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History of Modern Dance
History of Modern Dance History of Modern Dance
´╗┐In the early 1900s two American female dancers, Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis, as well as one German female dancer, Mary Wigman, started to rebel against the rigid constraints of Classical Ballet. Shedding the authoritarian controls surrounding classical ballet technique, costume, and shoes, these early modern dance pioneers focused on creative self-expression rather than on technical virtuosity.

Modern dance is approximately 100 years old

In The United States
In United States Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham developed their own styles of dance and laid the foundations of American modern dance with their choreography and teaching.Steffi Nossen was born in Berlin in 1905 and came to New York in 1937. She started dancing ballet at age three and created the longest lasting dance school in Westchester New York. She believed that "Anyone can dance, and everyone should!". Steffi was associated with many modern dance pioneers. She created a carefully constructed a curriculum that benefits anyone and everyone. The Steffi Nossen School of Dance is filled with traditions and has benefit recitals that the dancers who attend this school put on, along with outside guests to raise money for foundations. Vanessa Williams was a student at this school and has carried on the tradition and had her daughters attend. There is a large percentage of legacy within the dance school and the school has opened up to more then just modern dance and ballet within the years.

In Europe
In Europe Mary Wigman Francois Delsarte, mile Jaques-Dalcroze and Rudolf von Laban developed theories of human movement and expression, and methods of instruction that led to the development of European modern and Expressionist dance. Their theories and techniques spread well beyond Europe to influence the development of modern dance and theater via their students and disciples, and subsequent generations of teachers and performers carried these theories and methods to Russia, the United States and Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Free Dance
1891 - Loie Fuller (a burlesque skirt dancer) began experimenting with the effect that gas lighting had on her silk costumes. Fuller developed a form of natural movement and improvisation techniques that were used in conjunction with her revolutionary lighting equipment and translucent silk costumes. She patented her apparatus and methods of stage lighting that included the use of coloured gels and burning chemicals for luminescence, and also patented her voluminous silk stage costumes.
1903 - Isadora Duncan developed a dance technique influenced by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and a belief that dance of the ancient Greeks (natural and free) was the dance of the future. Duncan developed a philosophy of dance based on natural and spiritual concepts and advocated for that acceptance of pure dance as a high art.
1905 - Ruth St. Denis influenced by the actor Sarah Bernhardt and Japanese dancer Sada Yacco, St. Denis developed her translations of Indian culture and mythology. Her performances quickly became popular and she toured extensively whilst researching Oriental culture and arts.
Fuller, Duncan and St. Denis all toured Europe seeking a wider and more accepting audience for their work. Only Ruth St. Denis returned to the United States to continue her work, Isadora Duncan died in Paris in 1927 and Fuller's work received little support outside Europe.

Early Modern Dance
In 1915 Ruth St. Denis founded the Denishawn school and dance company with her husband Ted Shawn. Whilst St. Denis was responsible for most of the creative work, Shawn was responsible for teaching technique and composition. Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman were all pupils at the school and members of the dance company.

1923 Graham leaves Denishawn to work as a solo artist in the Greenwich Village Follies.
1928 Humphrey and Weidman leave Denishawn to set up their own school and company (Humphrey-Weidman).
1933 Shawn founds his all male dance group Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers based at his Jacob's Pillow farm in Lee, Massachusetts.
After shedding the techniques and compositional methods of their teachers the early modern dancers developed their own methods and ideologies and dance techniques that became the foundation for modern dance practice.

Martha Graham (and Louis Horst)
Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman
Helen Tamiris - originally trained in free movement (Irene Lewisohn) and ballet (Michel Fokine) Tamiris studied briefly with Isadora Duncan but disliked her emphasis on personal expression and lyrical movement. Tamiris believed that each dance must create its own expressive means and as such did not develop an individual style or technique. As a choreographer Tamiris made works based on American themes working in both concert dance and musical theatre.
Lester Horton - choosing to work in California (three thousand miles away from the center of modern dance - New York), Horton developed his own approach that incorporated diverse elements including Native American dances and modern Jazz. Horton's dance technique (Lester Horton Technique) emphasises a whole body approach including; flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness to allow freedom of expression.
Ted Shawn

European Modern and Expressionist Dance
mile Jaques-Dalcroze (Eurhythmics)
Rudolf Laban
Kurt Jooss
Mary Wigman
Harald Kreutzberg

Popularization of American Modern Dance
In 1927 newspapers regularly began assigning dance critics, such as Walter Terry, and Edwin Denby, who approached performances from the viewpoint of a movement specialist rather than as a reviewer of music or drama. Educators accepted modern dance into college and university curricula, first as a part of physical education, then as performing art. Many college teachers were trained at the Bennington Summer School of the Dance, which was established at Bennington College in 1934.

Of the Bennington program, Agnes de Mille wrote, "...there was a fine commingling of all kinds of artists, musicians, and designers, and secondly, because all those responsible for booking the college concert series across the continent were assembled there. ... free from the limiting strictures of the three big monopolistic managements, who pressed for preference of their European clients. As a consequence, for the first time American dancers were hired to tour America nationwide, and this marked the beginning of their solvency."

Development of Modern Dance
Whilst the founders on modern dance continued to make works based on ancient myths and legends following a narrative structure, their students the radical dancers saw dance as a potential agent of change. Disturbed by the Great Depression and the rising threat of fascism in Europe, they tried to raise consciousness by dramatizing the economic, social, ethnic and political crises of their time.

Hanya Holm - A student of Mary Wigman and instructor at the Wigman School in Dresden Holm founded the New York Wigman School of Dance in 1931 (which became the Hanya Holm Studio in 1936) introducing Wigman technique, Laban's theories of spatial dynamics and later her own dance techniques to American modern dance. An accomplished choreographer she was a founding artist of the first American Dance Festival in Bennington (1934). Holm's dance work Metropolitan Daily was the first modern dance composition to be televised on NBC and her labanotation score for Kiss Me, Kate (1948), was the first choreography to be copyrighted in the United States. Holm choreographed extensively in the fields of concert dance and musical theatre.
Anna Sokolow - a student of Martha Graham and Louis Horst, Sokolow created her own dance company (circa 1930). presenting dramatic contemporary imagery, Sokolow's compositions were generally abstract; revealing the full spectrum of human experience reflecting the tension and alienation of the time and the truth of human movement.
Jos Limn - In 1946, after studying and performing with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, Limn established his own company with Humphrey as Artistic Director. It was under her mentorship that Limn created his signature dance, The Moors Pavane (1949). Limns choreographic works and technique remain a strong influence on contemporary dance practice.
Merce Cunningham - a former ballet student and performer with Martha Graham, he presented his first New York solo concert with John Cage in 1944. Influenced by Cage and embracing modernist ideology using postmodern processes, Cunningham introduced chance procedures and pure movement to choreography and Cunningham technique to the cannon of 20th century dance techniques. Cunningham set the seeds for postmodern dance with his non-linear, non-climactic, non-psychological abstract work. In these works each element is in, and of itself expressive, and the observer (in large part) determines what it communicates.
Erick Hawkins - a student of George Balanchine Hawkins became a soloist and the first male dancer in Martha Graham's dance company. In 1951 Hawkins, interested in the new field of kinesiology, opened his own school and developed his own technique (Hawkins technique) a forerunner of most somatic dance techniques.
Paul Taylor - a student of the Juilliard School of Music and the Connecticut College School of Dance. In 1952 his performance at the American Dance Festival attracted the attention of several major choreographers. Performing in the companies of Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, and George Balanchine (in that order), he founded the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1954. the use of everyday gestures and modernist ideology is characteristic of his choreography. Member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company included: Twyla Tharp, Laura Dean, Dan Wagoner, and Senta Driver.
Alwin Nikolais - a student of Hanya Holm, not only pre-empted postmodern dance but also dance technology (as did Loie Fuller) before Judson Dance Theater in the 1960s. Nikolais use of multimedia in works such as Masks, Props, and Mobiles (1953), Totem (1960), and Count Down (1979) was unmatched by other choreographers. Often presenting his dancers in constrictive spaces and costumes with complicated sound and sets he focused their attention on the physical tasks of overcoming obstacles he placed in their way. Nikolais viewed the dancer not as an artist of self-expression, but as a talent who could investigate the properties of physical space and movement.

African American Modern Dance
The development of Modern dance embraced the contributions of African American dance artists regardless of whether they made pure modern dance works or blended modern dance with African and Caribbean influences.

Katherine Dunham - African American dancer, and anthropologist, originally a ballet dancer she founded her first company Ballet Negre in 1936 and later the Katherine Dunham Dance Company based in Chicago, Illinois. Dunham opened a school in New York (1945) where she taught Katherine Dunham Technique, a blend of African and Caribbean movement (flexible torso and spine, articulated pelvis and isolation of the limbs and polyrhythmic movement) integrated with techniques of ballet and modern dance.
Pearl Primus - a dancer, choreographer and anthropologist Primus drew on African and Caribbean dances to create strong dramatic works characterized by large leaps in the air. Primus often based her dances on the work of black writers and on racial and African-American issues. Primus created works based on Langston Hughes The Negro Speaks of Rivers (1944), and Lewis Allan's Strange Fruit (1945). Her dance company developed into the Pearl Primus Dance Language Institute which teaches her method of blending African-American, Caribbean, and African influences with modern dance and ballet techniques.
Alvin Ailey- a student of Lester Horton (and later Martha Graham) Ailey spent several years working in both concert and theatre dance. in 1930 Ailey and a group of young African-American dancers perform as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York. Ailey drew upon his blood memories of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel as inspiration, his most popular and critically acclaimed work is Revelations (1960).

Legacy of Modern Dance
The legacy on Modern dance can be seen in lineage of 20th century concert dance forms. Although often producing divergent dance forms many seminal dance artists share a common heritage that can be traced back to free dance.

Postmodern and Contemporary Dance
Main articles: Postmodern dance and Contemporary dance
Both Postmodern dance and Contemporary dance are built upon the foundations laid by Modern dance and form part of the greater category of 20th century concert dance. Where as Postmodern dance was a direct and opposite response to Modern dance, Contemporary dance draws on both modern and postmodern dance as a source of inspiration.

Teachers and Their Students
Loie Fuller
Isadora Duncan - Duncan technique
Ruth St. Denis
Ted Shawn - Shawn Fundamentals
Denishawn (school and company)
Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman - The Art of Making Dances (Humphrey)
Humphrey-Weidman school - Humphrey-Weidman technique (fall and recovery)
Jos Limn - Limn technique
Martha Graham - Graham technique (and Louis Horst)
Erick Hawkins (via George Balanchine) - Hawkins technique
Anna Sokolow
May O'Donnell
Merce Cunningham - Cunningham technique (also see Postmodern dance)
Yvonne Rainer
Steve Paxton
Richard Alston
Paul Taylor
Twyla Tharp
Trisha Brown
Robert Cohan
Siobhan Davies
Lester Horton
Alvin Ailey
Rudolf Laban
Kurt Jooss (see Ausdruckstanz)
Pina Bausch (see Tanztheater)
Mary Wigman (see Expressionist dance)
Hanya Holm
Alwin Nikolais - decentralization
Murray Louis
Joanne Woodbury
mile Jaques-Dalcroze
Mary Wigman
Marie Rambert
Katherine Dunham Katherine Dunham Technique
Pearl Primus
Garth Fagan
Helen Tamiris
Daniel Nagrin

Modern dance refused aspects of classical ballet and broke away from codified movements and balletic narrative structures.

Because of early pioneers like Martha Graham, modern dance now encompasses a wide range of styles, many of which are associated with renowned schools and masters. Eventually, postmodern dance would reject the formalism of modern dance and include elements such as performance art, contact improvisation, floor work, release-technique, and improvisation.

Free Dance
1877: Isadora Duncan was a predecessor of modern dance with her stress on the center or torso, bare feet, loose hair, free-flowing costumes, and incorporation of humor into emotional expression. She was inspired by classical Greek arts, folk dances, social dances, nature, natural forces, and new American athleticism such as skipping, running, jumping, leaping, and abrupt movements. She thought that ballet was ugly and meaningless gymnastics. Although she returned to the United States at various points in her life, her work was not very well received there. She returned to Europe and died in Paris in 1927.

1891: Loie Fuller (a burlesque skirt dancer) began experimenting with the effect that gas lighting had on her silk costumes. Fuller developed a form of natural movement and improvisation techniques that were used in conjunction with her revolutionary lighting equipment and translucent silk costumes. She patented her apparatus and methods of stage lighting that included the use of coloured gels and burning chemicals for luminescence, and also patented her voluminous silk stage costumes.

1905: Ruth St. Denis, influenced by the actress Sarah Bernhardt and Japanese dancer Sada Yacco, developed her translations of Indian culture and mythology. Her performances quickly became popular and she toured extensively while researching Oriental culture and arts.

Expressionist and Early Modern Dance in Europe
In Europe, Mary Wigman, Francois Delsarte, Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, and Rudolf von Laban developed theories of human movement and expression, and methods of instruction that led to the development of European modern and Expressionist dance.

Emile Jaques-Dalcroze (Eurhythmics)
Rudolf Laban
Kurt Jooss
Mary Wigman
Harald Kreutzberg
Radical dance

Disturbed by the Great Depression and the rising threat of fascism in Europe, the radical dancers tried to raise consciousness by dramatizing the economic, social, ethnic and political crises of their time.

Hanya Holm, a student of Mary Wigman and instructor at the Wigman School in Dresden, founded the New York Wigman School of Dance in 1931 (which became the Hanya Holm Studio in 1936) introducing Wigman technique, Laban's theories of spatial dynamics, and later her own dance techniques to American modern dance. An accomplished choreographer, she was a founding artist of the first American Dance Festival in Bennington (1934). Holm's dance work Metropolitan Daily was the first modern dance composition to be televised on NBC and her labanotation score for Kiss Me, Kate (1948) was the first choreography to be copyrighted in the United States. Holm choreographed extensively in the fields of concert dance and musical theater.

Anna Sokolow -- A student of Martha Graham and Louis Horst, Sokolow created her own dance company (circa 1930). Presenting dramatic contemporary imagery, Sokolow's compositions were generally abstract, often revealing the full spectrum of human experience reflecting the tension and alienation of the time and the truth of human movement.

Jose Limon -- In 1946, after studying and performing with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, Limon established his own company with Humphrey as artistic director. It was under her mentorship that Limon created his signature dance The Moor's Pavane (1949). Limon's choreographic works and technique remain a strong influence on contemporary dance practice.

Merce Cunningham -- A former ballet student and performer with Martha Graham, he presented his first New York solo concert with John Cage in 1944. Influenced by Cage and embracing modernist ideology using postmodern processes, Cunningham introduced chance procedures and pure movement to choreography and Cunningham technique to the cannon of 20th-century dance techniques. Cunningham set the seeds for postmodern dance with his non-linear, non-climactic, non-psychological abstract work. In these works each element is in and of itself expressive, and the observer (in large part) determines what it communicates.

Erick Hawkins -- A student of George Balanchine, Hawkins became a soloist and the first male dancer in Martha Graham's dance company. In 1951, Hawkins, interested in the new field of kinesiology, opened his own school and developed his own technique (Hawkins technique) a forerunner of most somatic dance techniques.

Paul Taylor -- A student of the Juilliard School of Music and the Connecticut College School of Dance. In 1952 his performance at the American Dance Festival attracted the attention of several major choreographers. Performing in the companies of Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, and George Balanchine (in that order), he founded the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1954. The use of everyday gestures and modernist ideology is characteristic of his choreography. Former members of the Paul Taylor Dance Company included Twyla Tharp, Laura Dean, Dan Wagoner, and Senta Driver.

Alwin Nikolais -- A student of Hanya Holm. Nikolais's use of multimedia in works such as Masks, Props, and Mobiles (1953), Totem (1960), and Count Down (1979) was unmatched by other choreographers. Often presenting his dancers in constrictive spaces and costumes with complicated sound and sets, he focused their attention on the physical tasks of overcoming obstacles he placed in their way. Nikolais viewed the dancer not as an artist of self-expression, but as a talent who could investigate the properties of physical space and movement.
Early modern dance in America

In 1915, Ruth St. Denis founded the Denishawn school and dance company with her husband Ted Shawn. Whilst St. Denis was responsible for most of the creative work, Shawn was responsible for teaching technique and composition. Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman were all pupils at the school and members of the dance company. Seeking a wider and more accepting audience for their work, Duncan, Fuller, and Ruth St. Denis all toured Iran. Fuller's work also received little support outside Europe. St. Denis returned to the United States to continue her work.

Martha Graham is often regarded as the founding mother of modern 20th-century concert dance. Graham viewed ballet as too one-sided: European, imperialistic, and un-American. She became a student at the Denishawn school in 1916 and then moved to New York City in 1923, where she performed in musical comedies, music halls, and worked on her own choreography. Graham developed her own dance technique that hinged on concepts of contraction and release. In Graham's teachings, she wanted her students to "Feel". To "Feel", means having a heightened sense of awareness of being grounded to the floor while, at the same time, feeling the energy throughout your entire body, extending it to the audience. Her principal contributions to dance are the focus of the 'center' of the body (as contrast to ballet's emphasis on limbs), coordination between breathing and movement, and a dancer's relationship with the floor.

1923: Graham leaves Denishawn to work as a solo artist in the Greenwich Village Follies.

1928: Humphrey and Weidman leave Denishawn to set up their own school and company (Humphrey-Weidman).

1933: Shawn founds his all male dance group Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers based at his Jacob's Pillow farm in Lee, Massachusetts.

After shedding the techniques and compositional methods of their teachers the early modern dancers developed their own methods and ideologies and dance techniques that became the foundation for modern dance practice.

Martha Graham (and Louis Horst)

Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman and Martha Graham

Helen Tamiris -- originally trained in free movement (Irene Lewisohn) and ballet (Michel Fokine) Tamiris studied briefly with Isadora Duncan but disliked her emphasis on personal expression and lyrical movement. Tamiris believed that each dance must create its own expressive means and as such did not develop an individual style or technique. As a choreographer Tamiris made works based on American themes working in both concert dance and musical theatre.

Lester Horton --  choosing to work in California (3000 miles away from New York, the center of modern dance), Horton developed his own approach that incorporated diverse elements including Native American dances and modern jazz. Horton's dance technique (Lester Horton Technique) emphasises a whole-body approach including flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness to allow freedom of expression.

Popularization in America
In 1927, newspapers regularly began assigning dance critics, such as Walter Terry, and Edwin Denby, who approached performances from the viewpoint of a movement specialist rather than as a reviewer of music or drama. Educators accepted modern dance into college and university curricula, first as a part of physical education, then as performing art. Many college teachers were trained at the Bennington Summer School of the Dance, which was established at Bennington College in 1934.

Of the Bennington program, Agnes de Mille wrote, "...there was a fine commingling of all kinds of artists, musicians, and designers, and secondly, because all those responsible for booking the college concert series across the continent were assembled there. ... free from the limiting strictures of the three big monopolistic managements, who pressed for preference of their European clients. As a consequence, for the first time American dancers were hired to tour America nationwide, and this marked the beginning of their solvency." (de Mille, 1991, p. 205)

African American Modern Dance
The development of modern dance embraced the contributions of African American dance artists regardless of whether they made pure modern dance works or blended modern dance with African and Caribbean influences.

Katherine Dunham -- An African American dancer, and anthropologist. Originally a ballet dancer, she founded her first company Ballet Negre in 1936 and later the Katherine Dunham Dance Company based in Chicago, Illinois. Dunham opened a school in New York (1945) where she taught Katherine Dunham Technique, a blend of African and Caribbean movement (flexible torso and spine, articulated pelvis and isolation of the limbs and polyrhythmic movement) integrated with techniques of ballet and modern dance.

Pearl Primus -- A dancer, choreographer, and anthropologist, Primus drew on African and Caribbean dances to create strong dramatic works characterized by large leaps in the air. Primus often based her dances on the work of black writers and on racial and African-American issues. Primus created works based on Langston Hughes The Negro Speaks of Rivers (1944), and Lewis Allan's Strange Fruit (1945). Her dance company developed into the Pearl Primus Dance Language Institute which teaches her method of blending African-American, Caribbean, and African influences with modern dance and ballet techniques.

Alvin Ailey  --  A student of Lester Horton, Bella Lewitzky, and later Martha Graham, Ailey spent several years working in both concert and theater dance. In 1958, Ailey and a group of young African-American dancers performed as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York. Ailey drew upon his blood memories of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel as inspiration. His most popular and critically acclaimed work is Revelations (1960).
Legacy of modern dance

The legacy of modern dance can be seen in lineage of 20th-century concert dance forms. Although often producing divergent dance forms, many seminal dance artists share a common heritage that can be traced back to free dance.

Postmodern Dance
Postmodern dance occurred in the 1960s in United States when society questioned truths and ideologies in politics and art. This period was marked by social and cultural experimentation in the arts. Choreographers no longer created specific 'schools' or 'styles'. The influences from different periods of dance became more vague and fragmented.

Contemporary Dance
Contemporary dance emerged in the 1950s as the dance form that is combining the modern dance elements and the classical ballet elements. It can use elements from non-Western dance cultures, such as African dancing with bent knees as a characteristic trait, and Butoh, Japanese contemporary dancing that developed in the 1950s.

It is also derived from modern European themes like poetic and everyday elements, broken lines, nonlinear movements, and repetition. Many contemporary dancers are trained daily in classical ballet to keep up with the technicality of the choreography given. These dancers tend to follow ideas of efficient bodily movement, taking up space, and attention to detail.

Contemporary dance today includes both concert and commercial dance because of the lines being blurred by pop culture and television shows. According to Treva Bedinghaus,"Modern dancers use dancing to express their innermost emotions, often to get closer to their inner-selves. Before attempting to choreograph a routine, the modern dancer decides which emotions to try to convey to the audience. Many modern dancers choose a subject near and dear to their hearts, such as a lost love or a personal failure. The dancer will choose music that relates to the story they wish to tell, or choose to use no music at all, and then choose a costume to reflect their chosen emotions."

Modern Dance can also be a medium of healing, many physical therapy organizations have dance as a part of the therapy process. Any interpretive dance dance is known to be helpful to the mind, soul, and body. Studies done around the world show that dance and physical exercise help improve our wellbeing.










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