HDSA Pays Tribute to Founder and Former MARTHA GRAHAM COMPANY Dancer Marjorie Guthrie
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of attending a tribute event for Marjorie Guthrie, the Huntington Disease Society of America (HDSA) founder. Marjorie's inspiration to help others stemmed from the fact that her husband, music icon Woody Guthrie, suffered from the disease until his death in 1967. 2017 marks 50 years of the Guthrie family legacy.
Marjorie Guthrie was well known to audiences as a dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company. In fact, she initially met Woody Guthrie when he played one of his compositions for a Graham company performance. One of the many highlights of the tribute event was a performance by the world-?renowned soloist Charlotte Landreau from the Martha Graham Dance Company. She delivered a beautiful performance of the "Bride Solo" from Appalachian Spring, a piece that has long been beloved by the dance community.
Woody Guthrie wrote the love song She Came Along to Me for his wife, Marjorie. And, before his passing, Marjorie promised Woody that she would dedicate her life to "do something" about this devastating brain disorder with no cure that also threatened their children.
Marjorie's crusade against HD forced her to retire from her career as a professional dancer. She continued her dedication to dance by being the first person to teach Graham technique outside of The Martha Graham School with Martha's personal approval. During that time, she founded the "Committee to Combat Huntington's Disease" that would later become the Huntington's Disease Society of America (HDSA). Marjorie's legacy lives on today at the Society.
"Reflecting on Marjorie's impact is as astounding as it is inspiring," said HDSA's President & CEO Louise Vetter. "At a time when communication was by mail and travel was limited, she armed herself with a typewriter and suitcase and the needs of countless families on her shoulders. Powerfully and personally, she paved the way for a new brand of patient advocacy and integrated families into medicine and science like never before. Marjorie created a community driven to create immediate change against a merciless foe."
The event was held just blocks from where Marjorie lived in New York City at the Triad Theatre, a charming and intimate venue on West 72nd Street. Woody and Marjorie's daughter, Nora, and the couple's granddaughter, Anna Canoni, delivered captivating presentations that included reflections of Woody and Marjorie's artistic legacies.
The event also included outstanding live music performances from Woody and Marjorie Guthrie's grandson, Cole Quest; Coyote & Crow; Jackson Pines; The Mammals; and Glee cast member Noah Guthrie. The performers all included one of Woody Guthrie's original songs in their sets. The night concluded with a memorable and moving rendition of "This Land Is Your Land" featuring all the performers.
About Huntington Disease
Huntington's disease is a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person's physical and mental abilities during their prime working years and has no cure. Every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the faulty gene that causes HD. Today, there are approximately 30,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at risk of inheriting the disease. The symptoms of HD are described as having ALS, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's - simultaneously.
About the Huntington's Disease Society of America
The Huntington's Disease Society of America is the premier nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of everyone affected by HD. From community services and education to advocacy and research, HDSA is the world's leader in providing help for today and, hope for tomorrow for people with HD and their families.
The event on October 25th also marked the release of the Woody Guthrie Tribute Concerts Box Set (Bear Family Records) that were the organization's first major fundraisers in 1968 and 1970. The concerts featured music legends such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and many more.
To learn more about Huntington's disease and the work of the Huntington's Disease Society of America, visit www.hdsa.org or call (800) 345-HDSA.
Photo Credit: Hoon Sohn