Raised in Atlantic City and Philadelphia by Aliza and Isidore Greenblatt, Marjorie Greenblatt Mazia joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1936. She would appear in eight works from 1936 to 1945, including 1938’s American Document and the premiere of Appalachian Spring in 1944. She went on to found the Marjorie Mazia School of Dance in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Marjorie and Woody Guthrie met in March 1942 as performers in Graham Company member Sophie Maslow’s Folksay, a piece that combined modern dance, folk music, and Carl Sandburg’s poetry. Woody was inspired by Marjorie’s artistic passion and incorporated choreographic motifs into his own creations, such as these sketches of Graham dancers in technique class.
Marjorie Guthrie: One of the dancers in Martha Graham’s Company also said to me – you know who’s in town? Woody Guthrie – and she had choreographed a beautiful segment, you know, in dance to two of his Dust Bowl Ballads and she said, instead of using the record I’m going to ask Woody if he would do it in person, on the stage cause I think it would be so effective. Well, when I heard her say that, I said Sophie, I am going with you, to look for Woody – and I came to then what was known as Almanac House. There was a great big loft, on 6th Avenue down here in The Village, and I remember picturing in my mind’s eye what Woody was going to look like. You see, I hadn’t seen a picture of him, but I had pictured a very tall, thin man and sort of thinking of Oklahoma cowboy, I could see the boots and the high hat and the kerchief, you know, and I walked in and way in the distance I see this little tiny guy with what I thought when he turned around was kind of a high forehead and beady-eyes and he looked as if he were asking a question, that was the look on his face, and he didn’t look anything like what I had imagined, but it was truly love at first sight…so that’s how we met.
Steve Earle: In these early years together, Woody would often meet Marjorie after dance class at the Graham School and while waiting for class to end, even sketched some of the Graham technique in his notebook. Woody’s Dust Bowl Ballads became the score of the dance piece “Folksay” and he was invited to perform live with the dancers.
Woody Guthrie: It’s like if you were singing, a bunch of people come over to your house on…tonight, and you have a little beer and pretzels and, uh, get singing around a piano and talking and then seventeen months later somebody walks into your house and says, “Hey, I want to make up a dance. There’s fifteen of my friends. We’re all going to make up a dance. We want you to sing that song exactly like you did on that night seventeen months ago here with the beer and pretzels.” Now it’s got to be count for count, breath for breath, word for word, move for move, eye blink for eye blink, and not just one extra snap or pause or hold or delay or too fast or too slow, you’ve got to do it all over again. And not only that, but when a bunch of dancers get to dancing, if you make a missed beat or a missed count on your guitar, they bump into each other…. Man, there’s all kinds of collisions happening. It’s like on a wet slippery day out here on the skyway, somebody throws on her brakes, everybody has a wreck.