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Introduction to Modern Dance

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1 Introduction to Modern Dance
History and Definitions Modern dance began with a choice to move away from the rules, structures, and ideas of the past and to move to a more individually creative theory of dance. Modern dance does have rules and forms. Each modern dance artist has developed a personal style of dancing and therefore a way of preparing their dancers. Modern dance is an experience in movement. Dance is movement. Movement is life, and it surrounds you every moment.

2 Modern Dance Began at the turn of the century (19th). The spirit of change was in the air and was contagious amount people in many different areas of dance and art. Modern dance began with a choice to move away from the rules, structures, and ideas of the past and to move to a more individually creative theory of dance. Modern dance does have rules and forms. Each modern dance artist has developed a personal style of dancing and therefore a way of preparing their dancers. Modern dance is an experience in movement. Dance is movement. Movement is life, and it surrounds you every moment.

3 What is Modern Dance? Modern Dance is based on highly individualized or personalized movements based upon the dancer’/choreographers’ artistic intent.

4 Why Study Modern Dance? Increases your body awareness and knowledge of how the body moves Increase your strength, flexibility, and general fitness level Introduce you to a new form in which you experience the joy of movement and compete solely with your self Heighten your appreciation of other movement forms and music Expand you awareness and appreciation of your own artistry and artistry of others

5 Characteristics of Modern Dance
No set curriculum No particular music No particular costume No particular body type Natural, pedestrian carriage of the body Parallel 1st position from hips to toes Release of the neck when the head is dropped Stabilization of the pelvis Cause & Effect/Action & Reaction

6 Characteristics of Modern Dance
Weighted – use of gravity Flexibility and articulation of spine Contraction & release Softening into the floor Rebellion against ballet

7 Phases of Modern Dance 1900- Present

8 Social, economic, and political changes raised new questions about morality, rights, freedom and the human condition. This new dance was not beautiful to the accustomed patron, but the beauty had not been defined. Early modern dancers looked beyond the dominant tradition of Western theatrical dance (ballet) in order to give their dance a more communicative power. They drew on archaic or exotic sources for inspiration. There was no fancy music or scenery.

9 Famous Modern Dance Choreographers

10 Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) Known as the mother of modern dance.
Thought ballet was “ugly and against nature” and wanted a style of dance that was free and natural. Had limited success in America. Founded the “New System” of interpretive dance, blending poetry, music and rhythms of nature. She explored concepts through dance but most of her dances are influenced by Greek sculptures, flowy movements and nature. Duncan's fondness for flowing scarves contributed to her death in an automobile accident in Nice, France, when she was a passenger in an Amilcar. Her silk scarf, draped around her neck, became entangled around the open-spoked wheels and rear axle, breaking her neck. Her basis of technique was the human soul which was housed in the solorplexis and all movement stems from that place. Video clips:

11 Ruth St. Denis ( ) Had a vision of a new form of dance, with form as well as freedom and actually choreographed dances that were repeated each time performed. She gave birth to this new form in the theatre but designed it to be a communication on a spiritual level. Choreography had eastern influences from countries such as India and Egypt. She was particularly interested in exotic lands and the dance steps, costumes and settings associated with them, as well as in using dance to explore spirituality. Married her dance partner Ted Shawn and they developed the dance company Denishawn. Teacher of Martha Graham, Doris Humphreys and Charles Weidman.

12 The Big Four ( ) The main choreographers during this period were Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman and Hanya Holm. The major theme for the works created was about the American spirit. These dancers rejected external movement sources and turned to basic human movement experiences such as breathing and walking. They transformed these natural actions into dance movements.

13 Martha Graham (1894-1991) *(Mother of American Dance)
Graham developed the principle of contraction and release. Graham's original technique was rooted in a form of Expressionism. She linked movement to emotional expression and developed a vocabulary to communicate emotions, exploring deep within her own psyche. Famous work – Appalachian Spring Founded the Martha Graham Dance Co. in 1926. Appalachian Spring (32 minutes) is the story of a pioneer wedding on the American prairie. Dance is used to emphasize the ritual and ceremony of a religious union, as well as showing the demonstrative aspects of personal worship. Working with the stark sets of her regular designer, Isamu Noguchi, and buoyed by Aaron Copland's original score, Graham and her company create a full narrative, complete with multiple characters and a beginning, middle, and end of the story. Lamentations (1930) means expressing grief.

14 Doris Humphrey ( ) Humphrey was a leading soloist in Denishawn. Created the Humphrey-Weidman school and company with Charles Weidman. Created the theory of fall and recovery Themes of social organization were important First to use an ensemble in pieces vs. solo dancer. Famous work – Water Study Water study of 1928 was a group work performed without music. In its waves of energy that ripple through the dancers it presaged Humphrey’s theory of fall and recovery that was the basis of her technique. Video:

15 Charles Wiedman (1904-1975) Performed with Denishawn.
Co-founder of the Humphrey-Weidman school and company. Weidman’s choreography was more humorous, punching holes in human foibles. Famous work - Flickers

16 Hanya Holm (1893- 1992) Trained in Germany.
Worked in a more varied range and created humorous dances of social commentary. Turned her attention to Broadway and choreographed 11 hits such as Kiss Me Kate and My Fair Lady. Introduced the Mary Wigman technique in New York City in 1931.

17 The Second Generation (1935-1980)
This is the time period when students of the Big Four struck out on their own. The Big Four used these students to develop their own techniques and then the students broke out. This resulted in more development and exploration. These techniques are still performed today.

18 Merce Cunningham 1919 – 2009 Former performer with Martha Graham. Meaning of choreography was to be determined by the observer. He was not interested in telling stories or exploring psychological states. Movement itself is the principal subject matter of his dances: neither narrative nor musical form determines their structure. He furthered the notion that dance is about the movement and the movement only, and the meaning of movement is determined by the individual viewer rather than being given by the choreographer. Trained his dancers to be emotionally detached.

19 Alvin Ailey 1931 – 1989 Born in Texas!
Created Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Inspired by gospel, spirituals and the blues. Revelations is his most critically acclaimed work.

20 Alvin Ailey "Revelations"
“Revelations” first performed in 1960 and is his most famous work. Usint traditional spirituals as its music, the piece consists of solos and group works that express the depth of black American life. Revelations depicts a spectrum of black religious worship, including richly sculpted group prayer (I’ve been buked) a ceremony of ritual baptism (wade in the water), a moment of introverted, private communion (I wanna be ready), a duet of trust and support for a minister and devotee (fix me, Jesus), and a final, celebratory gospel exclamation, rocka my soul in the bosom of Abraham.

21 Modern, Postmodernism (1960-1980) & Contemporary Dance
Modern dance went through a subtle but interesting change between the 40's and 60's. The genre had been around long enough by now that the excitement of a new way to express ideas had calmed down. Now, instead of continuing to invent new techniques people were excited about practicing the techniques that had been created. Dancers wanted to learn the "Graham technique" or "Limon technique" and to perfect this new dance genre. Dancers forgot about the ballet boycott and started taking ballet class to strengthen their modern technique. "By the 1960s, technical proficiency had become an end in itself for modern dancers, rather than the means to an end. Technique became set and strict, codified in the style of the originator, with emphasis on greater and greater achievement. Only those teaching in the Laban-Wigman-Holm tradition included improvisation in their classes. Aspects of ballet were incorporated increasingly into modern dance classes, ballet barres were installed in modern dance studios, and many modern dancers took ballet classes regularly. Thus the wide philosophical gap between the two dance forms began to narrow." (Vision, p.137)

22 The new purpose of modern dance was to take what they already had and make it better. This meant creating "modern technique" and guidelines, the very things first and second generation modern dancers were trying to avoid. The postmodernists (“after-moderns”) rejected the techniques and theories of modern dance and experimented with new movement structures. They are best known for their acrobatic skill and for pushing the definition of dance. Contemporary dance draws on both modern and postmodern dance as a source of inspiration. The social and artistic upheavals of the late 1960s and 70s provoked even more radical forms of modern dance. Modern dance today is much more sophisticated in technique and technology than when modern dance was founded. The founders composed their dances entirely of spirit, soul, heart and mind as opposed to today's modern which has more technical aspects. The concern with social problems and the condition of human spirit is still expressed, but the issues that are presented would have appalled many early modern dancers.

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