BRIEF HISTORY OF MODERN DANCE By Wendy Oliver Bill T. Jones/Arnie by historyman

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									                         BRIEF HISTORY OF MODERN DANCE
                                   By Wendy Oliver

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Co..
                 Early Modern Dance
                         • Modern dance in the US started
                           about the turn of the 20th c. as a
                           revolt against ballet and “show”
                           dance, or vaudeville.
                         • It is uniquely American,
                           although a similar, parallel
                           movement evolved in Germany.
                         • Modern dance is based on the
                           idea of free artistic expression
                           for the individual

Isadora Duncan
     Differences Between Ballet and Modern Dance:
• Ballet conceived on grand        • Modern dance usually
  scale, with opera house in         designed for smaller spaces
  mind                             • May give into gravity or defy
• Strives to defy gravity            it
• Looks to European                • Looks within the individual
  aristocracy for its traditions   • Modern dance may use ballet
• All ballet movement starts         positions but has as many
  and ends with the 5 positions      additional positions as needed
• Focus on arms and legs             by choreographer
                                   • Focus on torso
                   More Differences
• Subject matter of ballet      • Modern dance draws on
  typically draws on              non-European themes,
  European fairy tales            sometimes American or
• Ballet tends to be about        Greek
  “make believe” situations     • Modern dance may deal
• Ballet companies                with social concerns of
  structured as hierarchy:        time
  corps de ballet, coryphees,   • Modern dance companies
  soloists, principals            usually smaller; usually all
• Ballet companies tend to        dancers serve as soloists
  perform choreography by       • Modern companies often
  many different people, and      perform mainly work of
  are named after their           the director, after whom
  location (ie. Boston            the company is named
  Ballet)                         (i.e.Trisha Brown Co.)
Forerunners of Modern Dance
              • In the early 1900’s,
                modern dance was
                spearheaded by Isadora
                Duncan, Loie Fuller,
                Maude Allan, Ruth St.
                Denis, and Ted Shawn.
              • These artists all began
                performing in the popular
                theatres of the day, but
                were drawn to making
                more serious work.
              • They emphasized creative
                use of lights, costumes,
                and décor.
                       Isadora Duncan
• The most famous of these was
  Isadora Duncan, who had a
  huge impact on dance and
• Was an early feminist; believed
  marriage was too restrictive
• Thought dance should be
  inspired by nature, and also
  looked to ancient Greece
• Thought dance was an
  expression of the spirit
• Danced barefoot in simple
  tunics without a corset, with
  bare legs
• Felt ballet was artificial
• Had a dramatic personal life
  Loie Fuller was known for her lighting effects; she
  used colored lights on voluminous silk costumes. She
  invented new lighting equipment and traveled with
  many technicians. Her style, with its natural forms,
   wavy lines, and curlicues, influenced Art Nouveau,

    Ruth St. Denis was inspired by the
    Orient. She managed to be both
    spiritual and financially
    successful, touring the US and the
Ted Shawn was St. Denis’ dance
partner and husband. Together, they
created a famous school in Los Angeles called
Denishawn, where hundreds of young dancers
were trained.
                          The Founders
• Just as the Forerunners revolted
  against ballet & vaudeville, the
  Founders rebelled against the
  Forerunners in 1920s & 30s.        •
• Some of them studied at
  Denishawn, and found the
  dance too commercial.
• They wanted to establish the
  freedom and independence of
  modern dance.
• They called it “modern dance”
  to distinguish it from             Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring
  expressionist dance and ballet.
• The dance was severe rather
  than pretty, and emphasized
  integrity over commercial
Martha Graham
       • Martha Graham studied at
         Denishawn 1916-1923
       • Founded her own school in NY
         in 1927
       • Created a technique based on
         contraction and release
       • Style stressed angularity &
         extreme muscle tension to show
       • Known for creating works with
         psychological themes,
         exploring inner emotions
       • Many of her works based on
         Greek themes, such as
         Clytemnestra, and Errand into
         the Maze
Journey Into the Maze, based on Jason and the Minotaur
                    Doris Humphrey
• Went to Denishawn in
  1915; left in 1928 to
  create her own company
• Like Graham, felt
  Denishawn technique was
  artificial; wanted a more
  serious dance form
• Created a technique based
  on fall and recovery
• Wrote the classic text on
  choreography, The Art of
  Making Dances, in 1959.
                  The Post-War Generation

                                After WWII, in the late
                                1940s, modern dance came
                                into its own. Dancers were
                                less concerned with rebelling
                                and more interested in
                                building on current trends.
                                Modern dance became
                                established in higher
                                education, and became more
                                accepting of ballet. Black
                                artists began to be
Alvin Ailey Co.
              Alvin Ailey
                 • Ailey created an all-Black dance
                   company in the late 1950s; it
                   became integrated in 1962.
                 • He wanted to create opportunities
                   for African-Am. to perform concert
                 • His style blends elements of
                   modern, ballet, jazz, and African,
                   and stresses Black themes.
                 • Despite his death in 1989, his
                   company and school are still going
                   strong and his work is known
                   around the world.
                 • His signature work, Revelations, is
                   based on spirituals and the African
                   American experience
                    Merce Cunningham
• Unlike others of the postwar
  era, Cunningham was a rebel.
• Although he performed with
  Graham in his youth, he formed
  his own company in the 1950s,
  where he invented a new
  choreographic style.
• He believes that dance does not
  need a story; the subject of
  dance should be the dance
• Contrary to Graham’s approach,
  he does not use characters or
  emotion; dance, music, and
  décor operate independently
• Uses chance operations to
  determine order of movements.
                     Judson Dance Theatre

                                     • A group of artists who followed
                                       Cunningham’s path to create a
                                       “dance revolution” in the 1960s
                                     • The Judson Church in NYC
                                       supported political causes & the
                                       arts, and was the main
                                       performing venue for this group
                                     • The performance could happen
                                       anywhere in the church—
•Non-traditional audiences             sanctuary, choir loft,
•Dancers were sometimes untrained;     gymnasium, meeting room;
performed pedestrian movements         performances were free
•Blended theatre, film, and dance    • Spirit of freedom and creativity:
                                       what is art?
                         Yvonne Rainer
• Rainer believed that any
  movement could be dance, and
  that anyone could be a dancer
• Her famous Trio A is a series of
  quirky movements performed
  without emotional overtones.
  No dramatic accents are used;
  all movements flowed from one
  to the next without pause.
• Trio A has been performed as a
  solo, trio, or large group piece,
  by people of various shapes and
  sizes, in varying physical
• This was the beginning of post-
  modern dance
          Trisha Brown
                        • A post-modern choreographer
                          concerned with form
                        • Very systematic and design-
                        • She invented the accumulation
                        • One of her dances from the
                          1970s, Group Primary
                          Accumulation, had 4 dancers
                          lying on their backs, each on a
                          separate raft on a lake. Each
                          dancer accumulates 30
                          movements in 8 minutes,
                          rotating 45 degrees each on last
•Her newer work           2 movements, until the dancer
uses more traditional     has rotated 360 degrees.
theatre settings, but
still “formalist”
              Modern Dance since the 1980s

• Modern dance today offers a
  broad range of approaches,
  some narrative, some structural,
  some mainly athletic
• Technical skills of varied types
  are back in demand
• New kinds of dance include
  aerial dance, integrated dance
  (wheelchairs), and various
  hybrids of modern & ballet,
  modern and hip hop, and other
• Still emphasizes individual
Elizabeth Streb/Ringside

             • Choreographer Streb has a
               ferocious desire to conquer
             • Uses flying harnesses,
               trampolines, aerial platforms,
               walls, etc.
             • A bit like the circus or
               gymnastics, yet created with a
               different purpose in mind
             • “Why spend all your time on
               the bottom of your feet? There
               are many parts of the body.”
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane
             • Often uses narrative or
               theme to relay a message
             • Creates full-length works
               such as Last Supper at
               Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The
               Promised Land, which
               examines race in the US.
             • Works with dancers of
               varied races, shapes, sizes,
               and backgrounds
             • Kept his partner Zane’s
               name in the company
               name after Zane died of
                                  Integrated Dance
                                    "Who says you can dance only if you have two feet,"
                                    she asks. "Dancing is an expression and an emotion,
                                    and you can show it in many different ways."

                                     Ms. Verdi-Fletcher founded, and is co-artistic
                                    director of the Cleveland Ballet Dancing Wheels, a
                                    dance company that combines dancers in
                                    wheelchairs with dancers on foot. Since joining with
                                    the Cleveland Ballet in 1990, the eight-member
                                    company has given more than 1,000 performances.
                                    They have danced before 125,000 people a year in
                                    venues from Belgium to New York.

                                      Ms. Verdi-Fletcher was born 41 years ago with
                                    spina bifida, which left her paralyzed from below the
Cleveland Ballet Dancing Wheels
                                    waist. Her parents feared she would not survive. She
                                    underwent 10 surgeries and tried to get around on
                                    crutches or with her legs in braces. But by age 12,
                                    she had to use a wheelchair. All the while, Ms.
                                    Verdi-Fletcher dreamed of dancing.
                    Cleveland Dancing Wheels
As she grew up, Ms. Verdi-Fletcher
found teachers and dance partners who
showed her how to perform in her
wheelchair. She learned to spin
gracefully and perform elegant moves.

  In 1978, Ms. Verdi-Fletcher and
partner David Brewster decided to enter
a dance competition in Cleveland, but
they did not tell the organizers she was
in a wheelchair. She remembers the
hushed audience that watched,
spellbound, as they began to dance.
  "They didn't know what to make of
somebody in a wheelchair, and I
remember one of the judges had his
mouth open," she said.
  "At the end of the dance, my partner
did an acrobatic stunt on my chair while
I was sitting on it, and the audience
went wild. We had a standing ovation."
  Buoyed by that reaction, Ms. Verdi-
Fletcher formed Dancing Wheels in
1980, with Mr. Brewster as her partner
                                     Integrated Dance

The National Integrated Dance Company of South Africa

      There are currently many integrated dance companies around the world. Dancers using crutches &
      wheelchairs team up with able-bodied dancers to perform many different kinds of modern dance. The
      term “integrated” refers to dancers of differing physical abilities working together.
                                       Rennie Harris

                                     Rennie Harris fuses modern dance
                                     with hip-hop; he brought his show
                                     Rome and Jewels, loosely based on
                                     Romeo and Juliet, to RI College in
                                     2004, and also performed at Veteran’s
                                     Memorial Auditorium in 2005.

Founded in 1992 by North Philadelphia native Rennie Harris , Rennie Harris
Puremovement (RHPM) was conceived with the vision for sharing an
appreciation for diversity and is dedicated to preserving and disseminating hip-
hop culture through workshops, classes, lecture-demonstrations, dance
residencies, mentoring programs and public performances. RHPM's work
encompasses rich and diverse African-American traditions of the past while
simultaneously presenting the voice of a new generation.
                                    Liz Lerman

                                         Liz Lerman works with dancers of mixed ages,
                                         including people in their 70’s. In 1975 Liz
                                         Lerman created “Woman of the Clear
                                         Vision,”,a dance about her mother's death
                                         featuring professional dancers and adults from
                                         a Washington, DC senior center. Combining
                                         the creative and community aspects of this
                                         project with the dance classes she was teaching
                                         throughout DC, Lerman established the Dance
                                         Exchange, incorporated in 1976, which has
                                         explored issues such as violence, education,
                                         aging, healthcare, and community history.

                                         In 2002, Lerman was awarded a MacArthur
                                         “genius grant.”
Modern Dance continues to evolve…
                  Modern Dance Images: References
• T Jones_dancersandorion.jpg
•   http://www.cultural
• (Dancing Wheels)
• (Nat. Integrated Dance Co. of S. Africa)

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