Encyclopedia of Dance: Modern


Modern is a dance that has broken free. Choreographers and dancers put emotions and feelings in the center of attention, and they sought to express them in the free flight of creative thought, not chained to the strict framework of classical choreography.

The 20th century rapidly entered the historical arena. New times dictated new trends in art. In music and literature, theater and ballet, there was an active search for progressive forms of expression. A new movement has emerged in dance art that rejects the canons of classical stage choreography. It was called differently: free dance, sandal dance, Duncanism, rhythmoplastic dance, etc. In the USA, a new term has appeared that combines the whole variety of varieties of choreography that rejects classical traditions — modern.

History of occurrence dance

Modern is a modern choreographic trend that originated in the USA and Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The ideas of modernity were first expressed by the French teacher and stage choreography theorist Francois Delsarte, who argued that all the richness of human feelings and emotions cannot be contained in the standard elements of classical dance. Only choreography free from conventions is capable of this.

Delsarte’s ideas were embodied on stage by two American dancers who visited Europe on tour. Loi Voller demonstrated the new plastique in Paris in 1892 in the Serpentine dance, which combined spontaneous free movements and a costume of huge banners fluttering in the dance. The costume during the performance served as a demonstration of progressive self-expression.

The ideas of dance free from conventions were developed by Isadora Duncan. She is considered the founder of the modern dance direction. The famous dancer did not create her own school, but opened the way for something new in art.

Another direction in the Art Nouveau style was outlined by E. Jacques-Dalcroze. His productions of «Echo and Narcissus» (1912) and «Orpheus» (1913) embody the ideas of rhythm — the advantage of music over dance. During the 20th century, many schools of modernity were created, each of which has its own characteristics and embodies its own ideas.

Schools and currents modern and their features

Choreography by Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan considered nature as the main source of inspiration. It is in her, in her opinion, that one should draw naturalness and simplicity of movements. In art, she preached the ideas of antiquity — humanism, appeal to man. Dance, first of all, in her opinion, should reflect human feelings, and they cannot be dissected, decomposed into elements. This means that it is necessary to free the dance from any conventions — theatrical, social, historical, domestic. The idea and content of the dance will themselves suggest ways of expressing it. Improvisation played a big role in the dance. Duncan’s innovation was to abandon the traditional ballet costume, dance barefoot, turning to chamber and symphonic music.

Technically, Isadora Duncan’s choreography was not complicated, the emphasis was on conveying the subtlest emotional nuances. The dancer called modern the dance of the future, which we are seeing today.

Isadora Duncan

Rhythm E. Jacques-Dalcroze

This trend of modernity is opposed to the choreography of Isadora Duncan. Jacques-Dalcroze called his direction in dance rhythmic or rhythmoplastic dance. He assumed the following of dance after music and non-emotional embodiment of movements. The choreography was created on the principle of counterpoint: the dancers displayed the musical themes that sounded from different instruments. But Jacques-Dalcroze failed to create a dance without emotions. In his ballet performances, there are also feelings and emotions embodied by dance means.

R. Laban — theorist of modern dance

The Austrian choreographer R. Laban did not support the ideas of Jacques-Dalcroze about the dominance of music over dance. To formulate the basic concepts of modern dance, he turned to the philosophical and aesthetic teachings of the Neoplatonists, Pythagoreans, treatises of ancient India. He comprehended the acquired knowledge and embodied in the work «Kinetography», where he outlined the universal concept of plastic expression. Laban formulated the main idea of ​​modern dance — the dance movement should be meaningful, passed through the spiritual sphere.

Further development of modern dance

Laban’s student Kurt Joss followed the path of creating a modern dance theater. As auxiliary means in the choreographic performance, he used choral recitation, music, scenography, elements of the mystery theater. But the dominant role has always been given to dance. Kurt Joss proposed an innovative theme for performances — political, anti-war.


Another student of Laban, the German dancer Mary Wigman, also brought something new to modern dance. She depicted in the dance the truth of life, which was considered unsightly. The dancer considered the terrible, ugly and tragic aspects of life worthy of embodiment on stage. She refused beautiful choreographic movements, her performances were distinguished by tension and emotionality. Among human emotions, Mary Wigman was primarily interested in fear, longing, despair and hopelessness.

Meri Wigman’s line in art was continued by her students Hanya Holm, Greta Palucca, I. Georgi, M. Terpis and others.

Now modern dance troupes perform all over the world. The most famous of the domestic representatives are the ballet of Alla Dukhovna and Boris Eifman.

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