How did modern dance start

The Beginnings of Modern Dance

The Beginnings of Modern Dance


Modern dance was born, of all places, in San Francisco, the birthplace of the American dancer Isadora Duncan, a pioneer in the new "free" dance style. Perhaps this is a fitting place for modern dance to have originated since the life-style of the California frontier at that time was primitive, simple, free and natural, the hallmarks of the new style. It was life in the midst of this self-invented, ever-evolving society that shaped Isadora into a redeemer who saw herself as a liberating force from all sorts of conventions and constrictions, whether moral, social, sexual or artistic, that obstructed free expression of one's feelings. And so, Isadora decided that she was going to revitalize what she thought was a moribund art, dulled by mechanical frippery. An intuitive rebel against formal ballet training, Isadora was artistically weaned on the fluidity of nature, especially the ebb and flow of the waves by the seashore. It was from nature's rhythmic impulses and decorative, sinewy forms that she shaped her undulating movement.

Isadora's aim was to strip ballet of all superfluousness and to express in movement the essence of life rather than to tell a story through character or situation. In order to accomplish this, she rebelled against the prevalent artistic conventions of her day which she thought rendered dancing contorted, inexpressive and artificial. At the time, classical ballet was based on the principles that all movement emanated from the spine and that dance needed to defy gravity. For Isadora, however, all movement originated from the solar plexus region of the body, the center of feeling which could be activated by an idea or an emotion: "Working much like a motor does--in progressive development--a single movement from an initial impetus gradually follows a rising curve of inspiration, up to those gestures that exteriorize the fullness of feeling, spreading ever under the impulse that has swayed the dancer. " Furthermore, Isadora felt that the body had to move naturally rather than resist the law of gravity, for movements not corresponding to the basic function and design of the human form were unnatural. For her, true dance sprang from the undulations of the body's rhythms sympathetic to the organic rhythms of the universal energies of the world. In other words, Isadora Duncan wanted to express the rhythm of the spirit that permeates all life.

Isadora Duncan

But Isadora Duncan managed to revolutionize dance in other ways also. Inspired by Greek art, Isadora shed her toe shoes and tutu in favor of bare feet and diaphanous, flowing tunics. This subversive act made her the more notorious, for propriety was of the utmost importance. For more than a century, ballet dancers' feet had been bound in wooden blocked ballet slippers that were supposed to be worn two sizes too small to facilitate the mechanical movement of classical ballet. Furthermore, the ballet dancer's body was further constricted by a heavily boned corseted costume that made the human form and its movement appear artificial and were designed to portray a story-line character. In trying to heighten the expressiveness of the human body, Isadora adopted the chiton, the Greek one-piece tunic favored by the sculptors of the classical age. As worn by Isadora, the chiton could be softly bloused by belt or cord around the waist and crisscrossed between the breast. Several slits extending from below the hip allowed for free pelvic and leg movements. Needless to say, Isadora Duncan was slammed with several lawsuits assailing her for her indecent exposure, but managed, at the same time, to inspire the Parisian world of haute couture, and fashion would never be the same.

Isadora Duncan also radically transformed the use of music and choreography in modern dance. Traditionally, ballet scores were tuneful, piecemeal compositions that featured waltzes, polkas, pizzicati and polkas. In search of the purest expression of the soul, Duncan concentrated on the mood piece, from which movement could grow organically. For Isadora, the perfect dance was unaccompanied dance, a self-sufficient expression independent from all musical support. Such a dance would have the dancer moving in accord with her own bodily rhythms, in dialogue only with an inner voice--no music, no text. It would be pure dancing for oneself to the "rhythms of some invisible music," not interpreting but creating expression and taking place in privacy. And so, the function of music is the inspirational element that brings high excitement and full realization to a dancer's artistic powers. In other words, music provides the dancer with emotional and physical energies. At no time did Isadora see music as the means of creating dances but as a nourishment of the soul. And thus she turned to the finest music of the master composers-- Chopin, Bach, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Gluck and Beethoven--performed as simple piano accompaniment.

In December of 1904, Isadora Duncan first performed in St. Petersburg, and then returned in 1905, 1907 and 1909. These visits were to inspire two of the most important players who would transform modern ballet: Sergei Diaghilev and Michel Fokine. Sergei Diaghilev was a young Russian aristocrat who at the time was a profound influence of Russian cultural life by publishing an art periodical and mounting a massive exhibition of historical portraits in St. Petersburg. As a reward for Diaghilev having revealed Russia to herself, the Czar made it possible for Diaghilev to obtain further support for several exhibits in Paris that would export Russian art to the West--first, with an exhibition of Russian painting (1906), concerts of Russian music (1907) and the first production outside of Russia of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. This production was a soaring success due to its authenticity and extravagant costumes and settings. For the following Paris season, Diaghilev decided to take a dance program also since ballet had almost died in the west and would therefore be a novelty. To his surprise, Diaghilev discovered that it was ballet that gave him the opportunity to combine many of his loved artistic disciplines--choreography, drama, painting and music--with his taste, fondness for experiment, and patronage of artists.  And so, Diaghilev founded the Ballets Russes, a company of Russian dancers and choreographers residing in Paris which transformed the worlds of dance, music, art, theater, and fashion.

Sergei Diaghilev

To stage his first ballet in Paris, Diaghilev brought with him the young brilliant choreographer, Michel Fokine, whose emergence coincided with the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the artistic turmoil that was taking place in the Imperial Ballet school and theater. As with the state of art all over the western world, Russian ballet had also become stultified, going through the motions rather than exploring new artistic territories. Everyone connected with ballet felt that Fokine was part of the birth of a new form of ballet. He became well-known for his call for authenticity and realism: that art must represent its race, historical moment and its cultural environment and that it belonged to the masses. Fokine was credited with revitalizing ballet by incorporating into it national and ethnic styles of movement by drawing on living sources and the remains of lost civilizations. Basically, Fokine worked as an ethnographer and in his task he was helped by the designer Leon Bakst, who helped him with the particulars of the historical reconstruction of time and place.

Fokine revolutionized ballet in yet another manner: he abolished the ballerina as being apart from the corps de ballet. Instead, he was drawn to the crowd and replicated revolutionary fervor in the fury of the masses, the ecstasy of race, the triumph of passion, and the liberation of the self through mass participation. Above all, Fokine wanted to create the illusion that his ballets were not choreographed at all but that they surged spontaneously from a swelling of emotion and gaiety. In essence, he gave ballet the look of improvisation. Before Fokine, ballet was too "staged" and artificially mannered. But with the entrance of Fokine into the Russian Imperial Ballet, dancers became humanized, individualized conveyors of emotional and psychological truths. Fokine personified the need for dancing and gesture to be dramatically motivated. Above all, Fokine asserted that man can and should be expressive from head to foot.

As the principal dancer of the Ballets Russes, Vaslav Nijinsky was the embodiment of this new kind of dancer, and he was to become even more controversial when he was appointed principal choreographer of the Ballets Russes after Fokine resigned in disgust over Diaghilev's manipulative intrigues. This resignation and ascension took place not only because Diaghilev and Nijinsky were lovers but because Diaghilev instinctively knew that if his ballet company was to remain on the cutting edge, it needed new leadership to make the transition. Whereas Fokine's artistic creativity had explored the outward forces that shape man, Nijinsky's art focused on the inward forces that drive him. In other words, Nijinsky's choreography gave expression to the forbidden unconscious and primitive energies within the individual whose portrayal had been heretofore taboo. By taking this enormous artistic risk, Nijinsky's legacy is as seminal as Picasso's, Stravinsky's, and Freud's.


Nijinsky's first ballet was L'Apres Midi d'un Faune, choreographed in 1912 to the languorous music of Claude Debussy. In this ballet, a faun, half-human/half-beast, sees seven nymphs, and he is attracted to one of them in particular. When she undresses to bathe, he tries to catch her and fails. Running away from the faun, the nymph drops her scarf and he picks it up. The faun then returns to his rock on which he was lying at the beginning of the ballet, lies down on the scarf and then makes love to it to the point of orgasm. When Nijinsky literally masturbated during the first performance, all of Paris was aghast at his publicly committing such an offensive act. But Nijinsky had been merely swept away by the unconscious forces that would soon be released in real life, for the dancer was a latent heterosexual who would eventually marry Romala de Pulzsky. Dance, for Nijinsky, became the means through which his inner self, no matter how ambiguous and unrestrained, could find expression. The audience, however, was not yet ready to accept such exhibitionism and self indulgence presented so openly on the stage. For Nijinsky, however, it was a matter of catharsis.

But Faune is not only memorable because of this scandalous incident. This eight minute ballet broke new ground in that it entirely abandoned classical ballet technique through Nijinsky's liberation of the foot. The dancers walked and pivoted, inclined, knelt and, in a single instance, jumped. In other words, Nijinsky brought ballet back to basic, primitive steps. Furthermore, Nijinsky patterns movement in this ballet to reflect the cubists' geometric experimentation. For instance, Nijinsky focused on the body and its movement as an interplay of triangles, arcs, and lines. Furthermore, in this ballet Nijinsky presents different views of the human body simultaneously, just as the cubists compressed in one single synthetic moment as many different aspects of an object as possible. This technique was borrowed from both Egyptian hieroglyphs and Greek friezes which presented frontal and lateral views of the human body in one frozen moment of time.

Nijinsky's choreography for The Rite of Spring (1913) generated even more shock waves than Faune. This time, however, the controversy involved was not sexual explicitness but the ballet's portrayal of primitiveness and barbarity. The fashionable Belle poque audience just wasn't ready for this kind of dancing, or rather, it did not want to be subjected to the human savagery that was about to be unleashed by World War I. What this audience demanded from a ballet about spring was a vision of grace, harmony, and beauty rather than the turbulence just witnessed. What Nijinsky had submitted to the audience was a ballet that questioned the very notion of civilization. Instinctively, Nijinsky had anticipated not only what was to occur in the real world politically but also artistically. He had captured in this ballet all of the features of revolt: the rejection of traditional forms, the embrace of primitivism, the emphasis on vitality rather than rationalism, and the perception of existence as continuous flux.

Igor Stravinsky

            The Rite of Spring takes place in ancient Russia, at a time when pre-social tribes would sacrifice a young maiden to the gods in spring to ensure the fertility of the soil and hunting grounds. In other words, Rite focuses on pre-civilized man in a state of nature who is driven by the brutal energy of the continuity of life. This ballet offers no moral judgments; rather, the maiden is seen not as a victim but as someone who chooses to sacrifice herself for the benefit of her community. These were the facts of life as Nijinsky saw them. 

Rite also provoked its audience in terms of its music and its choreography. Igor Stravinsky wrote a score that violated every sacred musical tradition: it lacked melody, harmony and regular rhythm. Furthermore, the musical score was very loud. The orchestra called for was immense, with a high percentage of it being percussion. The sounds produced by the woodwinds were distorted through the use of mutes, and the violins played down-bow in order to create a louder, more dissonant sound. Nijinsky's choreography was as jarring as the music. Every classical traditional movement was eliminated: no jets, pirouettes, or arabesques. Movement was reduced to jumping with both feet and walking in a stomping fashion. The basic position of the dancers consisted of hunching towards the ground, feet turned inward with great exaggeration, knees bent, arms tucked in, and head turned in profile as the body faced forward. In other words, the dancers appeared knock-kneed so as to stress the primitive jaggedness of existence. Neither the audience nor the critics were amused. During the first performance of Rite, a riot erupted in the theater, but even it was unable to stop the artistic revolution that Nijinsky had just unleashed.

The Rite of Spring (1913)

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Martha Graham Isadora Duncan Doris Humphrey Michio Ito Anna Sokolow
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eurythmics music visualization Ausdruckstanz Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival synchoric orchestra

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Read a brief summary of this topic

modern dance, theatrical dance that began to develop in the United States and Europe late in the 19th century, receiving its nomenclature and a widespread success in the 20th. It evolved as a protest against both the balletic and the interpretive dance traditions of the time.

The forerunners of modern dance in Europe include Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, proponent of the eurythmics system of musical instruction, and Rudolf Laban, who analyzed and systematized forms of human motion into a system he called Labanotation (for further information, see dance notation). A number of the modern dance movement’s precursors appeared in the work of American women. Loie Fuller, an American actress turned dancer, first gave the free dance artistic status in the United States. Her use of theatrical lighting and transparent lengths of China-silk fabrics at once won her the acclaim of artists as well as general audiences. She preceded other modern dancers in rebelling against any formal technique, in establishing a company, and in making films.

Dance was only part of Fuller’s theatrical effect; for another American dancer, Isadora Duncan, it was the prime resource. Duncan brought a vocabulary of basic movements to heroic and expressive standards. She performed in thin, flowing dresses that left arms and legs bare, bringing a scale to her dancing that had immense theatrical projection. Her revelation of the power of simple movement made an impression on dance that lasted far beyond her death.

Formal teaching of modern dance was more successfully achieved by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. St. Denis based much of her work on Eastern dance styles and brought an exotic glamour to her company. Shawn was the first man to join the group, becoming her partner and soon her husband. Nonballetic dance was formally established in 1915, when they founded the Denishawn school.

From the ranks of Denishawn members, two women emerged who brought a new seriousness of style and initiated modern dance proper. Doris Humphrey emphasized craftsmanship and structure in choreography, also developing the use of groupings and complexity in ensembles. Martha Graham began to open up fresh elements of emotional expression in dance. Humphrey’s dance technique was based on the principle of fall and recovery, Graham’s on that of contraction and release. At the same time in Germany, Mary Wigman, Hanya Holm, and others were also establishing comparably formal and expressionist styles. As in Duncan’s dancing, the torso and pelvis were employed as the centres of dance movement. Horizontal movement close to the floor became as integral to modern dance as the upright stance is to ballet. In the tense, often intentionally ugly, bent limbs and flat feet of the dancers, modern dance conveyed certain emotions that ballet at that time eschewed. Furthermore, modern dance dealt with immediate and contemporary concerns in contrast to the formal, classical, and often narrative aspects of ballet. It achieved a new expressive intensity and directness.

Another influential pioneer of modern dance was dancer, choreographer, and anthropologist Katherine Dunham, who examined and interpreted the dances, rituals, and folklore of the black diaspora in the tropical Americas and the Caribbean. By incorporating authentic regional dance movements and developing a technical system that educated her students mentally as well as physically, she expanded the boundaries of modern dance. Her influence continues to the present day.

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Like Dunham, Trinidadian-born dancer and choreographer Pearl Primus studied anthropology. Her studies led her to Africa (she ultimately took a Ph.D. in African and Caribbean studies), and her choreography explored African, West Indian, and African American themes.

Lester Horton, a male dancer and choreographer who worked during the same period as Dunham and Primus, was inspired by the Native American dance tradition. He was involved in all aspects of the dance, lighting, sets, and so on and also was a noted teacher, whose students included Alvin Ailey, Jr., and Merce Cunningham,

Eventually rejecting psychological and emotional elements present in the choreography of Graham and others, Cunningham developed his own dance technique, which began to incorporate as much ballet as it did modern dance, while his choreographic methods admitted chance as an element of composition and organization. Also in the 1950s Alwin Nikolais began to develop productions in which dance was immersed in effects of lighting, design, and sound, while Paul Taylor achieved a generally vigorous and rhythmic style with great precision and theatrical projection in several works responding to classical scores.

Cunningham was a prime influence on the development of postmodern dance in the 1960s and later. Based especially in New York City, a large number of new dancers and choreographers—Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, Pina Bausch, and many others—began to abandon virtuoso technique, to perform in nontheatre spaces, and to incorporate repetition, improvisation, minimalism, speech or singing, and mixed-media effects, including film. Out of this context emerged artists such as Twyla Tharp, who gradually reintroduced academic virtuosity, rhythm, musicality, and dramatic narrative to her dance style, which was based in ballet and yet related to the improvisatory forms of popular social dance. (See also Tharp’s Sidebar: On Technology and Dance. )

Since its founding, modern dance has been redefined many times. Though it clearly is not ballet by any traditional definition, it often incorporates balletic movement; and though it may also refer to any number of additional dance elements (those of folk dancing or ethnic, religious, or social dancing, for example), it may also examine one simple aspect of movement. As modern dance changes in the concepts and practices of new generations of choreographers, the meaning of the term modern dance grows more ambiguous.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Kathleen Kuiper.

History of modern dance. Origins. Fuller, Duncan, Saint-Denis and Allan

The history of modern dance begins with a search for freedom. This seemingly simple desire drives modern choreographers today. Their activity is not just a new form of expression. This is an attempt to rethink dance as an art, to find an alternative approach to movement, ideology and aesthetics. Everything that has been created and is being created in the world of dance is continuously interconnected. Historical context, personal circumstances, location and, sometimes, chance determine the fate of this art form. nine0003

The pioneers of the new dance form are 3 American dancers: Loie Fuller (1862-1928), Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) and Ruth Saint-Denis (1879-1968). And also Canadian Maud Allan (1873-1956). At the beginning of the 20th century, it was they who came to the rejection of classical canons and the search for new forms of dance. Their art was dedicated to the emancipation of dance and themselves, as well as true creative exploration. What were the principles of their creativity based on, which are still fundamental in modern dance? nine0003

Passion for nature

All four choreographers: Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis and Maud Allan had some brief experience with classical dance. For various reasons, they did not find the possibility of artistic expression in it and went in search of their art, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources.

The ballet school taught that the source of movement is in the middle of the back, at the base of the spine. “From this axis,” says the choreographer, “arms, legs and torso should move freely, like a puppet. As a result of this method, we have mechanical movements unworthy of the soul. My ideals made it impossible for me to participate in the ballet, every movement of which shocked me and went against my sense of beauty, its means of expression seemed to me mechanical and vulgar. nine0003

A. Duncan

First of all, Fuller, Duncan and Saint-Denis were inspired by nature and were looking for a new form of movement, referring to the harmony of the world order. Unlike ballet, their goal was not to imitate nature, but to reunite with it. Their dance did not imitate a wave, it expressed the strength, power and energy of the sea. They put on costumes that did not interfere with the range of motion, danced barefoot and listened to their intuition. They used the "human movement repertoire", such as running or walking, as part of the stage choreography. nine0003

Isadora Duncan, perhaps the most famous in the post-Soviet space, symbolizes the freedom of a woman and a dancer. She lived a busy and impulsive life, and so did her dancing. Her movements are the result of feelings, emotions and impulses coming from the solar plexus. On the video - the dance of her follower.

Synthesis with other art forms

Choreographers looked for new solutions in areas unfamiliar to them. Duncan turned to the culture of Ancient Greece, and Saint-Denis and Allan - to the East. They believed in the authenticity of these cultures and looked for a natural and unbiased dance. Interestingly, authenticity was not their goal, they did not reconstruct ancient dances, but used images and ideas to form their plastic language. nine0003

I worked studying ancient sculpture, vase painting and individual moments of ancient dance recorded in painting and sculpture, but I saw in them only unsurpassed examples of natural and beautiful human movements. My dance is not the dance of the past, it is the dance of the future. And what was the dance of the ancient Greeks in general - we do not know. Their music, apparently, was primitive.

A. Duncan

One of Fuller's inventions and innovations was the play with light. She invented and patented special placement of mirrors, chemical dyes for textiles and special lighting. Fuller may have been the first choreographer to embrace dance as a visual art. The progressive creativity of these women aroused interest and admiration among contemporaries. Many artists, musicians and stage designers collaborated with choreographers. Here, for example, is the dance of Loi Fuller, captured by the Lumiere brothers in 1896 d.

Rejection of plot

Another revolutionary innovation is plotlessness. This idea, which was clearly reflected in painting (cubism, abstract art, etc.), was also adapted into dance. The choreographers considered the expression quite interesting and self-sufficient motive. Fuller and Duncan turned to human emotions and natural processes as the composition of a choreographic plot, and Saint-Denis developed a method of visualizing music through dance - where the structure of the musical work was the basis for the choreography. This method helped to avoid emotional interpretation and additional plot, proving that dance can exist as an independent form of expression, as opposed to ballet, where each movement is tied to the actions and emotions of the character. The video captures excerpts from the dances of Saint-Denis, inspired by India and China. nine0003

Basis for development - schools and the festival

As a separate discipline, modern dance has established itself because Fuller, Duncan and Saint-Denis have developed educational systems. Just as in ballet Louis XIV founded the Royal Academy of Dance, these women founded the first schools of free dance in France, Russia and the United States - with their own system of education, ideology and tasks. In these schools, teachers helped children find their form of expression in dance. If in ballet the system is aimed at improving technique and the body to match the accepted canons, here the focus was on the individuality and ability of the dancer for artistic interpretation. At the same time, all three schools were trying to structure their method, develop the basic techniques of Fuller, Duncan, Saint-Denis and teach it to the next generation. nine0003

It was easy for schools to find pupils, because the whole world was on the threshold of change, and young people liked the idea of ​​democracy, including in dance. They wanted to find themselves, a new form of self-expression and freedom. Soon the students began to participate in productions and tour under the brand of their mentors. So, for example, the Isadorables troupe appeared, consisting of Duncan's students and performing in Europe and the USA after the death of the choreographer.

Famous School Denishawn , founded by Saint-Denis and her partner Ted Schon in Los Angeles, nurtured Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, the main figures of modern dance in the US, whose work is still on the world's main stages. Interestingly, in this school, ballet was not excluded as a discipline, but adjusted to their philosophy, practicing it barefoot or in nature. The school also taught yoga, free flow (today we would call this class improvisation), folk dancing, Dalcroze rhythmic gymnastics, meditation, and arts and crafts. Here is an excerpt from the Denishawn School's choreographic education manual that describes the school's philosophy exactly:

The art of dance is too broad to be limited to just one system. On the contrary, the dance itself includes all systems or schools. Any way in which a person of any race or nationality, in any period of human history, has expressed his feelings with a rhythmic movement belongs to the dance. We are trying to understand and use all the knowledge from the past about dance and will continue to use new discoveries in the future.

In 1940 this pair together with Mary Washington Ball , the dance teacher who owned the premises at the time, hosted a festival at Jacob's Pillow . From the first days, the program consisted of a variety of types of dance: from ballroom to folk. And thus showed that this art has no boundaries. Today Jacob's Pillow is a dance center, school and theater. The organization honorably holds the title of the very first international dance festival in the United States and puts on more than 200 performances every summer. In 2010, Jacob's Pillow was awarded the National Gold Medal for the Arts. nine0003

Unfortunately, the difficult years of the First and Second World Wars did not allow schools to exist for a long time. But the foundation for the development of modern dance was laid. A new generation of dancers and choreographers appeared who continued the ideas of mentors in their work.

From the very first days, modern dance has established itself as free - where each artist has his own truth and his own dance. Fuller, Duncan and Saint-Denis not only made an ideological breakthrough that inspired thousands of choreographers around the world, but also left an institutional legacy in the form of the first schools and festivals of modern dance. Not all of their activities have been documented and preserved, but most importantly, they have been transferred into the bodies and practices of other dancers. And this is the main archive of the dance. nine0003

The history of the development of modern dance | Educational social network

Municipal budgetary educational institution
"Gymnasium No. 71" ("Rainbow")

Scientific and practical conference of students' research work

Section: "Culture and sports"

Research topic:
"History" development of modern dance»

Authors: Priezzheva Sofya,
Shardakova Anastasia

Class: 8 A

Supervisor: Votintseva A.V.,
choreography teacher

Kemerovo 2019


Introduction 3

World dancers and choreographers 5

2. Types of modern dance 9

3. The history of the development of modern dance in Russia 10

3.1. Problems of development of contemporary dance in Russia 11

Conclusion 13

References 14


The history of modern dance has its roots in the distant past. The first dance movements were a reflection of the sensual impressions of people received from the outside world.

The art of dance is the oldest manifestation of the original creativity of different peoples of the world. The dance was born simultaneously with the appearance of man, as it was a natural physiological need for rhythmic movements.

The history of contemporary choreography begins with the search for freedom. This seemingly simple desire drives modern choreographers today. Their activity is not just a new form of expression. This is an attempt to rethink dance as an art, to find an alternative approach to movement, ideology and aesthetics. Everything that has been created and is being created in the world of dance is continuously interconnected. Historical context, personal circumstances, location and, sometimes, chance determine the fate of this art form. nine0003

The modern form of dance is fundamentally different from its predecessor - classical dance, in which the main emphasis is on strict certain rules and norms. But, nevertheless, in modern dance the basis is made up of movements, steps and pas taken from classical ballet.

The purpose of this project is to study the development of contemporary dance.

To achieve this goal, it is necessary to solve a number of tasks:

  • define the concept of "modern dance"; nine0139
  • study the history of the development of modern dance;
  • highlight significant personalities in modern choreography;
  • indicate its main principles and features;
  • describe the current state of contemporary dance in Russia.

  1. Origins of modern dance

Modern dance originates from classical ballet. It arose as a result of society's reaction to the strict, firm and to some extent formal restrictions of classical ballet. nine0003

Today, modern dance is an independent form of art, where movements, music, and light are combined in a new way. The concept of modern dance lies in the freedom and expressiveness of movements, which provide an amazing opportunity to express your feelings in the most vivid colors.

In the 1960s, a real upheaval began in dance culture. The course of dance development has changed and has become focused on the simplicity of movements, the beauty of small details, on naturalness. The main principle in the dance was feelings taken from life. At first, the new dance form did not even provide for the use of costumes, plots, scenery and other similar props, based on naturalness. But, as it turned out, this decision did not have a very positive effect on dance shows. Therefore, various objects and decorations soon appeared in modern choreography, contributing to greater entertainment and a good impression of the ongoing action on the stage. nine0003

Modern dance developed and improved very quickly. And already by the 80s, it turned into a whole dance action, striking in its beauty, high level of technique and impeccable movements, which were an amazing composition in combination with appropriate music, which developed as dynamically as modern dance. It is worth noting that it has become fashionable to combine modern choreography with classical dance. Thanks to the high professionalism and refined skills of the choreographers and dancers, this combination looked quite harmonious and completely new. This combination was to the taste of the public and the choreographers themselves. The combination of classical ballet and modern dance forms contributed to the development of new styles and types of dance. nine0003

The middle of the twentieth century was a time of dynamic development and improvement for dance culture. During these years, modern dance has almost completely moved away from the concepts of ballet and turned into a self-sufficient full-fledged art, based on movements taken from classical ballet, skillfully disguised as a new way. It can be said with full confidence that the 20th century was a real creative breakthrough for choreography and a kind of revolution in the culture of dance. nine0003

So, modern (or modern dance) is a trend in choreography that belongs to the 20th century. Literally translated, it means "modern", which subsequently served as the name for this dance direction.

  1. World dancers and choreographers

Various modern dance techniques are formed under the influence of a clearly stated philosophical thought or a certain vision of the world, created on the basis of the creativity of a particular person. Building a connection between the form of dance and the internal state is the main task of the performer. nine0003

In the field of stage dance there were bright and talented performers Loi Fuller, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Isadora Duncan.

Isadora Duncan had a huge number of followers around the world, as well as her dance studios in New York, Paris, Berlin and Moscow, but she never created her own school. Her special stage style amazed and delighted the audience. Dancing barefoot in a light tunic, she moved freely, using all the possibilities of movement. She did not have an ideal figure, did not demonstrate a special dance technique, but she captivated the audience with her performance. Her naturalness expressed her individuality. In her work, Isadora Duncan relied on intuition and improvisation. nine0003

Duncan's work took place at the same time as the work of Loe Fuller. Duncan followed the path of the inner, emotional state, while Fuller, on the contrary, touched the outer component. She experimented in everything - scenery and light, costume details, played with shapes, brightness of colors. Loi Fuller fantastically used various movements of the body and arms, while not having any special choreographic data.

Ruth St. Denis continued her search for Isadora Duncan. Her works succumbed to the influence of the East, religious and mystical subjects were embodied in dances. At 19In 15, Denis and her husband Ted Shawn open the first Denishawn modern school, the name of which becomes a symbol of professional modern dance.

In the first half of the 1930s, the ideas of Art Nouveau were perfected in the USA, Germany and Western Europe.

Rudolf von Laban - theorist and inspirer of expressionism in dance, who turned to the philosophical teachings of ancient India. In 1928, he proposes a "universal theory of dance gesture" which proved to be applicable to describe all plastic-dynamic characteristics, no matter what category they belong to. nine0003

Beginning in the second half of the 1930s, the USA became the center for the development of modern dance. The central names here are Charles Weidman, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, who at one time graduated from the Denishone and Chania Holm schools. They were great dancers and teachers who created their own system for training performers.

Martha Graham was the first educator to create such a system. Her first productions, presented in New York in 1926, brought success to her and her company. In continuation of her career, she created performances based on biblical and ancient stories. Martha Graham sought to create a dance language that could convey all human experiences. nine0003

Doris Humphrey's career as a performer was not long. Due to illness, she leaves the stage and remains in the troupe of Jose Limon, where she is engaged in staging and teaching. She was an opponent of the beauty and stylization of Saint-Denis, placing great emphasis on the accuracy and technical component of the dance. The art of the East, the folk dances of American Indians and African Americans, gave impetus to her work. It was Doris who became the first teacher of dance composition in the USA. She wrote the book The Art of Dance. nine0003

After the Second World War, choreographers and dancers performed their performances in the streets and parks. Some even refuse musical accompaniment, using only noises or drums.

José Limón continued the traditions established in the art of dance. His dances synthesized American modern and Spanish-Mexican traditions.

Merce Cunningham chooses his own path of dance development and opens his own postmodern school. Cunningham viewed the performance as a union of independently created, independent elements. In his work, Cunningham collaborated with composer John Cage, whose ideas he transferred to his productions. He realized that every movement can be dance and the composition is created by chance. The main task of the choreographer is to create a choreography in which each of the dancers performs movements in different rhythms. nine0003

It is worth noting a few more prominent representatives of postmodernism, such as Alvin Nikolais, Paul Taylor, Meredith Monk, Trisha Brown.

Interest in Art Nouveau grew in Western Europe as well. American educators began to conduct the first seminars back in 1959 in Germany, Walter Nike, who was a student of Catherine Dunham.

By the beginning of the 70s, several modern dance schools had formed. In parallel with modern dance, jazz dance is being improved. During this period, choreographers and teachers are increasingly combining different styles and techniques of dance. nine0003

The famous teacher Lester Horton, who created the technique of modern dance, laid the foundation for jazz modern dance.

Jack Cole was the first choreographer to combine these two techniques in his work. His system, Hindi Jazz, combined the black dance isolation technique, the Indian folk dance movement and the Denishawn achievement.

Gass Giordano was one of the founders of jazz modern dance, who wrote the first textbook describing the technique of this dance style. nine0003

  1. Types of modern dance

Currently, there are four main dance systems with their own aesthetics, school and performance technique: classical, folk,
jazz-modern, modern and postmodern dances (a term proposed by I. Reiner to designate American direction), or contemporary (a term proposed for European contemporary dance). These are the systems that have their own history, their own aesthetic module, their own technique, their own methods of training performers, their own language of movements. Let's define each of these areas. nine0003

Classical dance is the main expressive means of ballet; a system based on the careful development of various groups of movements, which appeared at the end of the 16th century in Italy and was further developed in France thanks to the court ballet.

Folk dance is a folklore dance that is performed in its natural environment and has certain movements, rhythms, costumes, and the like, traditional for the area. Folklore dance is a spontaneous manifestation of feelings, mood, emotions, performed primarily for oneself, and then for the viewer (society, group). nine0003

Jazz-modern dance is a dance direction that is unique in its essence, which appeared in the 70s of the last century as a protest. A protest against classical ballet performances that are boxed in and do not allow improvisation.

Contemporary dance is a modern stage dance that includes a variety of styles and techniques.

  1. The history of the development of contemporary dance in Russia

A feature of the development of modern stage dance in Russia, due to certain political conditions, is the lack of historical experience both in the education of dancers and choreographers, and in the perception of the audience. Modern dance has been developing for a hundred years, postmodern (contemporary) has been developing for more than fifty years. Russia is only trying to join this process. That is why the performances of modern Russian choreographers S. Pepelyaev, E. Panfilov, O. Pona, O. Bavdilovich, T. Baganova and others often encounter misunderstanding and rejection by the Russian public, although they are enthusiastically perceived by the Western one. nine0003

At the moment, a paradoxical situation is emerging when dancers and choreographers, due to the need of the time, are ready to accept the new language and aesthetic creed of modern dance, but due to the lack of information and the training system for performers and choreographers, they do not know how to do this.

I would like to quote the well-known theorist and practitioner of dance therapy A. Girshon about the current state of modern dance in Russia: “If we consider that dance is a language (text), then most of what happens on the modern dance scene (at least who considers himself such) is an attempt to speak a foreign language, when you are fascinated by the very sound of hitherto unfamiliar sounds, but you combine them according to the laws of the language you know. Many modern dance groups use the vocabulary of contemporary, modern, contact partnering, but they use it practically in finished form. nine0003

The new dance in Russia has a clearly non-metropolitan origin. Small troupes most often arise not where academic traditions are naturally strong. It was the Russian province that served as a stage for the formation of a new dance: Perm and Yekaterinburg, Volgograd and Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk and Vladivostok, Saransk and Yaroslavl became the centers of Russian contemporary. Several professional troupes appeared, and the constant accusations of amateurism and amateur performances are losing their relevance. All these years, Russian dancers and choreographers have studied a lot, using the slightest opportunity. Master classes, summer schools, foreign trips and trainings by invited Western teachers have done their job, and today we have both well-trained dancers and, most importantly, choreographers who think differently. nine0003

The pride of our region can be considered the emergence of a new dance project "A NiceDay" - the largest dance center in Siberia in the city of Krasnoyarsk. The development of modern dance is closely connected with the dance company of Elena Slobodchikova and the Isadora International Festival of Contemporary Dance, which is one of the largest dance competitions.

  1. Problems of the development of modern dance in Russia
  1. There is no definition of what modern dance is. In Russia, the global standard for defining the concept of "modern dance" has not yet been adopted, which is often replaced by social dance. At the moment, unfortunately, nothing can be done about this terminological confusion, we can only officially recognize two terms: “modern dance” (as social) and “modern” (as modern stage dance in the world sense). At the everyday level, “modern dance” is a dance of the present, but we can clearly divide it into two large groups: stage dance (choreographic art) and social (domestic) dance, that is, dance as a cultural phenomenon that is integral with everyday life our society. nine0139
  2. Modern dance in Russia does not have any support from government agencies. Note that when modern came to France, thanks to the efforts of the government, 14 national centers of modern dance were opened throughout France with their own premises, staff of teachers, concert venues! And this made it possible in the shortest possible time, in almost 10 years, to educate young choreographers now known all over the world.
  3. Contradiction between the mindset of a choreographer in classical and modern choreography. The emergence of new directions of dance in the 20th century led to the emergence of a whole range of expressive possibilities for the choreographer. Each dance system has its own aesthetic and, therefore, its own dance language, with which the choreographer creates a work of art. Naturally, the choreographer's thinking changes, depending on the perception of a certain aesthetics of a particular choreographic direction, and depending on the expressive means that he uses. nine0139


As part of this research work, the goal was achieved - the history of the development of modern dance was studied.

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