The Origins of Modern Dance

Published 26 Dec 2016

Introduction essay

The world witnessed the beginning of revolution in dance in early 20th century where ironclad traditions of classical and ballet techniques were done away with to pave way for innovative and new styles of dance and movement. To this accord, the modern dance would alter the way dance, through movement could express deep feelings and moods and entirely influence tendencies in choreography on international level. This revolution saw choreographers and dancers move away from the code structured ballet style to trends of creative self-expression. The classical and ballet dances were argued to be vulgar, limiting in expression of emotions and imperialistic in nature (Shine 2009). Most modern dancers have become focused more relaxed, free dance style with use of emotions and moods to design their own steps, and drew aspirations from the African and Oriental dances.

The incorporation of the variety of body movements and other dance styles saw the birth of modern dance, where most pupils discovered the potential of dance as a vehicle for social change. Among the pioneers of modern dance are Charles Weidman, Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham and Lester Horton who studied in the Denishawn School in Los Angeles. They began developing their own techniques and methodologies for creating and teaching modern dance in New York and California in U.S. In Europe, Francois Delsarte, Mary Wigman, Rudolf von Laban and Emile Jaques-Dalcroze taught movement and expression which led to emergence of European modern and Expressionist dance, which spread beyond Europe (Aloff 2006).

Lester Horton’s interest in modern dance

Lester Horton is among the influential choreographers credited for pioneering the modern dance techniques. After attending the Denishawn School in Los Angeles, he moved to California in 1928 and formed his own company. Lester Horton developed training methods that are accounted to the expanded ballet’s range of motions and movements and have contributed to the dancer’s strength, flexibility, coordination and agility in dance movements with freedom. These movements are very vital warm up for graceful dance and help develop pace, reduce muscle fatigue and pivotal for relaxed artistic expression.

His approach incorporated perse techniques from the modern Jazz and Native American dances. Horton had passion for dance and was committed to revolutionalizing dance and for this reason he devoted his time and resources in setting up dance schools for teaching interested pupils in the art of dance. Among his pupils are Alvin Ailey, Bella Lewitzky and Carmen de Lavallade, who have been successful in the dance and film industry (Kassing 2007).

Through his pupils his technique has been codified, altered, passed on, cherished, and embellished for its innovativeness and the aptitude to shape a fully capable mechanism of movement without leaving the dancer with a discernable style. According to Dinerman (2006), his legacy thrives in the modern dance, fully bodied, construct of spirit, genius and creativity which has set standards and formed an inspiration to some of the most articulate dancers of the twentieth century. Horton’s famous works which are well known by the name ‘choreodramas’ are The beloved, Salome, and Tierra Y Libertad. He will forever live in the hearts of modern dancers for his exceptional skill he bestowed on them.

Modern dance influence in the 20th century

The twentieth century was of enormous progress for arts and especially dances. Modern dance usually refers to the twentieth century concert dance. The modern dance being new and exciting was received enthusiastically by the youth but the mainstream arts community did not lack criticism to it but later they would fall to its alluring techniques and ease in improvisation. Like other modern arts it came with greater awakening of the consciousness in the society for its role as a means of expression (Aloff 2006). The ballet and classical dances were inadequate in expressing the modern world view which had dramatically changed after the Second World War.

The dancers therefore wanted to express changes more holistic and spiritually through the modern dance that was not restrictive coded structure like the ballet. Radical dancers have embraced modern dance as potential agent of change through which they have been able to raise the masses’ consciousness by dramatizing the ethnic, socio-economic and political issues affecting the society (Chambers 2006).

The modern dance has illuminated the concert dance and the musical theatre in the twentieth century. Not only has it seen the increase of theatre goers but also brought fortunes to the dancers in their lives. The film industry has also be quick to incorporate dance in their scripts, bringing new light in the screens which has been a bold move from also the classical movies where everything was supposed to be done via strict rules. With the rise of perse incorporation in the modern dance the film industry has also been keen not to remain rigid and from the influence of the modern dance it has incorporated songs, dance and actions bringing out a more refurbished screen images worth watching again and again.

Through modern dance the people have been able to philosophically interpret the world and see it in new perspectives. By incorporating other people’s cultural persity in dance, the dancers have successfully helped the people in a society appreciate one another promoting peace and harmony (Kassing 2007).

Dance classes I have attended

Dance classes can be fun but requires efforts and commitment as they can be strenuous practices. I have been attending the dance classes for over two months. It has been challenging for me because I am a gentleman aged twenty-four weighing two hundred and fifty pounds and I guess you can image how I am. Although it has been hard considering my body posture, I have tried through zeal and zest and our choreographer has been quite encouraging to our troupe. Our parents tried to shut down the classes but the choreographer made them see the benefits that come with dance classes. Before I had problems facing or conversing with members of the opposite sex but believe me, I have shed off those fears.

Dance is about facing and holding your dance partner without fear and your steps tells her where to go which means you should be in charge. The classes have contributed to the raising confidence in me such that I feel free standing close to a lady and conversing freely concerning the dance lessons and our mistakes. I hope I will also feel free talking about any topic! The dance moves have made me gain strength and control in delicate moves without falling which makes me proud of myself, for I’ve also lost eight pounds of my weight. Moreover, learning something new has been a plus to my ego as I can show other people something they do not know.

On the other hand it has not come that easy. I have been a subject of discussion as not many ladies want to dance with me. It is also disheartening when other people make fun of my body figure which I can do nothing about it. It really hurts! I have been paired with this lady who nobody wants to dance with because she is not that cute. I’m starting to like her for she has a kind heart too. Altogether I have learnt to ignore my critics because they only aim to break my heart which I’m prepared not to let them succeed. My advice to those of my caliber; heed not to your critics because you’ll never do something for yourself and spent time looking back to what they criticized.

List of references

  • Aloff, M (2006), Dance anecdotes: Stories from the worlds of ballet, Broadway, the ballroom, and the modern dance, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Chambers, C (2006), Continuum companion to twentieth century theatre, Continuum Intl Pub Group.
  • Dinerman, D (2006), Horton Summit, Retrieved June 17, 2009.
  • Kassing, G (2007), History of dance: an interactive arts approach, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  • Shine, V (2009), the origins of modern dance, Retrieved June 17, 2009
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