Photo: Our Martha Graham century

Dancer Martha Graham, with her partner and husband, Erick Hawkins, in rehearsal in New York City in May, 1950. Photo: AP

Martha Graham was born on this day in 1894. Her long life spanned most of the 20th century, and she was one of its finest interpreters. Her influence on modern dance, and other arts, can hardly be overstated. Widely considered the mother of modern dance, Graham brought political protest, social issues, violence, sex and a degree of emotional intensity to dance that had not been seen in the U.S., perhaps anywhere. Although many of her most iconic pieces, such as “Night Journey,” “Appalachian Spring” and “Clytemnestra” were choreographed several generations ago, it is impossible to think of them as anything but modern. Her work was stark, strange, sculptural, offputting, lyrical, spasmodic. But, even now, emphatically new. Too new, maybe. Painfully so.

There she is in a dress that seems about to eat her alive. There she is as a high priestess. A goddess. A strange amalgam of bird and flower. She is often pictured with one leg pointing to the sky, while the most magnificently full skirt ever designed fans out about her in what seems the courtship display of a decidedly non-native bird.
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Photo: The high point

Debris floats by flooded homes in Memphis, Tenn., on Monday. The flooded Mississippi River reached its high point today, cresting at 47.85 feet, and is now expected to begin receding. The flood waters caused by heavy rain and snow melt have inundated low-lying towns and farmland. Photo: AP/Mark Humphrey

Photo: The 15-minute flight

Alan Shepard in the Mercury capsule, "Freedom 7" before launch in 1961. Photo: NASA

On this day 50 years ago, Navy test pilot Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. became the first American astronaut to travel into space. He launched aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule and made a 15-minute suborbital flight. Just weeks before, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first human in space when he orbited the Earth for 108 minutes.

Several delays before launch forced Shepard to remain in the capsule for more than four hours. Tired of waiting, he urged the mission controllers to “fix your little problem and light this candle.”

According to the book “Failure Is Not an Option,” written by a member of the mission control team, Gene Kranz, when reporters asked Shepard what he thought about as he sat atop the Redstone rocket waiting for liftoff, he replied, “The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder.”

The flight was successful nevertheless, and here is a totally awesome NASA depiction of the entire mission:

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Photo: Accused Nazi on trial and in bed

The courtroom bed of 91-year-old accused Nazi guard John Demjanjuk as seen before another session of his trial in Munich, Germany Wednesday as closing arguments were set to resume in the case. Demjanjuk is charged with 28,060 counts of accessory to murder for his alleged involvement as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland during World War II. He denies the charges. Photo: Lukas Barth/DAPD

Photo: Savage beauty

A retrospective of the work of fashion designer Alexander McQueen was shown to journalists Monday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, hours before the Met Costume Institute Gala, one of the fashion world's most prestigious events. The retrospective of McQueen's work, entitled "Savage Beauty," is the first since his suicide last year at the age of 40. Since the visionary designer's death, the Alexander McQueen label has been helmed by McQueen's protege, Sarah Burton, who designed the wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton last week as she wed Prince William. The exhibition runs from May 4 to July 31, 2011. Photo: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Photo: Turning the page on bin Laden

Indian sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik gives finishing touches to a sand sculpture to mark the killing of Osama bin Laden at the Golden Sea beach at Puri, Orissa, India, on Monday. Photo: AP/Biswaranjan Rout

Photo: Best seats in the house

People at the Hiway Theatre in Jenkintown, Pa., watch the royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton on the movie screen during the early morning hours on Friday, April 29. British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt predicted the ceremony would be seen by an estimated 2 billion people worldwide. Photo: AP/Matt Rourke

Photo: Picking up the pieces

Residents search through what is left of their homes Thursday, April 28, 2011 after a tornado hit Pleasant Grove just west of downtown Birmingham, Alabama, Wednesday afternoon. The death toll from the sudden storm is estimated at more than 200 people across six states. Photo: AP/Butch Dill

Photo: On a roll

Miranda Husband, 11, center, and Issac Husband, 9, third left, of Greencastle, Pa., roll Easter eggs on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Monday, April 25, 2011, at the White House Easter Egg Roll hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak