of Dr. Steven L. Berg

“The Primal Mind”

For the first time in several years, I am teaching Jamake Highwater’s The Primal Mind.  A primary focus is on credibility of sources. Highwater is a complex individual and I hope that the discussion we will have tomorrow will be a good one.  To prepare for it, I did read the entry about Highwater in Wikipedia as well as doing other research about him.  I knew what I would find, but it has been long enough since I looked at the material that I needed a refresher on the details.

I have also looked into some of the details about claims he made in The Primal Mind.  Some of my notes for class include:

  • Picasso’s African Influenced Period 1907-1909
  • Martha Graham: About the Dancer
    • Working primarily with Ted Shawn, Graham improved her technique and began dancing professionally. In “Xochital”, a dance made specifically for her by Shawn, Graham danced the role of an attacked Aztec maiden. It was the wildly emotional performance of this role that garnered her first critical acclaim.
  • Martha Graham Dances with the Future
    • ”Going to the Southwest made a great change in my life,” she says. ”I have never taken literally from Indian cultures, but the Indians taught me the absolute sacredness of the land, the use of the body as reiteration of the sound of the earth. I have deliberately not used ethnic dancing. It is much more fundamental than that.” Her 1984 staging of ”The Rite of Spring” was inspired by American Indian ceremonies. She kept Stravinsky’s idea of an orgiastic fertility ritual expressed through his pounding score, but threw out the visual references to pagan Russia. The choreography for ”Night Chant,” to be seen for the first time this month, also has Indian roots.


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