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Friday, July 01 2016
Thoroughly Modern Symphony

Last blog, I talked about a rare dance style that is offered at Symphony Dance and gave you a little taste of clogging. This blog, I’d like to now offer a second course in this sampler-Modern Dance. Many dance studios in our area list contemporary and modern as interchangeable dance styles and say that they are offered, but are not often listed on the schedule. (PS Contemporary is like a form of ballet or Jazz and Modern is an independent style on its own…separate from other styles.)

As part of my 4 year teacher’s training program, I have been studying from college professors of dance including modern and have taken modern specific courses. This summer I will take a multi-part exam that includes a written test, oral exam, choreography, instruction, performance, and I will watch a modern dancer and have to correctly identify the actions performed by the dancer.

I know Modern, and when I say we have Modern-we do.

Modern dance originated at the turn of the 19th century and spread through Switzerland, Germany, France and Across Europe and from Chicago to California to NY, in between and beyond.  Dancers who were trained in ballet wanted to express more emotion in their dance, they wanted more of an intimate style of dance, and rather than focusing on romantic themes like ballet they wanted to express a realistic and humanistic emotion.

These dancers wanted to rebel against the strictness of ballet and wanted to dance for more than just entertainment, but also for instructional, uplifting, and/or satirical purposes. These dancers wanted to show athleticism and take dance from being just amusing to being a form of art.

A few Modern dancer/choreographer names may be familiar to you, like Martha Graham who was in the first generation of modern dancers and was an influential person in society not just for her dancing. Martha Graham is well known for her quotes like “Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body” and “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.”  Twyla Tharp is a modern dancer and choreographer in the Post-Modern Era and is known for her dances in Hair the film and the musical, her choreography for Singin’ in the Rain (my favorite movie/musical), her work with Come Fly Away (on Broadway and on Tour), and Movin’ Out (on Broadway and on Tour-collaborating with Billy Joel) among others. Garth Fagan is based in Rochester and is in the Third Generation or Post-Modern Era as well and is known for his choreography in the Broadway production of The Lion King.

Modern dancers as a group lean towards a style that isn’t defined, that doesn’t have set rules, that focuses on using the torso for power, on challenging the limits of the physical body, while being based in human emotion and natural movements. Any line, shape, or any form that the human body can create in space is valid in modern dance if it expresses what the dancer or choreographer wants to communicate.

As someone who likes to have set rules and expectations or building blocks for things like a shuffle step in tap or clogging, a ball change in those or in jazz, or a pirouette…modern was a hard concept for me in the beginning. I am also someone who likes to not have to do the highest jump, sometimes a little jump portrays what I want. I am someone who likes to listen to the music and see what it inspires me to do without having to think if that’s an accepted “step” or “move”. I also like to push myself and my dancers to do more than we think we can with dance, with movement, with letting go of inhibitions, and with portraying emotion (whether it be happiness, sorrow, anger, etc.) For those reasons and more, I have come to really love modern dance.

Modern dance is another style that is good for the dancer who thinks they “can’t dance.”  Trust me, everyone can dance, but that’s not my point. If you think you “can’t dance” because you struggle with rhythm or turns, or even standing on your tippy toes, if you can have a feeling and portray it in some way with your body, then you can be a modern dancer.

I feel like my blog is getting a little long now. (I write these in Word before I post them and I set out a rule for myself {I told you I like guidelines} that I wouldn’t go longer than a page and this is already a page and a quarter.) I could tell you a lot more about modern and the liberating quality it has or the fun you have turning into someone else when you dance, but those kind of apply to all styles of dance…so I will say this- Modern dance is sometimes harder for those who are more inhibited but it is always enjoyable for any level. Modern dance is often used as a blanket term, but it is an independent style of dance or dance-form. Modern is not offered at most studios or is often seen as “stuffy” or only for the strict ballerina. Modern is meant to be open to all humans and is meant to be enjoyed by all. Modern is offered at Symphony Dance and we would be thrilled to have you.


Posted by: Katrina Kaplin AT 06:33 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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Symphony Dance
1300 East Ridge Rd.
Rochester, NY 14621