genre buzz : modern dance

Genre Buzz : Modern Dance

Loie Fuller, an American actress turned dancer, first gave the modern dance (or as it was called then, ‘free dance’) artistic status in the United States in the early 20th Century. Formal teaching of modern dance was more successfully achieved by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn.

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.
A revolt in turn against Graham’s expressionism was led by Merce Cunningham, who rejected psychological and emotional elements in choreography.  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 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 and Trisha Brown.
Since its founding, modern dance has been redefined many times. To be sure, modern is not ballet by any traditional definition, though at its technical core it incorporates basic balletic alignment and alignment first found balelt, i.e. ‘first’, ‘fifth’, ‘plie’ etc; 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 evolves.

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