What exactly is Contemporary Dance?

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Contemporary Dance

A couple of Contemporary dancers.

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“Contemporary Dance, a unique form of dancing is free from all 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.

Now, there are a number of people around the world who are blissfully unaware with regards to the existence of this dance form. So, here is presenting a few facts about this unique form of performing art known as “Contemporary Dance”.

Contemporary Dance

A Contemporary Dance performance

The “History” behind the development 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 eventually reproduced by many ballet and modern dance companies around the globe.

The “concept” on which Contemporary Dance has been based on:

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 and more on the use of 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 to be undertaken while performing this dance style.
  6. Perspective and symmetry in the ballet scenic frame perspective that includes front, center, 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. Innovating lighting, sets, and costumes to be used for this dance style.

The “technique” used in the Contemporary Dance:

Technique inspired by “Contemporary Ballet, Dance improvisation, and modern dance” has been mainly used to create this unique style of dancing. Some of these technique 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  appears apparently 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.

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”.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons  and Embajada De Eeuu Bueno Aires

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