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 20 th c. as a revolt against ballet and “show” dance, or vaudeville.
BRIEF HISTORY OF MODERN DANCE
By Wendy Oliver
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Co..
Ballet conceived on grand scale, with opera house in mind
Strives to defy gravity
Looks to European aristocracy for its traditions
All ballet movement starts and ends with the 5 positions
Focus on arms and legs
Modern dance usually designed for smaller spaces
May give into gravity or defy it
Looks within the individual
Modern dance may use ballet positions but has as many additional positions as needed by choreographer
Focus on torso
Subject matter of ballet typically draws on European fairy tales
Ballet tends to be about “make believe” situations
Ballet companies structured as hierarchy: corps de ballet, coryphees, soloists, principals
Ballet companies tend to perform choreography by many different people, and are named after their location (ie. Boston Ballet)
Modern dance draws on non-European themes, sometimes American or Greek
Modern dance may deal with social concerns of time
Modern dance companies usually smaller; usually all dancers serve as soloists
Modern companies often perform mainly work of the director, after whom the company is named (i.e.Trisha Brown Co.)
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 world.
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
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 expressionist dance and ballet.
The dance was severe rather than pretty, and emphasized integrity over commercial success.
Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring
Journey Into the Maze, based on Jason and the Minotaur
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 recognized.
Alvin Ailey Co.
"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 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 Ballet 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
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 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 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
Modern Dance continues to evolve…