Jerome Robbins, and other major choreographers-she retired from the stage and taught dance to generations of students on Long Island.
In 1930 , seventeen-year-old Dorothy Bird from Victoria, British Columbia, was sent to study dance at the Cornish School in Seattle. There she was totally captivated by Martha Graham, who, at the end of summer, invited Dorothy to study with her at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Dorothy debuted with the Graham Group in 1931 in Primitive Mysteries, and was a company member and Graham’s demonstrator until 1937. Bird’s Eye View is a warm and human story that chronicles the early development of modern dance from a dancer’s perspective. Dorothy Bird was the only dancer of her time to work with all the major choreographers in concert and on Broadway: George Blanchine, Agnes de Mille, Doris Humphrey, Helen Tamiris, Anna Sokolow, Herbert Ross, Jose Limon, and Jerome Robbins, among others. She recounts fascinating theater experiences with such luminaries as Orson Welles, Gertrude Lawrence, Carol Channing, Danny Kaye, and Eliza Kazan. Dorothy shares her methods and experiences as a teacher for Blanchine and her twenty-five-year tenure at the Neighborhood Playhouse to highlight her philosophy of “giving back” to the next generation of performers. Of all the artists Dorothy Bird worked with, Martha Graham figures most strongly in the book and in her life. Her narrative about Graham’s early creative process is a valuable addition to the literature, as is the story of her personal involvement with Graham. The reader gains an intimate insight into the love and fear instilled by Graham in her followers.