What exactly is contemporary dance?

Contemporary dance is a unique form of dancing, free from all the rules and regulations of the ballet.

It was during the mid-20th century that this style was first developed. Furthermore, it is said to have been created by fusing elements belonging to music,art, imagery, and fashion.

There are a number of people around the world who are blissfully unaware with regards to the existence of this dance form. The style that makes contemporary easier than the rest of the dance styles is its flexibility. It doesn’t have complicated or rigid techniques like the other dance styles. It provides dancers with more freedom to generate and experiment with their own moves. So, here are a few facts about this unique form of performing art known as “Contemporary Dance”.

The history and origin of contemporary dance:

It was in the year 1944 that Merce Cunningham, an American choreographer, is said to have developed a unique style known as “Contemporary Dance”. Apparently, it was John Cage (a composer from America and a key member of Cunningham’s performing group) who keenly observed that “the dance style used by Merce did not follow a linear pattern”. He also felt that the style of dancing used by Cunningham “did not depend on the movement towards and away from the climax”.

Furthermore, Cage also compared this form of dance to an “abstract painting”. It was then, in 1953, after perfecting this unique form of dancing, that Cunningham formed a dance company, which went on to  perform on the international stage. This style was then reproduced by many ballet and modern dance companies around the globe. The contemporary style is undoubtedly the most pervasive dance style in today’s culture and can also be found in most popular dance videos with the pleasure of watching. It is said to be the style most imitated by all enthusiastic dancers.

The “concept” on which contemporary dance has been based is:

To develop a unique dance style from “ballet,” Cunningham supposedly used a set of concepts. They are as follows:

  1. Less focus on the ballet leg technique is replaced by more emphasis on the use of the torso.
  2. Narrative is not essentially a part of contemporary dance.
  3. The choreography of this unique dance style, although “chaotic” in appearance, depends heavily on technique.
  4. The rhythm, speed, and direction of this dance style must be kept as “unpredictable” as possible.
  5. Several simultaneous actions must be undertaken while performing this dance style.
  6. Perspective and symmetry in the ballet scenic frame perspective that includes front, center and hierarchies must be suspended.
  7. This dance style must remain independent from the music used.
  8. This style of dancing is to be used for performing and not for analysis.
  9. It takes innovative lighting, sets, and costumes to be used for this dance style.

The “technique” used in contemporary dance:

Techniques inspired by “Contemporary Ballet, Dance Improvisation, and Modern Dance” have been mainly used to create this unique style of dancing. Some of these techniques include “Graham Technique, Humphrey-Weidman Technique, Horton Technique, Isodara Duncan, and Modern Dance of Europe Barteinieff  Fundamentals. In addition, a contemporary dance performer also makes use of elements belonging to activities such as pilates and yoga. Furthermore, some renowned choreographers from around the globe have created their own unique contemporary dance techniques. For example, an American choreographer named Paul Taylor has developed a technique known as “Taylor”. This technique is apparently used in modern dance schools such as “The Alley School,” located in New York City.

The role of the “Choreographer” in Contemporary Dance: 

In this unique dance style it is the “Choreographer” who has the last say in all major creative decisions to be taken. So, whether or not the Contemporary dance performance is to be abstract or narrative is completely decided by the  choreographer. Furthermore, music accompanying the performance is also selected by the choreographer. In addition, the choreographer also is in charge of deciding the costumes to be used as well as the overall aesthetic and the body movements to be used during the performance. This dance technique is simple if you are blessed with a good teacher and a willingness to learn the typical dance style. 

And so, it would be apt to conclude that Contemporary Dance is essentially a modern version of performing arts, which basically represents an old English adage which states “Variety is the spice of life”.

Understanding Integral Aspects of Contemporary Dance

Contemporary is also heavily focused on narration, expression, and emotions. This is what makes choreography the fundamental aspect of dance. It is highly recommended that you choreograph it by yourself to any of your favourite songs while improvising on it as the flow continues for dancing. One can always add new steps and use props to their choreography to come up with a unique style of performance and can connect well to grab the attention of the audience.

Everyone can join contemporary dance.

The dance style is not reserved for a specific gender or type of child. It is a structured practice with a flexible flow shaped by the individuality  of the dancer. This helps children develop their personalities, boost their confidence levels, and overcome stage fright. It keeps the body engaged and challenges the body in unique and different ways.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons  and Embajada De Eeuu Bueno Aires

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