Born in the early 20th century, modern dance is a dance style that centers on a dancer's own interpretations instead of structured steps, as in traditional ballet dancing. During the 1900's, European dancers began rebelling against the rigid rules of classical ballet. Turning against the structured techniques, costumes and shoes of ballet, these dancers favaored a more relaxed, free style of dancing. Modern dance pioneers often danced in bare feet and revealing costumes. In the United States, several dance pioneers paved the way for American modern dance, including the legendary Martha Graham.
Characteristics of Modern Dance:
Modern dance encourages dancers to use their emotions and moods to design their own steps and routines. It is not unusual for modern dancers to invent new steps for their routines, instead of following a structured code of technique, as in ballet.
Another characteristic of modern dance in opposition to ballet is the deliberate use of gravity. Whereas classical ballet dancers strive to be light and airy on their feet, modern dancers often use their body weight to enhance movement. A modern dancer rejects the classical ballet stance of an upright, erect body, often opting instead for deliberate falls to the floor.
Martha Graham is considered one of the foremost pioneers of American modern dance. In order to express the passion, rage and ecstasy of humans, she developed her very own language of movement. She created a new dance technique similar to classical ballet, but with several differences. She focused heavily on basic human movement, concentrating on the movements of contraction and release. Instead of striving for long, fluid movements, Graham's movements were sharp and jagged. Her dancing aimed to expose basic human emotions through movement. Graham's brave vision for modern dance earned her several awards and honors.
Modern Dancers Today:
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.
If you are interested in learning modern dance, check the yellow pages or your local newspaper for possible classes.