Contemporary dance is a genre of dance that involves the fluid free flowing movement of the body while playing with gravity. It is a concoction of various dance genres like classical, jazz, ballet, modern and lyrical. This genre of dance is also known as floor dance because the dancers work in perfect tandem with gravity. This versatile dance style is a form of creative expression of the body’s innermost feelings and shares a common platform with yoga, meditation and body conditioning. Contemporary dancers explore the space around them and stretch out to their maximum potential while creating art with their movements on a stage. Contemporary dance styles and techniques are a fusion of the discipline, control and poise of traditional dance forms like ballet with a hint of free movement and spatial expansion of modern, experimental dance modes like Jazz.
The pioneers of contemporary dance were Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan, Merce Cunningham and Lester Horton in the mid-20th century and their work have has grown to be one of the most dominant genres for dancers all around the world.
Origin of Contemporary dance
Martha graham was the pioneer of contemporary dance who believed that dance was more of an art form that should be grounded and in synchronisation with the human experience as opposed to existing as just another form of entertainment. She gave a realistic meaning to dance through contemporary art and this sowed the seeds of the free flowing dance movement.
Contemporary dance expanded when new age dancers did not want to adhere to conventional dance forms like classical ballet and wanted to break free from the norms that limited their potential for movement. These dancers wanted to explore the spaces of revolutionary & unconventional movements gathered from different dance styles around the world. The pioneers of contemporary dance wanted to expose this unconventional dance style and wanted contemporary dancers to embrace freedom, break old dance norms and explore the limits of the human body through a visual expression of feelings.
Contemporary dancers do not follow fixed moves, but instead adapt to new styles from different dances, develop new forms and dynamics such as quick oppositional moves, shifting alignments, expressions of raw emotions and systematic breathing in co-relation to the gravity of the floor.
Technical aspects of Contemporary dance
Contemporary dance as a form of art differs from person to person and from culture to culture. Contemporary dance techniques are concerned with enhancing self-awareness from which the movements are executed. The dance first takes place in the mind of a dancer before he/she can display it physically.
The different techniques associated with contemporary dance are as follows:
Release Technique – This dance technique lets the individual release any unnecessary tension used while moving. The release dance technique is associated with therapeutic movement research that comes from or makes use of medical knowledge.
Body Mind Centering technique – This dance technique is similar to Yoga. It places strong emphasis on breath, body alignment and mental control. This encompasses adequate usage of tension and conducting thoughts while dancing.
Contact improvisation – is a partner dance form based on the physical principles of touch, momentum, shared weight, and most quintessentially – following a shared point of contact. The form was founded in 1972 by Steve Paxton. This dance practice explores the skills of falling, rolling and counterbalancing, lifting using minimal effort, centering and breathing techniques, along with responsiveness to the partner’s surroundings.
Flying low – This technique focuses mainly on a dancer’s relationship with the floor. The technique utilizes simple movement patterns that involve breathing, speed and the release of energy throughout the body in order to activate the relationship between the center and the joints, moving in and out of the ground more efficiently by maintaining a center state.
Health benefits of Contemporary dance
This modern dance form also known as ‘modern dance’ gained massive popularity in India after the onset of reality T.V shows like ‘Dance India Dance’ & ‘Jhalak Dhikhla Ja’. This dance form is not only beautiful from the outside, but it also possesses various health benefits for the body, mind and soul.
Some of the benefits include:
- Coordination and adaptability
- Increase fitness, strength and stamina.
- Improves mental functioning
- Good social skills
- Increase Self-Confidence
- Stress Reduction and improves Breathing
- Creative Thinking
- Improves general and psychological well-being
- It strengthens the abdominal muscles.
- It makes the body more toned and flexible.
- Encourages socialization
- Activate your current state of mind – The everyday routine tends to lock us in a box. This dance form lets you open up, explore and create using nothing but movements that come from within. It lets you stretch and flex limitlessly.
- Physical toning of the body – This dance form helps you push your boundaries as your body gradually adapts to the movements and moulds itself into a flexible form, thus toning the muscles and body holistically.
- Development of versatility and improvisation – This form of dance can be performed with any sort of music without any rules. You can pick out problems, life situations or contemporary issues and recreate them through dance.
- Mind and body connection – This form of dance lets you unplug from your emotional baggage and makes you focus on the present. It takes your mind and body towards a state of trance where you experience freedom while exerting flexibility of the body and mind.
Who were the influencers of contemporary dance?
Some of the most notable pioneers of modern, postmodern, and contemporary dance:-
Isadora Duncan, an American ballet dancer in the 1900s, rejected the rigid techniques of classical dance and ballet in favor of embracing the human body’s natural lines and energy. aiming to create a dance style with more fluid dance movement and emotional touch. This unique style ultimately defined contemporary dance as we know it today.Loie Fuller, an American dancer with an exceptionally innovative mind, experimented with coloured lighting and the use of silhouettes and silk. best known for popularizing skirt dances, which were inspired by serpentine costume dances.
Ruth St. Denis, an American choreographer, innovated the concept of music visualization, which explored movement with the musical components, such as rhythm and timbre. She believed in spiritual themes that were earlier thought to be for dance and pulled techniques from traditional Asian dance forms.
Merce Cunningham, an American choreographer in the 1940s, created an innovative approach to dance training that emphasizes spatial awareness, rhythmic accuracy, and the clarity of innovative forms. He experimented with technology and sounds inspired by the compositions of his partner, John Cage, who featured first-prepared piano music. These both introduced a concept that was influential in the world of contemporary dance: composers and choreographers could create music and dance independently and perform individually.
José Limón, developed a distinctive masculine movement style in the mid-twentieth century, establishing the concept of the importance of men in contemporary dance. His theme was focused on religion, literature, and historical aspects.
Get Involved in contemporary dance
Like other dance styles and sports, this dance style also improves stamina while practicing different moves. Due to the physical movements of exercise, dancing can easily tighten body posture and train muscles to move flexibly. Thus, classes include stretching and warm-ups before dancing.
Even if you attend any dance studio anywhere in the world, stretching will become a must and regular part of your child’s daily dance routines.
Core stability is the key to improving flexibility, as well as in their coordination and acuteness.
The Expressiveness of Contemporary Dance
Children who learn to express themselves creatively from a young age benefit in a variety of ways as they grow older.
Self-expression is a precious key for kids who are shy or have learning disabilities. The style is an alternative and experiential way to tell stories and feel emotions. This kind of movement helps kids release feelings that may not be associated with contemporary dance.
Children crave a different form of expression. Other styles can provide other kinds of movement for kids to explore.
Contemporary dance is also regarded as art owing to its creative nature and is displayed at art festivals like Kala Ghoda. Embracing this form of dance restores a perfect mind, body and spiritual balance to a human being.
Image Credits: Flickr and Flickr
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