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Photo of Isadora Duncan dancing (Streetswings Dance History Archives origins)
Streetswings dance history: Modern Dance History Origin Title
   

            Historically, there are two different meanings for the term "Modern Dance." Originally, the term came from the early 20th Century meaning that ... the dances (Ballroom type) being done were modern in nature, rather than the older Quadrilles, Two Step, Minuet etc. of the time. These "Modern Dances" were generally associated with Vernon and Irene Castle, Maurice Mouvet and Florence Walton and others who were ballroom dancers of the time (1910s.)

   Today the term means something different however. This term 'Modern Dance' designates a concept of dance rather than a particular dance School or dance Studio. By the 1920's it was done by a solo or group - a free form type dance with no base in its beginnings but utilized many other styles of dance movement (originally Greek and Oriental,) as well as indigenous and the dancers personal feelings leading to movement.

   Isadora Duncan (1887-1927) was to become the mother of (current day) freeform style called 'Modern Dance' and by 1913 had reached international fame with others soon following suit.

   This new free form style was thought ridiculous at first but Duncan's success with this style in America opened many eyes along with other pioneers such asRuth St. Denis (1878-1968), Rudolf Van Laban and Mary Wigman who would become the primary movers of this style of dance and helped create a new style of dancing. Others to follow and adding more to this ever growing style were such dancers as Hanya Holm (1893-1992), Ted Shawn (1891-1972), Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman (1901-1975), Martha Graham (1894-1991), Valerie Bettis (1919-1982), Jose Limon, Helen Tamiris (1905-1966), and Tórtola Valencia (1908-1930) with her 'Natural Dance' (in no particular order.)

   The Modern dance form came to be due to the restrictions on the ballet dancers at the time or to "release the dancer from explicit and locked definition" but today modern dance is very recognizable thru its forms, base and techniques. The dancers use their natural instincts, impulses, a release of natural feeling when moving or a "firstness." The dancer tries to release the inner feelings in an outer expression. It works some what of the 'Ying and Yang' and or 'Contrast' teachings of opposites, such as Up/Down, Left /Right, Contraction/Release, Fall/Recover, Fast/Slow etc. The body is the instrument for self indulged expression.

   Modern dance avoids any set bases or a set vocabulary of steps such as ballet or Oriental, Hindu etc. but does use all these ideas along with the dancers natural ability and prior dance training (Its kinda like a free for all or 'on the spot type choreography' or the "Im'a Tree" idea.) Because of this, unfortunately, Modern dance is often misunderstood by the onlooker, as occasionally they can not figure out what is happening. By the 1950's, Modern dance was firmly established in the dance world.

Modern dance is said to be based on four principles:     1) Substance (movement)     2) Dynamism,     3) metakinesis,     4) Form (not dependent on the music.)

 

Birth Place

Creation Date

Creator

Dance Type

USA 1900s Isadora Duncan Freestyle
 

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

Myra Kinch WPA Poster (1938) n/a n/a
Myra Kinch and Group    
                 
 

Night Clubs

Theaters

Locations

n/a 1962 - Breigton Hippodrome Theatre (Scooter) England
            France
            Germany
            USA
 
Video Clips (pop-up)

Films / Movies

Ballets / Stage

Video Clip not available at this time 1915 - Lilly and the Rose (St. Denis) 1950 - Touch and Go
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1916 - Intolerance (St. Denis) 1953 - Masks, Props, and Mobiles
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1919 - Male and Female (Graham) 1960 - Totem
Video Clip not available at this time 1923 - Look Your Best (St. Denis) 1979 - Countdown
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1931 - The Cheat (St. Denis)

Television

Video Clip not available at this time 1948 - Up in Central Park [DVD] (Bettis) 1966 - Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World
Video Clip not available at this time 1952 - Just For You [DVD] (Bettis) 1976 - Great Performances: Dance in America
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1957 - A Dancers World (Graham) 1992 - Three Dances by Martha Graham
Video Clip not available at this time 1968 - Loves of Isadora, The 1993 - Dancing!
Video Clip not available at this time 1985 - That's Dancing! [DVD] (Archive footage)

Publications

Video Clip not available at this time 1978 - With My Red Fires / New Dance [DVD] (Graham 1936) 10/1980 - Smithsonian Mag.
Video Clip not available at this time 1988 - Denishawn: Birth of Modern [DVD]  
Video Clip not available at this time 1988 - Graham: American Original in Performance [DVD]  
Video Clip not available at this time 1989 - Isadora Duncan: Movement from the Soul [DVD]  
Video Clip not available at this time 1991 - 3 By Martha Graham [DVD]      
Video Clip not available at this time 1992 - Doris Humphrey Technique: Creative Potential [DVD]      
Video Clip not available at this time 1994 - Isadora Duncan Dance [DVD]      
Video Clip not available at this time 1994 - Martha Graham: The Dancer Revealed [DVD]      
Video Clip not available at this time 1996 - Five Dances: Martha Graham      
Video Clip not available at this time 1997 - Doris Humphrey Legacy: 2 Ecstatic Themes [DVD]      
Video Clip not available at this time 1997 - Doris Humphrey Legacy: Air for the G String [DVD]      
Video Clip not available at this time 1997 - Doris Humphrey Legacy: The Call / Breath of Fire [DVD]      
Video Clip not available at this time 1997 - Doris Humphrey Legacy : Water Study [DVD]      
Video Clip not available at this time 1999 - Jose Limon: Three Modern Dance Classics [DVD]      
Video Clip not available at this time Inside USA (Bettis)      
Video Clip not available at this time Martha Graham Company      
         
 

Other Related Dances of the time... (*=couples dance)

Abstract Dance Ethnic Hindu Mime / Pantomime
Ballet Fan Dance Hip Hop Natural Dance
Belly Dance Folk Dance Ice Dancing (Skating) Oriental
Break Dance Free Form Dance Improvisational Dance Scarf Dance
Contemporary Free Style Dance Interpretive Dance Skirt Dance
Dirty Dancing* Greek Jazz Dance Veil Dance
       
 

Historic Dancers, Choreographers etc.

Political

Alvin Ailey Martha Graham n/a
Alwin Nikolais Martha Graham Dance Co.  
Charles Weidman Maude Allan  
Clotilde and Alexandre Sakharoff Merce Cunningham  
Doris Humphrey Myra Kinch & group  
Hanya Holm Pilobolus Dance Theatre  
Helen Tamiris Ruth St. Denis  
Isadora Duncan Scooter Teague's Modern Dance Ensemble (1962)  
Jose Limon Ted Shawn  
Katherine Dunham Tórtola Valencia (1908-1930)  
Kurt Jooss Valerie Bettis  
 

Books, Magazine Articles on this dance...

Title

Author

Date

Publisher

The Modern Dance Martin, John 1931 ??
The Dance Encyclopedia Chujoy, Anatole 1949 Barnes and Co.
Prime Movers: Makers of Modern Dance in America Mazo, Joseph H. ?? ??
$ Basic Concepts in Modern Dance: A Creative Approach Cheney, Gay
1989 Princeton Book Co
$ Isadora Duncan: My Life Duncan, Isadora 1996 W.W. Norton & Co
$ Goddess: Martha Graham's Dancers Remember Tracy, Robert 1997 Limelight
$ Modern Dance Terminology: as Defined by its Originators Love, Paul 1997 Princeton Book Co
$ Vision of Modern Dance: In the Words of Its Creators
Brown, Jean 1998 Princeton Book Co
$ Art without Boundaries: The World of Modern Dance Anderson, Jack 1999 University of Iowa Pr.
$ Modern Bodies: Dance and American Modernism from
Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey
Foulkes, Julia L. 2002 Univ. of No Carolina Pr.
$ The Makers of Modern Dance in Germany... Bergsohn, Harold & Isa 2003 Princeton Book Co
$ No Fixed Points: Dance in the 20th Century Reynolds and McCormick 2003 Yale Univ. Pr.
 

Musicians

Bands

Singers

Poets / Writers

n/a n/a n/a n/a
             
               
 

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Les Six (Modern French Composers) n/a n/a -
metakinesis        
 

Other...

March 21, 2013
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