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What Is Modern Dance?

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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. Modern dancers reject the limitations of classical ballet and favor movements derived from the expression of their inner feelings. 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 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. This type of dancer rejects the classical ballet stance of an upright, erect body, often opting instead for deliberate falls to the floor.

If you are attending your first modern dance class, you are probably wondering what type of shoes and clothes you should wear. While some studios have strict dress requirements, you will probably be safe showing up in tights and a leotard underneath a top or skirt of some kind. As for shoes, many modern dancers prefer to wear leather or canvas ballet slippers, and some like the feeling of bare feet.

Modern Dancer Martha Graham:

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.

All About Martha Graham

Modern Dance Today:

Modern dance is a huge genre in the dance world today. You will most likely see modern dance listed as a class offered on the schedules of most dance studios. Some dancers feel that modern dance gives them a chance to enjoy ballet dancing without the strict focus on their technique and turnout. Many dance competitions throughout the nation judge dancers on their modern dancing ability. 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. Watching a modern dancer can sometimes become emotional, especially if the dancer is trying to convey a series of sad emotions, such as death or grief.

If you are interested in learning modern dance, check the yellow pages or your local newspaper for possible classes.

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