Presentation on theme: "Modern Dance History Modern dance is an art form that developed in the 20 th Century It was created in reaction to ballet and to deliberately reject the."— Presentation transcript:
Modern Dance History Modern dance is an art form that developed in the 20 th Century It was created in reaction to ballet and to deliberately reject the conventions of ballet
How is it different from Ballet? While ballet… Tries to defy gravity (floating on pointe) Uses turnout Strives to have all dancers look identical, weightless and precise Aims for perfection and effortlessness Avoids the floor and groundedness Is pulled up Modern Dance Aims to… Play with gravity (giving in or resisting it) Use parallel and turnout Celebrate the individual dancer and their unique body Recognizes breath, weight, fall and recovery Use bare feet Use the floor Focus on contractions and flexion
Visual differences Classical Ballet Tutu Stiff tutu, traditional costume and pointe shoes Modern Ballet Costume More flowing fabric, may use bare feet Or it can be somewhere in between
Modern Costumes Can Lie Somewhere Between… and are basically free
Improvisation and Individuality Like Jazz music and Jazz Dance, Modern was about expressing yourself freely, often through improvisation Many modern choreographers work with dancers to collaborate and co-create work Contact improv is one of those areas of modern dance that constantly uses improvisation to help create performance material (see Contact Video)
Music Before While ballet was performed to symphonic music and mostly to tell a long story in several acts… Modern also began with classical composers’ music – often the work of Schubert, Chopin, Brahms and Beethoven Later Modern (like Modern ballet) later began to include more unusual types of sound and music Drums, talking, no sound, live percussion, cows mooing, pop, rock, metal, opera… cell phone rings. There are no rules
Part 1: The Mother of Modern Dance Isadora Duncan was an American dancer. (May 26, 1877 – September 14, 1927)
Why ‘the Mother’? She is considered by many to be the creator of modern dance. In the United States she was popular only in New York, and then only later in her life. However, in Europe she performed to acclaim throughout the continent. She created expressive, free movement.
Interesting Fact Duncan's fondness for flowing scarves was the cause of her death in a freak automobile accident in Nice, France. Duncan's large silk scarf while still draped around her neck, became entangled around one of the vehicle's open-spoked wheels and rear axle, breaking her neck.
Isadora Duncan’s Early Life Angela Isadora Duncan was born in San Francisco, California. She was the youngest daughter of Thomas Gray, a California state senator, and his wife Mary Gorman. She had three siblings.San Francisco Soon after Isadora's birth, Joseph Duncan lost the bank and was publicly disgraced. Her parents were divorced by 1880 and her mother Dora moved with her family to Oakland. Oakland She worked there as a pianist and music teacher. In her early years, Duncan did attend school but, finding it to be constricting to her individuality, she dropped out. As her family was very poor, both she and her sister gave dance classes to local children to earn extra money.
Next… In 1895 Duncan became part of a theater company in New York. She soon became disillusioned with the form. In 1899 she decided to move to Europe, first to London and then a year later, to Paris. Within two years she achieved both notoriety and success.
On her own in Paris Paris’ developing Bohemian environment did not suit her.Bohemian In 1909 Duncan moved to two large apartments where she lived on the ground floor and used the first floor for her dance school. Barefoot, dressed in clinging scarves and faux- Grecian tunics, she created a primitivist style of improvisational dance to counter the rigid styles of the time. Barefootprimitivistdance
Ballet’s not for me…Let’s get back to Ancient Greece (revisiting the classics) She was inspired by the classics, especially Greek myth.Greek myth She rejected traditional ballet steps to stress improvisation, emotion and the human form.improvisation Duncan believed that classical ballet, with its strict rules of posture and formation, was "ugly and against nature"; she gained a wide following that allowed her to set up a school to teach.classical ballet
Paris loves her… but she’s so over Paris Duncan became so famous that she inspired artists and authors to create sculpture, jewelry, poetry, novels, photographs, watercolors, prints and paintings of her. When the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées was built in 1913, her likeness was carved over the entrance and included in painted murals of the nine muses in the auditorium.Théâtre des Champs-Élyséesmuralsmuses In 1916 Duncan traveled to Brazil and performed in Rio de Rio de A writer and journalist known as João do Rio, claimed to have seen her dance "naked" in the forest of Tijuca, in front of Rio's most famous waterfall.João do Rio Tijucawaterfall
She returns to America Isadora Duncan performing barefoot. Photo taken during her 1915–18 American tour.
Art is Activism – Off to Russia In 1922 she acted on her sympathy for the social and political revolution in the new Soviet Union and moved to Moscow.Soviet Union Her international prominence brought welcome attention to the new regime's artistic and cultural ferment. The Russian government's failure to follow through on extravagant promises of support for Duncan's work, combined with the country's living conditions, sent her back to the West in 1924.
Her Views and Her Legacy Duncan did not like the commercial aspects of public performance She saw touring, contracts and other practicalities as distractions Her real mission: the creation of beauty and the education of the young. A gifted, but controversial teacher, she founded three schools dedicated to teaching her dance philosophy to groups of young girls (a brief effort to include boys was unsuccessful). The Isadorables >>>>
Personal Life Both in her professional and private lives, Duncan flouted traditional mores and morality. In 1922 she married the Russian poet Sergei Yesenin, who was 18 years her junior.Sergei Yesenin He went with her on a tour of Europe; his alcoholism resulted in drunken rages, with repeated destruction of furniture and hotel rooms, bringing Duncan much negative publicity. The following year he left Duncan and returned to Moscow, where he soon suffered a mental breakdown and was placed in a mental institution.mental institution He later took his own life.
A Life of Tragedy Duncan had two children, both out of wedlock—the first, Deirdre, by theatre designer Gordon Craig, and the second, Patrick by Paris Singer.Gordon Craig Her private life was considered scandalous. Both her children drowned accidentally on the Seine River (1913). The children were in the car with their nurse, Isadora and Paris Singer. The driver stalled the car while attempting to avoid a collision. He got out, but he had forgotten to set the parking brake; once he got the car to start, it rolled down the embankment into the river below. The children and the nanny drowned. Duncan spent months recuperating at her siblings’ and then she spent several weeks at a seaside resort with actress Eleonora Duse. The fact that Duse was just coming out of a lesbian relationship with a lesbian feminist (Lina Poletti )fueled rumours. There has never been definite proof that they were involved romantically.Eleonora DuselesbianLina Poletti In her autobiography, Duncan claims that she begged a stranger to sleep with her, desperate to have another baby. She gave birth to a son, who lived only a few hours and was never named.
Later Life Duncan's performing career had dwindled and she was a mess (financial woes, scandalous love life and all-too-frequent public drunkenness) She spent her final years moving between Paris and the Mediterranean, running up debts at hotels. She was running out of friends and supporters. Many hoped that writing a biography would help support her. Her last words before her accident: "Je vais à l'amour" (I am off to love).
Her Legacy She insisted on natural movement, unrestricted costumes and emotional expression (which influenced later dancers) Her schools in Europe did not survive for long, but her work and her style is still danced by a new generation of loyal followers based on the instruction of Maria-Theresa Duncan, the last of the Isadorables. She co-founded the Isadora Duncan International Institute (IDII) in New York in She personally passed on the original choreography to one of her pupils IDII continues to educate and instruct in the original choreography, style and techniques of Isadora Duncan. Graduates of the IDII certification programs also perform Duncan's choreography and hold classes in the Duncan technique.
Notable Quotes: In a poem about Duncan, Carl SandburgCarl Sandburg wrote: "The wind? I am the wind. The sea and the moon? I am the sea and the moon. Tears, pain, love, bird-flights? I am all of them. I dance what I am. Sin, prayer, flight, the light that never was on land or sea? I dance what I am." By Isadora Duncan: “If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it” “The dancer's body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul.” “You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you”
Part 2: Canada’s Own Key Figure In addition to Duncan, Canada had its own famous lady of dance: Maud Allan
Born in Toronto (Beulah Maude Durrant) Went to San Francisco, then Germany. Changed her name to escape association with her brother (a murderer) In need of money, she began dancing professionally She was athletic and imaginative, but had no dance training. She was compared to Duncan (which enraged her because she did not like Isadora) She often designed and sewed her own creative, beautiful costumes She performed (1906) Vision of Salome (based on Wilde’s play) and became notorious.
Career She toured Europe and performed 250 performances in less than a year In 1910 she left Europe to travel and over the next 5 years she visited the USA, Australia and Asia She then moved on to silent film As a dancer and choreographer she is best remembered for her "famously impressionistic mood settings"
Part 3: Next Steps Once the foundation had been laid by the Mother (Isadora) and our Canadian Modern Dance Founder (Maud), other key figures started to work within this creative space to help Modern dance evolve. Early dancer/ choreographers, such as: *Ruth St. Denis *Ted Shawn Started to create training programs that helped the next generation of PIONEERS to develop new styles
Denis and Shawn Ruth St. Denis began performing in 1905 They were known for using Asian-inspired music and costumes Together they formed the Denishawn School https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prHuPwYXzBA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqWjm7BHEkI Ted Shawn joined in 1914 Shawn added humour to his pieces and American themes
Ruth St. Denis ( ) Born on a New Jersey farm. Her mother was a strong-willed and highly educated woman (a physician by training) St. Denis was encouraged to study dance from an early age. Her early training included Delsarte technique, ballet lessons with the Italian ballerina Maria Bonfante, social dance forms and skirt dancing. Ruth began her professional career in New York City in She worked as a skirt dancer in a dime museum and in vaudeville houses. Dime museums featured "leg dancers" (female dancers whose legs were visible under their short skirts) in brief dance routines. St. Denis was probably required to perform her routine as many as eleven times a day. She was noticed by David Belasco, a well-known Broadway producer and director. He hired her to perform with his company as a featured dancer, and was also responsible for giving her the stage name "St. Denis." Under Belasco's influence, Ruthie Dennis became Ruth St. Denis, toured with his production of "Zaza" around the United States and in Europe. Here she was exposed to the work of European artists, including the Japanese dancer Sado Yacco.
The Influence of World Culture St. Denis' artistic imagination was ignited by these artists. She became very interested in the dance/drama of Eastern cultures, including those of Japan, India and Egypt. She was also influenced by Sarah Bernhardt's melodramatic acting style, in which the tragic fate of her characters took center stage. In 1904, during one of her tours she saw a poster of the goddess Isis in an ad for Egyptian cigarettes. The image of the goddess sparked her imagination and she began reading about Egypt, and then India. After 1900, St. Denis began formulating her own theory of dance/drama based on the dance and drama techniques of her early training, her readings into philosophy, scientology and the history of ancient cultures.
“Radha” By 1905, St. Denis left to begin a career as a solo artist. She had designed an elaborate and exotic costume and a series of steps telling the story of a mortal maid who was loved by the god Krishna. Entitled "Radha," this solo dance (with three extras) was first performed in New York City. "Radha" was an attempt to translate St. Denis' understanding of Indian culture and mythology to the American dance stage. St. Denis surrounded her Indian maiden with the symbols for the 5 senses: bells for hearing; flowers for smelling; wine for tasting; jewels for seeing; and kisses of the palm for touching. The men sitting around her in the publicity photo are Indian immigrants living in the then flourishing Coney Island Hindi community.
A wealthy patron… St. Denis was quickly discovered by Mrs. Orlando Rouland. With the aid of her wealthy patron, she began performing "Radha" at private matinees in respectable Broadway theatres (rather than the original Vaudeville venue). The following description appeared in The New York Times on March 25, 1906 after a performance at the Hudson Theatre: "Society has discovered something new under the limelight. Out of the jaws of vaudeville a group of New York women who still keep a weary eye out for up-to-date novelties, have snatched a turn which they hope to make more or less an artistic sensation.”
Off to Europe Like Isadora Duncan before her, St. Denis felt that Europe might be the place to go. She performed her "translations" until 1909, when she returned to New York City and a tour in the United States. During the next five years she toured and built her reputation as an exotic dancer with an artistic bent, a "classic dancer" in the same catagory as Isadora Duncan. These two artists were, however, inherently different in their approach to the solo dance. According to St. Denis' biographer Suzanne Shelton, Duncan sought "the Self in the Universe," and St. Denis sought "the Universe in the Self." For St. Denis, the exotic worlds she intended to interpret could be seen from the vantage point of her body.
Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn After 1911, solo dancers on the professional stage died down. To support herself, St. Denis gave private lessons to society women In 1912, St. Denis' major patron, Henry Harris, died on the Titanic. So, in serious financial trouble, shewent back to the studio and came up with a new exotic dance, this time on a Japanese theme. "O-Mika" was more culturally authentic than her other 'translations' but it was not a success. Around 1913, St. Denis began adding other performers to her touring productions. In 1914 she hired Ted Shawn, and his partner, Hilda Beyer, to performance. St. Denis continued to perform her solo "translations" while Shawn brought a range of popular dance forms, from ragtime to tangos, into the act. St. Denis and Shawn became dance partners and lovers, and St. Denis' career as a solo artist was over.
Ruth St. Denis' Innovations: Ruth St. Denis was the first American dancer to incorporate the traditions and practices of the vaudeville stage into the world of serious concert dance. Her solo "translations" were unique combinations of dramatic scenes and contemporary dance steps that combined theatre and concert dance traditions. She was known for her inclusion of exotic costumes, themes and movements.
Notable Quotables by Ruth St. Denis “Our bodies are at once the receiving and transmitting stations for life itself. It is the highest wisdom to recognize this fact and train our bodies to render them sensitive and responsive to nature. art and religion.” “The real message of the Dance opens up the vistas of life to all who have the urge to express beauty with no other instrument than their own bodies, with no apparatus and no dependence on anything other than space.” “I see dance being used as communication between body and soul, to express what it too deep to find for words.”
Part 4: Martha Martha Martha The soil was rich for Modern Dance to grow – thanks to Isadora (the seed), St. Denis and Shawn (the soil) … and now it was ready for the work of PIONEERS to make things grow, or to start BUILDING the dance form as we know it. Martha Graham created her own Modern Dance Syllabus which is still used today.
Martha Graham’s Syllabus As we have started to discover, the ideas set out by Graham still inform the work we do today. Her syllabus includes: 1)Contraction 2)Use of Gravity and the Floor 3)Use of Breath
What is she known for? Graham brought EMOTION to the dance world. Like Isadora and St. Denis, Graham saw Modern Dance as a rebellion against the constraints of the Classical Ballet World. While the “mother” of Modern dance – Isadora Duncan – created expressive, free movement The mother gives birth to/creates/provides the seed… Martha Graham was one of the best known teachers and choreographers of modern dance. Graham, the “pioneer” helped them to spread and continue to be developed as the foundation of Modern Dance.
Martha Graham said a LOT of really interesting stuff… “All things I do are in every woman. Every woman is Medea. Every woman is Jocasta. There comes a time when a woman is a mother to her husband. Clytemnestra is every woman when she kills.” She performed the role of Jocasta, alongside Paul Taylor who played Tiresias in Night Journey. “You are unique, and if that is not fulfilled, then something has been lost.”
“Some men have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to, when all they need is one reason why they can.” “The body is a sacred garment.” “There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.” The body says what words cannot. Our arms start from the back because they were once wings. No artist is ahead of his time. He is his time. It is just that the others are behind the time Dance is the hidden languag e of the soul. Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. I did not want to be a tree, a flower or a wave.In a dancer's body, we as audience must see ourselves, not the imitated behavior of everyday actions, not the phenomenon of nature, not exotic creatures from another planet, but something of the miracle that is a human being. Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It's a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle. It takes ten years, usually, to make a dancer. It takes ten years of handling the instrument, handling the material with which you are dealing, for you to know it completely.
Graham’s Technique Is still taught today It continues to evolve as students of the second generation of Modern Dance went on to form their own companies and to adapt the teachings of Graham These second generation dancers include people like Paul Taylor (who danced with Graham), Merce Cunningham and Jose Limon.
Part 5: The First Generation leads to the Second Generation After the mother (Isadora Duncan), came the soil – the First Generation of Modern Dancers (Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn) who provided an atmosphere for the roots of Modern to take hold. From that soil, the next generation of Modern artists built the Foundation of Modern Dance - as Pioneers… That Second Generation includes Martha Graham and another important duo - Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.
Doris and Charles aka Humphrey-Weidman Humphrey and Weidman are known for creating AMERICAN Modern Dance. Their work was not romantic, like ballet. Their work was not influenced by exotic places, like Denishawn. Their work reflected the American experience and the life they saw around them.
The Humphrey-Weidman Technique Based on movement qualities such as: - breath -opposition - succession - fall and recovery -sharp accents -sustained flow
Doris Humphrey Doris Batcheller Humphrey a dancer and choreographer of the early twentieth century.dancerchoreographer Grew up in Chicago, Illinois.Chicago, Illinois She was a descendant of pilgrim William Brewster. Very American! William Brewster Along with her contemporaries, Martha Graham and Katherine Dunham, Humphrey was a "2nd generation" modern dance pioneers, who followed their forerunners, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Martha GrahamKatherine Dunhammodern danceIsadora DuncanRuth St. DenisTed Shawn
Her Life In Chicago, she both studied and taught dance, opening her own dance school in 1913 at the age of 18.dance In 1917, she went to the Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, where she studied, performed, taught classes, and learned choreography.Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts Because her dances were notated (dance notation), her work from this time can still be performed ("Valse Caprice”/ "Scarf Dance", "Soaring", and "Scherzo Waltz“/"Hoop Dance") Humphrey toured the Orient for two years, followed by a successful career in American vaudeville theaters. vaudeville
Her Work: Dancing During the Great Depression 1928 – Humphrey and Charles Weidman separated from the Denishawn School and moved to NYC.Charles Weidman They participated in the modern dance movement. Her choreography explored the nuances of the human body's responses to gravity, embodied in her principle of fall and recovery. Her choreography from these early years includes "Water Study", "Life of the Bee", "Two Ecstatic Themes" and "The Shakers". The Humphrey-Weidman Company was successful even in the darkness of the Great Depression.Humphrey-WeidmanGreat Depression They toured the USA with new works based on current events and concerns (not old tales). One of her last pieces, "Dawn in New York," featured the strengths she demonstrated throughout her career -- her mastery of the intricacies of large groups, and her emphasis on sculptural shapes.
Her Legacy Many of her works being notated, Humphrey continues to be taught, studied and performed to this day. notated Her techniques are still being taught She was a member of the original faculties of both The Bennington School of the Dance (1934) and The Juilliard School (1951). The Bennington School of the DanceThe Juilliard School
Humphrey’s Focus/Style/Technique She was fascinated by the flow of breath and how it affects movement. She focused on: * the body’s natural rhythms * the use of breath * the breath phrase and the breath rhythm * exploring how fall and recovery occur in response to these rhythms Through awareness of breath and gravity, she drew attention to principles of suspension - the moment of suspension as the body is airborne and the moment the body falls or sinks to the earth.
After Retirement Humphrey retired from performing in 1945, with arthritis. She became Artistic Director for the Jose Limon Dance Company and choreographed works such as "Day on Earth," "Night Spell," and "Ruins and Visions.“ After her death in 1958, aged 63, Humphrey's book, The Art of Making Dances, was published. In it she shared her observations and theories on dance and composition. She explained that in the 20th century, the demure and airy ballet had changed …"Suddenly the dance," she said, "the Sleeping Beauty, so long reclining in her dainty bed, had risen up with a devouring desire." Her book is still used as a text for dance composition. “There is only one thing to dance about: the meaning of one’s personal experiences.” “The Dancer believes that his art has something to say which cannot be expressed in words or in any other way than by dancing.” “There are movements which impinge upon the nerves with a strength that is incomparable, for movement has power to stir the senses and emotions, unique in itself.”
Part 6: Jose Limon (on to the Third Generation) We already know that Doris Humphrey became the Artistic Director of his company, but how did Limon get there? José Limón ( ) was crucial in the development of modern dance. Why? His powerful dancing shifted perceptions of the male dancer. His choreography continues to bring a dramatic vision of dance to audiences around the world.
His Life Born in Mexico, Limón moved to New York City in 1928 after a year at UCLA as an art major. It was here that he saw his first dance program: “What I saw simply and irrevocably changed my life. I saw the dance as a vision of ineffable power. A man could, with dignity and towering majesty, dance... dance as Michelangelo's visions dance and as the music of Bach dances.” He was hooked. After studying and performing for 10 years with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, he established his own company with Humphrey as Artistic Director. Humphrey choreographed many pieces for the Limón Dance Company, and it was under her experienced eye that Limón created his signature dance, The Moor’s Pavane (1949). Limón’s work was called a ‘masterpiece’ and the Company became a landmark of American dance. Many of his dances—There is a Time, Missa Brevis, Psalm, The Winged—are considered classics of modern dance. Moor’s Pavane Psalm
Limon’s Road to Dance Although he started as a painter, after a girlfriend took him to see the dancer Harald Kreutzberg perform. Limon was stunned. “Suddenly, onto the stage, borne on the impetus of the heroic rhapsody, bounded an ineffable creature and his partner. Instantly and irrevocably, I was transformed. I knew with shocking suddenness that until then I had not been alive or, rather, that I had yet been unborn…now I did not want to remain on this earth unless I learned to do what this man was doing.”Harald Kreutzberg In a panic, Limon began studying all the dance he could. He learned the base for his own later technique from Doris Humphrey and from Weidman he learned pantomime and expression.pantomime However, Limon said his primary stylistic influences were Isadora Duncan and Harald Kreutzberg.Isadora Duncan Ten years after he began dancing, he was a working dancer. In 1943, he was drafted and when he was discharged in 1945, he choreographed several works for the US Army Special Services. While on leave during this time, he returned to NYC to pursue serious choreography with Doris Humphrey. When the war ended, he founded the Jose Limon Dance Company. The Limon Company was the first modern dance company to have mutually distinct positions for founder and artistic director. In the company, he developed his repertory with Doris Humphrey and established the principles of the style that was to become the Limon technique. It survives to this day with the expressed purpose of maintaining the Limon technique and repertory.
A Prolific Career Limón was a consistently productive choreographer until his death in 1972 he choreographed at least one new piece each year—and he was also an influential teacher and advocate for modern dance. He was in residence each summer at the American Dance Festival, faculty member in The Juilliard School's Dance Division and the director of Lincoln Center's American Dance Theatre from Limón received two Dance Magazine Awards, the Capezio Award and honorary doctorates from four universities. He was the subject of a major retrospective at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, The Dance Heroes of José Limón (Fall 1996), and in 1997 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance. He also has an autobiography.
Death and Legacy Limon died of prostate cancer, but worked right until the end in Jose Limon’s influence is not as great Martha Graham’s or Lester Horton’s and no famous dancers emerged from his company.Martha GrahamLester Horton However, his style persists. Dancers still come to New York from all over the world to study with the company. Many of that leave his company become teachers and his style influences this entire generation. Interesting detail: after his death, members of the company were left with a fully scheduled year of touring, a highly disputed will, studio and rehearsal spaces were rented, but no administration had been organized. The fact that that The Limon Company survived after Jose Limon’s death is a living example of the perseverance and passion for dance that Limon passed onto the members of his company. (Limon and his wife, Pauline, ran the company almost alone; Pauline designed the costumes and assisted with production elements; a booking agent was the only additional personnel.) Limon had been able to work without benefactors and much of his funding came from awards, personal grants, tours, recognition, etc., which only perpetuated Limon’s somewhat naive belief that talent and ability was enough to bring in necessary resources.
Part 7: Merce Cunningham ( ) Merce Cunningham was an American choreographer. Before his death in July 2009, he was probably the most famous living choreographer in the world. His work spanned more than half a century. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company toured the globe, challenging and entrancing millions of viewers. He shared his life with composer John Cage ( ). They collaborated for decades. He is noted for having continually expanded the boundaries of contemporary dance, including developing experimental methods of making dances using the element of chance. He also developed computer software for creating and teaching choreography. At age 90 he was still creating dance. His mother liked to travel independently. His father was a lawyer and worked some high profile cases like the trial of radical labor unionists (The Centralia Massacre). Cunningham grew up, nurtured in a small community and had lots of support. He was introduced to dance by a neighbor,Maude Barrett - a retired vaudevillian and circus performer. She operated Barrett’s School of the Dance in Centralia, and she became young Merce’s first dance teacher.
His Style: Cunningham became a defining figure in modern dance. He started with tap. His teacher, Barrett, paired Merce with her daughter. They added exhibition ballroom dancing to their routine, and traveled the state. Cunningham later credited Maude Barrett with fundamentally shaping his conception of dance as a charged, living art: "It was a kind of theater energy and devotion she radiated. This was a devotion to dancing as an instantaneous and agreeable act of life. All my subsequent involvement with dancers who were concerned with dance as a conveyor of social message or to be used as a testing ground for psychological types have not succeeded in destroying that feeling that Mrs. Barrett gave me that dance is most deeply concerned with each single instant as it comes along, and its life and vigor and attraction lie in just that singleness. It is as accurate and impermanent as breathing"
Training: The Cornish School He attended George Washington for a year, then returned to Centralia. In 1937, he began studying at the Cornish School (now Cornish College of the Arts) in Seattle. The Cornish School Cornish students during Merce Cunningham’s era were exposed to all aspects of the arts: drama, dance, music, painting, design, art and music history, etc. Classes were taught by professionals within the various fields. Cunningham began started with the drama department, but gravitated to dance and was placed in that department by Nellie Cornish (pretty randomly) Cunningham's teacher was Bonnie Bird ( ), then head of the dance department at Cornish. Bird had herself studied at Cornish under Martha Graham ( ), and had been Graham's assistant. Nellie Cornish set Cunningham’s subsequent destiny in motion, then another seemingly casual moment kept the ball rolling Composer John Cage, whose name and music would later be inseparably linked with Merce Cunningham, worked as an accompanist to Cornish dance classes and sometimes taught the composition class. So…Cage and Cunningham met. Becoming a Modern Dancer He kept training and assisted his teachers. He attended summer training schools. During his second year at Cornish, Cunningham performed steadily. His first choreography was created during Bonnie Bird's composition classes, which dealt with modern forms. That summer he returned to the Mills College training camp (1939) and met some of the most important dancers of his time: Doris Humphrey ( ), Charles Wideman ( ), Hanya Holm ( ), and (most crucially for Cunningham’s destiny) Martha Graham.
The perfect opportunity! Always on the lookout for new talent, especially young male dancers, Graham told Cunningham that if he came to New York she would put him in a dance piece. He immediately answered, “I’ll be there.” Within three months he appeared with the Martha Graham Company on Broadway. Cunningham danced as a soloist with Graham from 1939 to Graham made a number of roles in some of her most important works during this time starring Cunningham. * Throughout this time, Cunningham also created and performed his own work.
The Merce Cunningham Company In 1953, Cage and Cunningham taught a summer session a College and took a handful of dancers who had been training and performing with Cunningham in New York City. By the end of the summer, Cunningham’s company had formed. The company took to the road, touring the country in a Volkswagen microbus, Cunningham at the wheel. The company's first tour, in November 1955 took them to California, Oregon, and Washington. Member Carolyn Brown recalled that the tour group spent Thanksgiving with Merce Cunningham's family. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer review of the company's 1955 performance demonstrates how challenged many viewers were when confronted with movement outside the lyrical tradition: "Modern dance may strike many as merely a lot of leaping about in a senseless manner but as Cunningham and his dancers showed, it requires just as much as does classical ballet, a tremendous amount of technique and concentration -- more so than classical dancing in some ways since, in several of the dances Cunningham choreographed, the music is no help whatsoever.”
The company struggled financially. It took years to achieve financial stability, but Cunningham's determination and the extreme dedication of the company members kept them in business, and in the public eye. The troupe endured at least a decade of confused audiences. It took until the 1960s for people to start to ‘get’ the experimentation. They toured Europe and Asia. But it wasn’t until the company reached London that audiences started to respond positively to the work. Baffling Seattle Audiences In 1966 they performed in the USA. Local audiences still struggled with the work. A reviewer wrote: "It soon became apparent, in the midst of dizzying light effects and the raucous static of electronic devices, why few people remain neutral in their feeling for this avant-garde group.... They are not only breaking fresh ground, but breaking fresh eardrums" Another more harsh: "The Merce Cunningham Dance Company demonstrated before a full house at the Center Playhouse last night that eight people can baffle, confuse, and annoy 800 others and -- as long as the 800 paid for the privilege -- get away alive" Teaching Seattle Audiences Cunningham's company had a three- week residency at what was by then called the Cornish Institute in Seattle (1977). Here, Inlets received its world première. Things started to change. Cunningham described dancers within his work: “The dancers are not pretending to be other than themselves. They are, in a way, realizing their identities through the act of dancing. They are, rather than being someone, doing something“ One of his best ideas? Letting the general public come to watch open rehearsals.
His Legacy Cunningham embraced new technology - an ongoing feature of his career. A pioneer in the use of electronic music, beginning in 1989 Cunningham helped to develop Life Forms (now called Dance Forms), a computer choreography software program. As of 2009, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company website began offering "Mondays With Merce," a series of free webcasts featuring Cunningham teaching advanced classes and conducting rehearsals. During his choreographic life, Cunningham created more than 200 works for his company. He has also set works on (taught dances to) many other ballet and modern dance companies around the world. He was honored repeatedly in the course of his long career, especially in recent decades as popular taste caught up with his always avant garde style: - Honorary Member into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Kennedy Center Honoree, Washington DC, MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur, France, National Medal of Arts, Washington DC, Named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, Inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, New York, Made an Officier of the Légion d'Honneur, France, He was honored with the Nellie Cornish Arts Achievement Award from Cornish College of the Arts - In 1998 – the Bagley Wright Fund Established Artists Award. - In 2006, Cornish awarded Cunningham with an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts. Merce Cunningham died on Sunday night, July 26, 2009.
Part 8: Paul Taylor (more from Third Generation Modern) Born in 1930, Pennsylvania, USA Taylor is an American choreographer. He attended Syracuse University on a swimming and painting scholarship. This is where he first took up dance. He continued his study at the Juilliard School and the American Dance Festival. In 1952 his dancing at the American Dance Festival attracted the attention of choreographers Martha Graham, José Limón, Charles Weidman, and Doris Humphrey. As a result he later performed in the companies of Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, and George Balanchine. He danced Graham’s Night Journey as Tiresias. He founded the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1954.
Paul Taylor’s Work His company helped to shape and launch careers for many dancers, like Twyla Tharp. He believed in using everyday gestures rather than dance moves and this was a key idea in his choreography. He has collaborated with painters Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Alex Katz, as well as the legendary Tiffany & Co. designer Gene Moore.Robert RauschenbergJasper Johns Alex KatzTiffany & Co.Gene Moore A signature work is Esplanade (1975) > Below is a remounting by the Paul Taylor Company Claimed notoriety when he performed "Duet," where he and his pianist walk on stage, stand there for four minutes, then walk off. The newspaper review for this piece (written by Loius Horst) was four inches of blank space with just "L.H." at the bottom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqQ78i1xsbk
Famous Quotes "Sometimes I think a company's morale is more important than the choreography." "There’s always some kind of flaw in things. But it’s good because then I want to keep going. If I did a perfect dance I think I’d quit, you know? It’s a goal." “I get my energy, I think, from being afraid to choreograph, being afraid to fail.”
Part 9: Trisha Brown Trisha Brown (1936) was born in Washington. She is a postmodernist choreographer andpostmodernist dancer. Brown studied at Mills College (1958). Brown later received Fine Arts degree from Bates College in For several summers she studied at the American Dance Festival (Conneticut) After moving to New York in 1961 she trained with Anna Halprin and became a founding member ofAnna Halprin the avant-garde Judson Dance Theater in 1962,avant-gardeJudson Dance Theater working with experimental dancers Yvonne RainerYvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton.Steve Paxton In 1970 she cofounded the Grand Union, anGrand Union experimental dance collective, and formed the Trisha Brown Company – aTrisha Brown Company leader in contemporary dance. Brown received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 1991.MacArthur Foundation
Famous Works Brown’s early works Walking on the Wall (1971) and Roof Piece (1973) were designed to be performed at specific sites. Walking on the Wall involved dancers in harnesses moving along a wall, while Roof Piece took place on 12 different rooftops over a ten-block area in NYC. Each dancer passed on movements to a dancer on the nearest roof. Brown was known for SITE SPECIFIC choreography. One piece, Accumulation (1971), executed with the dancers on their backs, has been performed in public spaces of all kinds, including on water, with the dancers floating on rafts as they methodically work through the piece. Brown's rigorous structures, combined with pedestrian or simple movement styles and playful humor brought an intellectual sensibility that challenged the mainstream "modern dance" mindset of this period.
Brown’s Work 1980s: Brown produced large-scale works intended for the stage, like Glacial Decoy (1979).stage This period was most notable for the slithery and highly articulated movement style which characterized much of her work during this time. The "molecular structure series," which included 1980's Opal Loop, Son of Gone Fishin' (1981) and Set and Reset (1983), featuring a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson, solidified Brown's stature as an innovator and as an artist of global significance.scoreLaurie Anderson 1985's Lateral Pass began a new phase, which used larger, bolder movement phrases to articulate Brown's evolving spacial aesthetics. This led to Newark (1987), Astral Convertible (1989) and Foray Foret (1990).
Brown’s Style In addition to articulated movement, gestures and exploring unusual use of space, Brown explores: – the nature of motion – dances based on everyday movements – carefully built-up, repetitive gestures (in early work) to its current focus on fluid virtuosity.gestures In the 1990s she turned to choreographing classical music, creating M.O. (1995) to Bach, and a 1998 opera by Monteverdi. She also found inspiration in jazz for El Trilogy ( ), completed her second opera (by Sciarrino) in 2001, and in 2002 choreographed the song cycle Winter’s Journey by Schubert. She also worked again with Laurie Anderson in 2004 on O Zlozony/O Composite for the Paris Opera Ballet.jazzopera
Awards 2009 Columbia College Honorary Degree 2008 Mills College Distinguished Achievement Award 2007 Mills College Distinguished Achievement Award, University of South Florida- Honorary Degree in Visual and Performing Art 2006 Nijinski Award 2005 Benois de la Danse Prize for Lifetime Achievement, Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative- Mentor 2004 Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres- French Government, Age Critics Award (Winterreise), Best Show of Melbourne Festival 2003 National Medal of Arts Wilson College- Honorary Degree 2000 Officier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres – French Government Notable Quotable by Trisha Brown “ Dancing on the edge is the only place to be. ” 1999 New York State Governor’s Arts Award Grand Prix (L’Orfeo), Syndicat professionnel de la critique dramatique et musicale And over 30 other awards from
Part 10: Alvin Ailey (and our good friend Lester Horton) Alvin Ailey, Jr. is a name you MUST know if you are a dancer or student of dance. Born in 1931 (died 1989) he was an American choreographer and activist. He founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in NYC. Ailey is credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20 th Century Dance. His company gained the nickname "Cultural Ambassador to the World" because of its extensive international touring. Ailey's choreographic masterpiece Revelations is believed to be the best-known and most often seen modern dance performance.Revelations
Early Years Ailey and his mother moved very often and she had a hard time finding work. Ailey grew up during a time of segregation, violence and lynchings. When his mother was raped by a group of white men when he was five he became very afraid of white people and racial violence. Early experiences in the Southern Baptist church and his community instilled in him a fierce sense of black pride that would later figure prominently in Ailey's signature works.
His Life 1942, Ailey's mother, migrated to L.A, where she had heard there was work supporting the war effort. Ailey joined his mother later by train, having stayed behind in Texas to finish out the school year. Ailey's school was located in a primarily white school district. As one of the only black students, Ailey felt out of place because of his fear of whites, so the Aileys moved to a predominantly black school district. He sang in the glee club, wrote poetry, and demonstrated a talent for languages, attending theatre often. Ailey did not become serious about dance until in 1949 when a friend introduced him to Lester Horton who became Ailey's major influence, as a mentor, providing a foundation from which to grow.Lester Horton Ailey was ambivalent about becoming a professional dancer. He had studied language but was restless, studying writing. He moved to San Francisco to continue his studies in 1951 where he met Maya Angelou. They occasionally performed a nightclub act.Maya Angelou Ailey earned a living waiting tables and dancing at clubs.
The Horton School Eventually, he returned to study dance with Horton. Horton's school taught a wide range of dance styles and techniques, including classical ballet, jazz, and Native American dance.classical ballet Native American Horton's school was also the first multi-racial dance school in the US. Horton's “Lester Horton was the greatest influence of my career. He is the reason I do all this. He was a genius of the theatre. An incredible man… When you came into the world of Lester Horton you came into a completely creative environment – people of all colours, music of all nations…” - Alvin Ailey
Lester Horton Horton, aside from being Ailey’s mentor, was an American modern dancer, choreographer, and teacher. In California (1928), Horton formed his own company in Los Angeles and also performed in theater, films, and nightclubs. He became one of the country's most influential choreographers, incorporating such diverse elements as Native American dances and modern jazz into works of striking originality and drama. His influence is reflected in the work of his pupil Alvin Ailey. Horton's company continued to perform after his death until As you well know… his technique provides a solid foundation for dancers to work in a range of styles.
Back to Ailey - NYC In 1954, he and his friend Carmen De Lavallade were invited to New York to dance in the Broadway show, House of Flowers by Truman CapoteCarmen De LavalladeTruman Capote He also appeared in Sing, Man, Sing (1956) and in Jamaica (1957) The New York modern dance scene in the fifties was not to Ailey's taste.modern dance He observed the classes of modern dance contemporaries such as Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and José Limón.Martha GrahamDoris HumphreyJosé Limón He felt Graham's dancing "finicky and strange" and disliked the techniques of both Doris Humphrey and José Limón. Ailey expressed disappointment in not being able to find a technique similar to Horton's. Not finding a mentor, he began creating works of his own. Cry (1971), was one of Ailey's greatest successes. He dedicated it to his mother and black women everywhere. It became a signature piece for Judith Jamison. (as we will see in the video of Ailey’s work)Judith Jamison
His Company Ailey formed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, in 1958.Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Ailey's choreography was a dynamic and vibrant mix based on his training in ballet, modern dance, jazz, and African dance techniques.African dance Ailey insisted upon a complete theatrical experience, including costumes, lighting, and make-up. His work had an intense emotional appeal - expressing the pain and anger of African Americans. This defined Ailey's style. His signature work, Revelations, drew upon his "blood memories" of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel.Revelations He created 79 works for his dancers, but wanted his company was not just to show his own work. Today, the company performs works from the past and commissions new additions to the repertoire. In all, more than 200 works by over 70 choreographers have been performed by the company. Ailey was proud that his company was multi-racial. While he wanted to give opportunities to black dancers, who were frequently excluded from performances by racist attitudes at the time, he also wanted to employ artists based on artistic talent and integrity regardless of their race.
Technique Ailey combined dance techniques that best suited the style of his current piece. He valued variety. For this reason, he created more a dance style than a technique. He said that what he wanted from a dancer was: a long, unbroken leg line and deftly articulated legs and feet ("a ballet bottom") combined with a dramatically expressive upper torso ("a modern top"). "What I like is the line and technical range that classical ballet gives to the body. But I still want to project to the audience the expressiveness that only modern dance offers, especially for the inner kinds of things.“ Ailey's dancers came to his company with training from a variety of other schools, from ballet to modern and jazz and later hip-hop.balletjazzhip-hop He was unique because he did not train his dancers in a specific technique before they performed his choreography. He approached his dancers more in the manner of a jazz conductor, requiring them to infuse his choreography with a personal style that best suited their individual talents. This openness to input from dancers helped shift ideas, by allowing the dancer to also be an artist and creator.
Personal Life (Last Slide!) Ailey kept his life as a dancer a secret from his mother for the first two years. He died in 1989 at the age of 58. To spare his mother the social stigma of his death from AIDS, Ailey asked his doctor to announce that he had died of a vague blood disease. "I am trying to express something that I feel about people, life, the human spirit, the beauty of things.…"