Maple Leaf Essay

Maple Leaf Rag is a storyless Martha Graham ballet set to ragtime compositions by Scott Joplin. The work premiered on October 2, 1990 at New York City Center with costumes by Calvin Klein and lighting by David Finley.[1] Chris Landriau arranged the music and played piano at the debut. The dance is a jubilant self-parody and an homage, of sorts, to Graham's mentor and musical director, Louis Horst, who would play the rag for her whenever she fell into a creative slump.[2] Graham was 96 when she created Maple Leaf Rag; it is her last completed dance. In 1991, she began another work, The Eyes of the Goddess, but it was unfinished at the time of her death.[3]


The curtain rises to reveal a grand piano at the rear of a darkened stage. The only other set element is a joggling board, a long springy plank set on two upright supports with rocker feet.[2] Graham had discovered the rocking chair-bench hybrid when the Martha Graham Dance Company appeared at Spoleto USA in Charleston.[4]

The musician enters first and sits at the piano, repeatedly striking a foreboding chord. The dancers come in, initially a couple executing an overhead lift, then a circle of dancers, leaping and landing dramatically to the pounding of the piano. A female ensemble member breaks away from the group to perform a bouncing dance on the joggling board. The audience then hears Graham's recorded voice, "Oh Louis, play me the Maple Leaf Rag!"[5]

As Joplin's music starts, the stage lights come up. Six couples dance joyfully around the board on which the lone female now reclines. The pianist briefly interrupts the rag to reprise the ominous beat as a somber white-gowned, chignoned figure crosses the stage in a series of swirling turns. As she exits, the ensemble returns to joyous movement.[6]

The ballet is approximately 15 minutes in length. Three Scott Joplin rags provide the work's structure: Maple Leaf Rag (1899) opens the dance, followed by the waltzBethena (1905) and Elite Syncopations (1902); a reprise of Maple Leaf Rag concludes the dance.[7]

The work is brimming with parodies of Graham's signature moves and send-ups of her best-known dances. Her twirling white-clad surrogate crosses the stage intermittently, accompanied each time by ill-boding percussive piano. Graham also pokes fun at the overwrought sexuality of some her repertory. Just before darkness hides the remaining couple on stage, he tears off her skirt.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Maple Leaf Rag was Graham's 180th choreographic work.[8] Even so, reviewers noted, she still had the capacity to surprise and delight. "The new piece is an entertaining poke by a genius at her own cliches, tersely and wittily stated," wrote The New York Times' Anna Kisselgoff.[2]

A critic seeing a much later performance said, "While she worked out her obsessions onstage, Graham also had a keen but oft-overlooked sense of humor. Set to several Scott Joplin rags that were still in vogue during her teenage years, Maple Leaf Rag is a sly and playful dance that effectively employs Graham's expressive vocabulary while winking at her own cliches."[9]

Those most familiar with the troupe's repertory better understood the inside jokes. A takeoff on the "dart" step from Errand into the Maze was recognized by one reviewer.[10] Another noticed Night Journey's "hiccupping" Furies.[2] The dance critic for San Francisco Classical Voice identified "the dancers' foot-to-foot from Acrobats of God, the grabs and grimaces from Clytemnestra, the ecstatic clapping of the acolytes in Appalachian Spring, and...the exalted kick turns from the white-clad Graham solo Letter to the World, ending in a sobering yet giggle-worthy frozen pose."[11]

Performance history[edit]

An audience favorite since the first performance, Maple Leaf Rag is a staple of the Graham company repertoire.[12] It is also included in Three Dances by Martha Graham, a TV program produced by WNET for PBS. Terese Capucilli appears as the Graham surrogate. Kathleen Turner provides the narration.[13]


External links[edit]

  1. ^"Maple Leaf Rag". Hyper Martha. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  2. ^ abcdeKisselgoff, Anna (October 4, 1990). "Review/Dance; Graham Meets Scott Joplin With a Bounce". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  3. ^Kisselgoff, Anna (October 10, 1991). "Review/Dance; 'Eyes of the Goddess,' a Fragment Left by Graham". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  4. ^Becker, Ida (October 14, 2009). Charleston Icons: 50 Symbols of the Holy City. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 12. 
  5. ^"Ballet Maple Leaf Rag". YouTube. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  6. ^Wood, Darrell. "Martha Graham Dance Company's Program A at the New York City Center, 2014…". NYC Dance Stuff. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  7. ^Laruccia, Natalie. "Maple Leaf Rag - a photo essay". Archived from the original on 23 August 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  8. ^Voorhees, John (January 7, 1993). "'Maple Leaf Rag' Comes To Life In `Dance In America'". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  9. ^Gilbert, Andrew (January 27, 2014). "Martha Graham Company returns to Berkeley with 'Appalachian Spring' on tap". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  10. ^Bannerman, Henrietta. "Dancing for laughs: Martha Graham and comedy". Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  11. ^Berman, Janice (January 31, 2014). "All Hail Martha Graham: A Company Alive and Well". San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  12. ^"Martha Graham Dance Company Repertory". Martha Graham Dance Company. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  13. ^Goldner, Nancy (December 28, 1992). "Trio Of Dances By Martha Graham To Air On PBS". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Maples belong to a genus of trees which is commonly referred to as Acer. Maples are grouped into a family of their own which is referred to as the Aceraceae. The maple tree has about 125 species and most of them are native to Asia although there are a number of species that occur in North America, Northern Africa and Europe (Phillips, & Burdekin, 1992.) The Species type of this tree is Acer pseudoplatanus, the word Acer is comes from a Latin word which means sharp, this is because of the sharp points of the leaves of a maple tree. The maple tree grows to a height of between 10 and 45 meters although some maple trees appear as shrubs which are less than 10 meters tall and have small trunks that originate at the ground level. Most species of maple trees shed their leaves during the dry season but there are species found in the Mediterranean and Asia regions that remain green throughout their growing season. When young maple trees are shade-tolerant and they have a dense and fibrous root system. The leaves of the maple tree are lobed and palmate veined. The maple tree is easily identified by the opposite leaf arrangement. The leaves have between 3 and 9 veins each which then results to a lobe which is either central or apical (George, 2007.) The branches of the maple tree spread in a horizontal way and when it has space for growth it acquires a head that is rounded. Young branches of the maple tree have got a smooth bark. The young leaves of the maple are downy with and they have a color that is blue-green. There are some species of maple tree that differ in that they have palmate compound, pinnate veined, un-lobed leaves or pinnate compound leaves. Some species of maple like Acer griseum, Acer triflorum and Acer mandshuricum have trifoliate leaves. Acer negundo leaves that are pinnately compounded and can be either trifoliate or may form an odd number of leaflets ranging between five and nine. There also some species like the Acer laevigatum that have simple leaves but pinnately veined.

The maple tree has regular flowers that have four or five sepals, four to ten stamens that are between 6-10mm long, pistil that has two styles, four to five petals that are 6-10mm long and a superior ovary that has two carpels. The wings of the carpels cause an elongation of the flowers and this makes it easier to identify the flowers that are female. In most species the flowers of maples appear in the late winter or sometimes during the early spring (Huxley, 1992.) The flowers vary in color between; orange, green, yellow or red in color. The fruits of the maple are called samaras and they occur in pairs with each pair having one seed that is enclosed in a casing. The casing is then attached to a flattened wing that has got a papery material to enable its dispersal because it is dispersed by wind. Seed maturation takes place within a few weeks to six months after flowering and seed dispersal occurs immediately after the seeds have matured. One tree is estimated to release hundreds of seeds within one flowering season and the seeds vary depending on the species, they can either be big and yellow with thick seed pods or they can be green and small. The green seeds are in pairs and at times they are released with the stems still attached while the yellow seeds are released individually and without the stems connected to them. The seeds may remain dormant for several years in the soil because they require stratification for them to germinate (Millicent, 1968.)

The range of the maple tree in the Northern America extends from Nova Scotia and Quebec, east to Tennessee and the Northern Georgia, Southern on the Missouri and western Minnesota. The maple tree is also common in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and in the great lakes states. Maples occur at an elevation range of between 1,600 and 5,500. Maple is grown on temperatures range of 50°F and 100°F, the rainfall requirements range from 20 to 50 inches of rainfall. The average growing season of maple is between 80 and 260 days. Maple can grow on a variety of soils but for there to be maximum growth of the trees the soils should be moist, well drained, deep soil and should have a fine texture. The PH of the soil should be between 3.7 and 7.3 (Maple.dnr).

I decided to choose the maple tree because of its many uses and it is also a prolific seed producer and the stands of maple are known to regenerate naturally. The products that are derived from maple trees are also common in house holds all over the country and the maple sugar and the syrup form a very considerable part of agricultural sector in the Northeast. The maple tree provides the owners with a rewarding hobby and at the same time an annual cash crop.

Maples are mostly planted by homeowners, municipalities and businesses as ornamental trees. Norway maple is popular for this purpose because it is resistant to cold while other types of maples are used as specimen trees. Maples are also used in the construction of percussion instruments to make drums and also most guitars have a maple top or in some cases maple veneers because maple is quite heavy. Acer palmatum also known as the Japanese maple is used for the art of bonsai because it responds very well to techniques that are aimed to reducing the number of leaves. During the autumn many maples have foliage that is quite bright and most countries have traditions that involve leaf watching for example Japan. In Canada and New England the spectacular fall colors of the red maple contribute largely to the seasonal landscape and it encourages a type of tourism called fall tourism which is a major contributor to the economy of the countries. Acer saccharum also known as sugar maple is used to produce sap which when boiled produces maple syrup or it is made to maple sugar which are known to stay for as long as 300 years. About 40 liters of sugar maple sap is used to make a liter of syrup. (Melanie, 2007) The seeds of the maple tree are also a source of food to some people who boil them to get rid of the bitter taste then drain all the water and boil them again to provide food. The sugar maple mostly found in the North American region provides very valuable timber which is used to make pool cue shafts and bowling alley lanes. Maple wood has a highly decorative grain that makes it useful in the decoration of wooden items. Due to the fact that maples flower before other plants in the early spring they act as a source for pollen grains which are important in the lives of the honeybees. The honey bees are then known to play a very important role in the pollination of plants later in the summer (David, 1999.)

The maple tree has highly been valued as a hardwood tree because of its hardness and it is quite resistant to shock. In the early days in the American history the wood was used to make a number of house hold items which included; cheese presses, scoops and apple grinders (Luzadis & . Gossett, 1996) The wood of the maple tree was also used as a fuel in the old days and sometimes it was converted to charcoal which was of very good quality. In France the young shoots which are normally tough and flexible are used as whips. The young shoots and the leaves were collected while green and dried to provide a feed to the cattle later in the winter. The sap that was tapped from the sugar maple was used to make wine, vinegar and beer in the old days. The bark of the maple tree was also used in the old days for treatment of diarrhea and it was also used to treat a swollen limb which is a condition that mainly is a result of chronic gonorrhea (Charlotte, 1989.)

Carbon storage in trees is one of the techniques that scientists are recommending as way of reducing the amount of carbon available in the atmosphere. The sugar maple species is known to store more carbon compared to the other species with an average of 11957.42grams of carbon while the red maple has 6456.54grams of carbon ( This is a good amount of carbon and therefore planting of maple trees should be encouraged to increase the amount of carbon that is held by the trees in their tissues or in the soil as root carbon thereby reducing the carbon in the atmosphere so as to minimize the greenhouse effect.

The maple tree is not known for attracting wildlife, but due to the fact that it is a source of shade, litter in streams and woody debris the tree has been found to have few rivals. Baltimore orioles prefer nesting in areas inhabited by maple trees. Eagles are also known for perching on the maple trees.


Charlotte Erichsen-Brown, (1989) Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants:

A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes, Courier

Dover Publications, 1989 (pp.82-83)

David M. Schwartz, Contributor; Dwight Kuhn (1999) Maple Tree, Creative Teaching

Pr, 1999 (pp.12-13)

Francis George Heath, (2007) Autumnal Leaves, 3rd Edition, K. Paul, Trench, and Co.,

(pp. 282)

Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan, (pp. 18-20)

Luzadis, V.A. and E.R. Gossett. 1996. Sugar Maple. Forest Trees of the Northeast, edited

by James P. Lassoie, Valerie A. Luzadis, and Deborah W. Grover. Cooperative Extension Bulletin 235. Cornell Media Services. (Pages 157-166)

Melanie S. Mitchell, (2004) From Maple Tree to Syrup, Lerner Publications,

2004, (pp. 8-10)

Millicent Ellis Selsam, (1968), Maple Tree, Illustrated by Jerome Wexler, Morrow, 1968,



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