Second edition

Modern
Dance
=Wor d of Dance<
World of Dance
African Dance, Second Edition
Asian Dance, Second Edition
Ballet, Second Edition
European Dance:
Ireland, Poland, Spain, and Greece, Second Edition
Latin and Caribbean Dance
Middle Eastern Dance, Second Edition
Modern Dance, Second Edition
Popular Dance: From Ballroom to Hip-Hop
Second edition
Modern
Dance
Janet Anderson

consulting editor:
elizabeth A. Hanley,
Associate Professor
emerita of Kinesiology,
Penn State University
Foreword by
Jacques d’Amboise,
Founder of the national
dance institute
=Wor d of Dance<
World of Dance: Modern Dance, Second Edition
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Anderson, Janet, 1952–
Modern dance / by Janet Anderson. — 2nd ed.
p. cm. — (World of dance)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-60413-483-4 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-4381-3190-0 (e-book)
1. Modern dance—Juvenile literature. 2. Modern dance—History—Juvenile
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Introduction 6
by Consulting Editor Elizabeth A. Hanley,
Associate Professor Emerita of Kinesiology,
Pennsylvania State University
Foreword 8
by Jacques D’Amboise,
Founder of the National Dance Institute
1 The Precursors 13
2 Denishawn 27
3 The Founding Modern-Dance Generation 39
4 The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance 51
5 Fusion 68
6 Choosing a Modern Dance Class 85
Chronology 93
Notes 96
Glossary 99
Bibliography 102
Further Resources 105
Picture Credits 111
Index 112
About the Author and Consulting Editor 117
CONTENTS
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6
IntroduCtIon
Te world of dance is yours to enjoy! Dance has existed from time
immemorial. It has been an integral part of celebrations and rituals, a
means of communication with gods and among humans, and a basic
source of enjoyment and beauty.
Dance is a fundamental element of human behavior and has evolved
over the years from primitive movement of the earliest civilizations to
traditional ethnic or folk styles, to the classical ballet and modern dance
genres popular today. Te term dance is broad and, therefore, not limit-
ed to the genres noted above. In the twenty-frst century, dance includes
ballroom, jazz, tap, aerobics, and a myriad of other movement activities.
Te joy derived from participating in dance of any genre and the physi-
cal activity required provide the opportunity for the pursuit of a healthy
lifestyle in today’s world.
Te richness of cultural traditions observed in the ethnic, or folk,
dance genre ofers the participant, as well as the spectator, insight into
the customs, geography, dress, and religious nature of a particular peo-
ple. Originally passed on from one generation to the next, many ethnic,
or folk, dances continue to evolve as our civilization and society change.
From these quaint beginnings of traditional dance, a new genre emerged
as a way to appeal to the upper level of society: ballet. Tis new form of
dance rose quickly in popularity and remains so today. Te genre of
ethnic, or folk, dance continues to be an important part of ethnic com-
munities throughout the United States, particularly in large cities.
When the era of modern dance emerged as a contrast and a challenge
to the rigorously structured world of ballet, it was not readily accepted
as an art form. Modern dance was interested in the communication of
emotional experiences—through basic movement, as well as uninhibited
7 Introduction
movement—not through the academic tradition of ballet masters. Modern
dance, however, found its afcionados and is a popular art form today.
No dance form is permanent, defnitive, or ultimate. Changes oc-
cur, but the basic element of dance endures. Dance is for all people.
One need only recall that dance needs neither common race nor com-
mon language for communication; it has been, and remains, a universal
means of communication.
Te World of Dance series provides a starting point for readers
interested in learning about ethnic, or folk, dances of world cultures, as
well as the art forms of ballet and modern dance. Tis series features an
overview of the development of these dance genres, from a historical
perspective to a practical one. Highlighting specifc cultures, their dance
steps and movements, and their customs and traditions underscores the
importance of these fundamental elements for the reader. Ballet and
modern dance—more recent artistic dance genres—are explored in de-
tail as well, giving the reader a comprehensive knowledge of the past,
present, and potential future of each dance form.
Te one fact that each reader should remember is that dance has
always been, and always will be, a form of communication. Tis is its
legacy to the world.
***
In this volume, Janet Anderson will examine the fascinating journey
and development of modern dance—a relatively young art form that
began at the turn of the twentieth century. Pioneers such as Loie Fuller,
Isadora Duncan, and Ruth St. Denis would break from dance traditions
such as ballet, but would also have to fght to gain critical acceptance of
their artistic expression. Others would expand upon the abstraction of
and attention to isolated movement, but modern dance would eventu-
ally not only reconcile with ballet, but would also incorporate many oth-
er dance styles into its palette. Prominent modern dancers include the
well-known names of Hanya Holm, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey,
Charles Weidman, and Merce Cunningham. Teir infuence continues
to the present day; these pioneers set the stage for modern dance to be-
come a viable art in the twenty-frst century.
—Elizabeth A. Hanley
Associate Professor Emerita of Kinesiology at
Pennsylvania State University
8
foreword
In song and dance, man expresses himself as a member of
a higher community. He forgets how to walk and speak
and is on the way into fying into the air, dancing. . . . his
very gestures express enchantment.
—Friedrich Nietzsche
In a conversation with George Balanchine (one of the twentieth cen-
tury’s most famous choreographers and the cofounder of the New York
City Ballet) discussing the defnition of dance, we evolved the following
description: “Dance is an expression of time and space, using the control
of movement and gesture to communicate.”
Dance is central to the human being’s expression of emotion. Every
time we shake someone’s hand, lif a glass in a toast, wave good-bye, or
applaud a performer—we are doing a form of dance. We live in a uni-
verse of time and space, and dance is an art form invented by human
beings to express and convey emotions. Dance is profound.
Tere are melodies that, when played, will cause your heart to
droop with sadness for no known reason. Or a rousing jig or mazurka
will have your foot tapping in an accompanying rhythm, seemingly be-
yond your control. Te emotions, contacted through music, spur the
body to react physically. Our bodies have just been programmed to ex-
press emotions. We dance for many reasons: for religious rituals from
the most ancient times; for dealing with sadness, tearfully swaying and
holding hands at a wake; for celebrating weddings, joyfully spinning in
circles; for entertainment; for dating and mating. How many millions
of couples through the ages have said, “We met at a dance”? But most of
9 Foreword
all, we dance for joy, ofen exclaiming, “How I love to dance!” Oh, the
JOY OF DANCE!
I was teaching dance at a boarding school for emotionally disturbed
children, ages 9 through 16. Tey were participating with 20 other
schools in the National Dance Institute’s (NDI) year-round program.
Te boarding school children had been traumatized in frightening and
mind-boggling ways. Tere were a dozen students in my class, and the
average attention span may have been 15 seconds—which made for a
raucous bunch. Tis was a tough class.
One young boy, an 11-year-old, was an exception. He never took
his eyes of of me for the 35 minutes of the dance class, and they were
blazing blue eyes—electric, set in a chalk-white face. His body was slim,
trim, superbly proportioned, and he stood arrow-straight. His lips were
clamped in a rigid, determined line as he learned and executed every
dance step with amazing skill. His concentration was intense despite the
wild cavorting, noise, and otherwise disruptive behavior supplied by his
fellow classmates.
At the end of class I went up to him and said, “Wow, can you dance.
You’re great! What’s your name?”
Tose blue eyes didn’t blink. Ten he parted his ridged lips and
bared his teeth in a grimace that may have been a smile. He had a big
hole where his front teeth should be. I covered my shock and didn’t let
it show. Both top and bottom incisors had been worn away by his con-
tinual grinding and rubbing of them together. One of the supervisors of
the school rushed over to me and said, “Oh, his name is Michael. He’s
very intelligent, but he doesn’t speak.”
I heard Michael’s story from the supervisor. Apparently, when he
was a toddler in his playpen, he witnessed his father shooting his moth-
er; then, putting the gun to his own head, the father killed himself. It was
close to three days before the neighbors broke in to fnd the dead and
swollen bodies of his parents. Te dehydrated and starving little boy was
stuck in his playpen, sitting in his own flth. Te orphaned Michael dis-
appeared into the foster care system, eventually ending up in the board-
ing school. No one had ever heard him speak.
In the ensuing weeks of dance class, I built and developed choreog-
raphy for Michael and his classmates. In the spring, they were scheduled
to dance in a spectacular NDI show called Te Event of the Year. At the
10 MoDERN DANCE
boarding school, I used Michael as the leader and as a model for the
others and began welding all of the kids together, inventing a vigorous
and energetic dance to utilize their explosive energy. It took awhile, but
they were coming together, little by little over the months. And through
all that time, the best in the class—the determined and concentrating
Michael—never spoke.
Tat spring, dancers from the 22 diferent schools with which the
NDI had dance programs were scheduled to come together at Madison
Square Garden for Te Event of the Year. Tere would be more than 2,000
dancers, a symphony orchestra, a jazz orchestra, a chorus, Broadway
stars, narrators, and Native American Indian drummers. Tere was scen-
ery that was the length of an entire city block and visiting guest children
from six foreign countries coming to dance with our New York City chil-
dren. All of these elements had to come together and ft into a spectacu-
lar performance, with only one day of rehearsal. Te foremost challenge
was how to get 2,000 dancing children on stage for the opening number.
At NDI, we have developed a system called “the runs.” First, we di-
vide the stage into a grid with colored lines making the outlines of box
shapes, making a mosaic of patterns and shapes on the stage foor. Each
outlined box holds a class from one of the schools, which consists of
15 to 30 children. Ten, we add various colored lines as tracks, starting
ofstage and leading to the boxes. Te dancers line up in the wings, hall-
ways, and various holding areas on either side of the stage. At the end
of the overture, they burst onto the stage, running and leaping and fol-
lowing their colored tracks to their respective boxes, where they explode
into the opening dance number.
We had less than three minutes to accomplish “the runs.” It’s as if
a couple of dozen trains coming from diferent places and traveling on
diferent tracks all arrived at a station at the same time, safely pulling
into their allotted spaces. But even before starting, it would take us al-
most an hour just to get the dancers lined up in the correct holding areas
ofstage, ready to make their entrance. We had scheduled one shot to
rehearse the opening. It had to work the frst time or we would have to
repeat everything. Tat meant going into overtime at a great expense.
I gave the cue to start the number. Te orchestra, singers, lights, and
stagehands all commenced on cue, and the avalanche of 2,000 children
were let loose on their tracks. “Te runs” had begun!
11 Foreword
Afer about a minute, I realized something was wrong. Tere was a
big pileup on stage lef and children were colliding into each other and
bunching up behind some obstacle. I ran over to discover the source of
the problem: Michael and his classmates. He had ignored everything
and led the group from his school right up front, as close to the audience
as he could get. Inspiring his dancing buddies, they were a crew of leap-
ing, contorting demons—dancing up a storm, but blocking some 600
other dancers trying to get through.
I rushed up to them, yelling, “You’re in the wrong place! Back up!
Back up!”
Michael—with his eyes blazing, mouth open, and legs and arms
spinning in dance movements like an eggbeater—yelled out, “Oh, I am
so happy! I am so happy! Tank you, Jacques! Oh, it’s so good! I am so
happy!”
I backed of, stunned into silence. I sat down in the frst row of
the audience and was joined by several of the supervisors, teachers,
and chaperones from Michael’s school, our mouths open in wonder.
Te spirit of dance had taken over Michael and his classmates. No one
danced better or with more passion in the whole show that night and
with Michael leading the way—the JOY OF DANCE was at work. (We
went into overtime, but so what!)
—Jacques D’Amboise
Author of Teaching the Magic of Dance, winner of an
Academy Award for He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’,
and Founder of the National Dance Institute
13
Te Precursors
1
My art is just an effort to express the truth of my being in
gesture and movement.
1
—Isadora Duncan
When visitors to the Paris Exposition of 1900 crowded into the Palais
de Danse to gape at exotic Egyptian belly dancers or Turkish whirling
dervishes, they did so in a building crowned by a statue of American
dancer Loie Fuller. In order to see Fuller herself dance, one had to enter
the vine-carved entrance of the little Art Nouveau theater, Le Téâtre de
la Loie Fuller, which was dedicated to presenting “La Loie” (as she was
known in France) and her protégées. Moving in a blur of scarves and
draperies, which she manipulated with sticks, Fuller transformed her-
self into fowers, butterfies, and fre, as colored lights projected from her
own small electric dynamo played across her swirling fgure. Te efect
was magical, and her audiences gasped and cheered. Using electricity,
the most advanced technology of her time, as well as some Yankee inge-
nuity, Fuller turned her dancing form into a living abstraction.
14 MoDERN DANCE
LoIe fuLLer:
A spArk of energy
No one could identify what Fuller was doing, although artists and writ-
ers across Europe tried to capture her in motion. She seemed to be the
embodiment of the progress that the exhibition was celebrating—a liv-
ing, breathing spark of electricity. Nothing was newer than harnessed
electric power, and nothing else seemed to hold more promise for the
future in 1900. Loie Fuller’s whirling form was not new simply because
her dance symbolized the larger scientifc interests of her era. More than
an exotic oddity performing at a world’s fair, she was a dancer as radi-
cally diferent and as fueled by new energies as the industrial accom-
plishments on view at the exposition.
Fuller was one of the sparks that lit the fre we call modern dance.
Two other dancers, Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis, each perform-
ing independently of the other, added their own fuel to the early fames.
Tese American women, each following a self-determined method of
dancing, were its precursors. Of course, they did not set out to do any
such thing; nor did they call their art “modern dance.” All these three
women wanted to do was to express themselves as dancers in a highly
personal way. Individually and separately, they rejected ballet or theatri-
cal show dancing, the only two concert forms of dance acceptable at the
beginning of the twentieth century, when their careers fourished. Teir
dancing was connected only by their will to experiment, for what they
performed on stage could not have been more diferent from the other.
La Loie literally stumbled into her dance innovation. Te oldest of
the three dancers, Fuller was born in Illinois in 1862, but hers was not
a typical Midwestern childhood. She performed on stages as a child ac-
tress and grew up in theater, later moving from Chicago to New York.
In 1890, while rehearsing for a play, she kept tripping over the volu-
minous material of her costume. Eventually, she cleverly placed sticks
under her skirt, allowing her the practical accomplishment of being
able to lif the fabric of the foor and thus avoid falling down on stage.
Quite unexpectedly, she found that moving her garments in this way
15 The Precursors
American dancer Loie Fuller thrilled audiences in France during
the Paris Exposition in 1900. This poster for the Folies Bergère,
created by famed poster artist Jules Chéret, promotes Fuller’s
talents for an upcoming performance at the Parisian music hall.
16 MODERN DANCE
glamorously extended the movement of her own body and captivated
the audience.
Shiing one’s skirts around on stage was an actual genre of dance
at that time and was called, appropriately enough, “skirt dancing.” e
dancer would swing and li her skirts, perhaps adding some acrobatics,
and call it Greek, Oriental, Egyptian, or whatever suited her. It is likely
that the then-titillating glimpses of petticoats and even an ankle now
and then are what gave the form popularity, for it certainly represented
no high artistic aspiration.
ere were no ballet companies in the United States at that time, nor
any schools of professional dance. Stage dancing usually meant show-
girls performing largely self-taught kicks and turns. Beyond that, per-
sonal expression in movement usually referred to complicated physical-
culture theories, especially eurythmics, a system of harmonious body
movements rst put forward by Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (better known
as “Dalcroze”). At best, this system taught gymnastics through response
to music, and at its worst degenerated into pretentious calisthenics pro-
grams. Skirt dancing at least provided an outlet for the would-be dance
experimenters who used the form in innovative ways.
Fuller perfected her dance illusion touring across the United States,
where her eects were admired as good entertainment. Europeans, on the
other hand, saw her as something more than a touring oddity. Settling in
Paris, Fuller found herself celebrated as an artist, and she became a xture
at the famous extravaganza the Folies Bergère. Loie became the toast of the
Parisian art community long before she triumphed at the Paris Exposition.
Artists and writers saw her transform herself into abstract patterns
moving on stage, the living expression of artistic ideas sweeping Paris
and the world. e ripple of fabric that she sent into the air seemed to
mimic the sinuous decorative-art movement known as Art Nouveau of
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. is “New Art” em-
phasized line, whiplash curve, and the arabesque. Its long, curving lines
were considered to be organic and therefore reecting nature. Artists
employed these curving forms for everything from the famous Paris
Metro signs to posters. A Parisian critic noted that when Fuller danced,
she was “sculptured by the air, the cloth rose and fell, swelled and con-
tracted . . . recalling the uid lines of Art Nouveau designers.”
2
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17 The Precursors
e Post-Impressionist artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, famous for
his Art Nouveau-inuenced posters of the Paris nightlife establishments
he frequented, portrayed Fuller in a lithograph. Upon rst glance, she
looks like a huge cloud oating in space; only tiny feet under the soar-
ing abstraction reveal this as a woman dancing. Other artists tried to
capture Fuller’s magic, including sculptor Pierre Roche, whose small
bronzes made Fuller look like a beautiful, exotic ower. Even the great
sculptor Rodin—whose own work, such as his famous sculpture e
inke r , celebrated the human body—was interested in sculpting Fuller.
Although nothing came of this, he did call her “a woman of genius.”
3
Both Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis saw Fuller perform at the
Paris Exposition. Although Fuller’s extravagant performance was quite
far removed from their own emotionally and spiritually conceived danc-
es, they admired her nonetheless. Duncan said of seeing Loie perform,
“Before our very eyes she turned to many coloured, shining orchids, to
a wavering, owing sea ower, and at length to a spiral-like lily, all the
magic of Merlin, the sorcery of light, colour, owing form. What an ex-
traordinary genius.”
4
Although she founded a school and staged group productions,
Fuller’s art was too uniquely her own to survive without her constant
attention. When she died, her magic largely died with her. Yet, Irish
poet William Butler Yeats wrote of seeing her:
5
When Loie Fuller’s Chinese dancers enwound
A shining web, a oating ribbon of cloth
It seemed that a dragon of air
Had fallen among dancers, had whirled them round . . . .
Fuller’s high theatricality and her submergence of self in costume
and light to create a movement eect opened up new areas of theater to
dancers. e respect she gained as an innovator created an artistic cli-
mate where other innovators could ourish. e skirt dance was about
to disappear, but Duncan and St. Denis would be burdened with this
characterization before they banished it forever.
(continues on page 21)
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18 MoDERN DANCE
Dance as IllusIon
When Loie Fuller twirled her long scarves and costumes
while colored lights rippled over her, she wasn’t just intro-
ducing new movement ideas using emerging technology—
she was creating an illusion. In the more than 100 years
since La Loie created this innovation, many other dancer-
choreographers have used fabric and technology to create
dance illusions.
At a very deep level, all dance is an illusion. After all,
none of the rest of us can dance on our toes or leap across
a stage and land in a perfect position. Like athletes, skilled
dancers are physically able to demonstrate to an audience
the range of possibilities contained within our own human
form. Yet, Loie was not interested in demonstrating her
athletic skills; she wanted to create something beautiful
out of movement, fabric, and technology, which in her
case meant a small electric dynamo projecting colored
lights onto her costumes.
Over time, other choreographers have used the same
formula. In 1982, David Parsons created a solo for himself
called Caught. He performs on a dark stage with a strobe
light that hits different parts of the stage every few sec-
onds, and then the stage goes dark briefly. The dancer
leaps and is “caught” at the top of his leap just as each
round of the strobe light goes off. This means the strobe
light has been programmed to go off at a certain spot at a
certain time, and it also means that the dancer must be on
the count so that when the light goes on he is at the top
of his leap. Thus the audience only sees him as he repeat-
edly and quickly appears in the air. As he circles the stage,
he gives the appearance of flying, sitting on air, and then
at the end—thump, he lands. To this day, Caught remains
a spectacular performance piece, a dazzling tour de force
19 The Precursors
showing what movement and technology can do in the
computer era.
Fabric continues to be a useful stage device for danc-
ers. Perhaps the greatest of Alvin Ailey’s dance works is his
Revelations, performed to African-American gospel music.
One of the show-stopping segments of this work is Wade in
the Waters, in which long pieces of fabric stretched across
the stage are rippled and rolled like water. The dancers
holding parasols over their heads daintily step over each
rippling wave to reach the safe shore. Creating the illusion
of water on stage with this simple device has been used
many times but rarely as effectively.
No choreographer took more interest in the fabric used
to costume and set the scene for her work than Martha
Graham. She actually picked out specific fabric for each of
her works, personally selecting stretch fabrics, tricots, and
elasticized synthetics. Then she would drape them herself,
a skill she learned from her days with famed dancer Ruth
St. Denis in the Denishawn dance troupe. For her solo
Lamentation, she wrapped herself totally in a jersey tube
so that all an audience saw were the shapes made by her
body moving inside this tube. It remains a masterpiece.
Pilobolus is a dance company that chooses illusion as
its primary choreographic device. With simple backlighting,
the dancers bodies twine together in a way that can create
the illusion of a plant, a table, or even a giraffe. Children use
this same technique when they make shadow images with
their hands. It is a rare dance company in the twenty-first
century that does not use computerized backdrop images.
For Amjad, the Quebec dance group La La La Human Steps
features continuously changing black and white nature pho-
tographs that extend the illustration of the dances. Technol-
ogy has changed music accompaniment, as well, with the
introduction of synthesized music and computerized sound
tracks. Loie’s small electric dynamo started it all.
20 MoDERN DANCE
Pictured here posing for a studio portrait, Isadora Duncan was one
of the founders of modern dance. Duncan admired Loie Fuller and,
like her predecessor, was praised throughout Europe.
21 The Precursors
IsAdorA dunCAn: MoveMent
CoMes froM eMotIon
Isadora Duncan’s story was in some ways similar to Fuller’s. She too be-
came world famous and was then known simply by her frst name. She
also was admired by Rodin, although his admiration included unwanted
amorous advances. Tere was, however, nothing accidental about Dun-
can’s dancing or her career. Encouraged to dance by her artistic moth-
er, Duncan was a lonely child, growing up in a family that was socially
shunned because of her father’s fnancial troubles and her parents’ subse-
quent divorce. Duncan turned inward, saying later that she began dancing
in her mother’s womb. She certainly had complete confdence in her own
intuitive movements from her earliest days. As a teenager, she and her
siblings would teach neighborhood children to dance. Said Duncan of her
earliest instruction, “We called it a new system of dancing but in reality
there was no system. I followed my fantasy and improvised.”
6
For Duncan, movement sprang out of emotion. Tis is, in fact, the
fundamental notion of the Duncan style. Te dancer needs to go into his
or her very center and produce a pure movement in response to specifc
feeling. Tis had nothing to do with technique. Tere were no positions
to learn or steps to memorize, and Duncan avoided special lighting or
stage efects. “My art,” she said, “is just an efort to express the truth of
my being in gesture and movement.”
7
Early in her life, Duncan focused on the idea of becoming a serious
concert dancer while using her own style of movement. As a teenager ac-
companied by her family, she went frst to Chicago and then on to New
York looking for work as a dancer. Without much difculty, she found jobs
in musical revues, but she felt these positions were not true to her theory
of dancing. Seeking to express pure emotion through movement, Duncan
looked for a place where she could perform. She was forced to take her se-
rious, introspective solo dances into society ladies’ salons, where she was
politely applauded. But Duncan wanted recognition as an artist, not as a
parlor entertainer. Seeking a more appreciative audience, Duncan and her
(continued from page 17)
22 MoDERN DANCE
accommodating family went frst to London and then to Paris, where, like
Loie Fuller, she found great success and a new home.
Isadora Duncan must have been a sight to behold. Her emotive
dance was performed wearing loose tunics (and later, beautifully draped
Grecian robes), and she usually danced without shoes. She performed
on bare stages in front of a simple blue backdrop to the accompani-
ment of highly dramatic classical music—Beethoven and Wagner being
particular favorites—or in absolute silence. She looked—as indeed she
had intended to—as though she had stepped out of an ancient fresco of
dancing goddesses. She ofen paused to tell the audience her views on
current events, creating a sense that the entire production was impro-
vised. Tis, however, was not true, as her dances were carefully crafed,
although changed and modifed in any given performance. Tey are
re-created even today by her still-dedicated followers.
Duncan was an original who really was touched by genius. Care-
ful reconstructions of her famous dances show us nothing of the power
she had individually as a performer. As dancer/choreographer Agnes
de Mille observed, “Her greatest technical contribution—her personal
performance—tends to be forgotten because it cannot be copied.”
8
Loie Fuller saw Duncan dance in Paris, and the two dancers ad-
mired each other’s work. Fuller arranged for Duncan to join a tour to
Berlin. Te Germans in particular were taken by Duncan’s approach
to dancing, as they had embraced the movement systems popular at
the time, particularly those of Dalcroze’s eurythmics. (Isadora’s more
personal, emotion-based theories of dance were not strictly the same
as those of Dalcroze and his followers. However, both styles could look
the same since each relied on an easily moving, well-balanced body
using simple gestures to express emotion.) So enthusiastic were the
Germans about Duncan’s innovative dancing that she chose to estab-
lish her frst school teaching the Isadora Duncan dance method in
Berlin in 1905.
In personal matters, however, Duncan had a dramatic and unhappy
life. She became a passionate feminist as a result of seeing her mother
struggle to support her family while being scorned for her divorce. When
Duncan had two children of her own, she chose not to marry their fa-
ther. Her pleasure in her children was short-lived as they drowned in a
freakish automobile accident in Paris in 1913, when the car plunged into
23 The Precursors
the river Seine. Duncan sank into despair, and her dances at that time,
such as March Slav, refect this emotional state.
Admiring the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Duncan defended
the newly Communist Soviet Russia, eventually even moving to Rus-
sia, where she established yet another European dance institute in 1921
in Moscow. She was completely oblivious to critics who labeled her a
Communist, even composing dances to be performed at Lenin’s funeral.
Afer avoiding the convention of marriage for her entire life, Duncan
surprised everyone in 1922 by marrying the young Russian poet Sergey
Yesenin, who was 17 years her junior. An impoverished Duncan eventu-
ally lef Russia in 1924 afer her school lost government support and her
husband had committed suicide.
Tragedies and setbacks, however, never afected Duncan for long.
She returned to France and began giving dance performances again,
demonstrating that her charisma was undiminished by age. Her come-
back triumph did not last long, unfortunately. A bizarre automobile ac-
cident claimed her life in 1927, when she dramatically tossed a scarf
around her neck as she got into a sports car. Caught in the wheel spokes,
the scarf broke her neck when the car moved forward. She had more to
tell the world, however; her autobiography appeared almost immedi-
ately following her death.
Isadora Duncan never set out to be part of a reform movement in
dance. She considered her art to be true dance—genius, in fact—and
what everyone else did was simply theatrical silliness. She intellectualized
her movements while claiming they sprang from emotions. Te notion
of dance as expression of inner states of being was Isadora’s gif to what
became modern dance. Tis was a very new concept indeed. Certainly no
skirt dancer before her had ever made such extravagant claims.
ruth st. denIs: dAnCe As A
spIrItuAL pursuIt
If Duncan turned to emotion as movement’s source, her contemporary
Ruth St. Denis looked to what she called the spirit. Born Ruth Dennis
in 1879 in New Jersey, she changed her name in the early years of her
24 MoDERN DANCE
Known for her portrayal of Eastern cultures in her dance, Ruth
St. Denis gained notoriety while on America’s vaudeville circuit.
She is pictured here during a solo performance in the 1890s.
career when she danced in musical revues. A producer called her “Saint
Dennis” as a way of teasing her about her high-minded and serious ap-
proach to dance. She liked the sound of St. Denis, and it was true that for
25 The Precursors
her, dance was a spiritual pursuit. “As I see it,” she said, “the deepest lack
of Western cultures is any true workable system for teaching a process of
integration between soul and body.”
9
Like Fuller and Duncan before her, St. Denis’s earliest stage appear-
ances were in popular musical theater. While on tour in 1904, she hap-
pened to see a cigarette advertisement with an image of the Egyptian
goddess Isis. Tis image so captured her imagination that she became
determined to create dances in the Oriental manner—that is, a Western
notion of Eastern cultures that was more romanticized than authen-
tic. She eventually became receptive to the entire spectrum of spiritual
thought that she associated with the Near East and Far East.
St. Denis was a beautiful, mesmerizing performer like Duncan and
Fuller, but she was less fussy about where she danced. Although she
toured in Europe, St. Denis’s professional life unfolded in the United
States, and she actually created her frst major success, Radha, with the
vaudeville circuit in mind. Radha was her solo dance, and she portrayed
a Hindu temple idol. She was so hypnotizing as she slithered of her
temple pedestal to explore the temptations of the senses that it hardly
mattered that her steps were a hodgepodge of ballet turns, acrobatics in
the eurythmic tradition, and poses that froze the lovely St. Denis into
Oriental images directly out of nothing more authentic than her own
imagination. No one cared that the set was not a Jain temple or that the
music by Delibes had been composed for a European opera. Tis for-
mula would be reinvented throughout St. Denis’s career as she singly—
and eventually with a company—brought the entire world of mysticism
and Oriental religious practices as she envisioned it to stages of all sizes
throughout the country.
In 1914, infuenced by the enormous success of the ballroom danc-
ers Irene and Vernon Castle (who were then at the height of their fame),
St. Denis decided to fnd a male partner. But she was more interested
in the performing tension between male and female partners than ball-
room dance. She selected Ted Shawn, a former divinity student, who
had trained in ballet for therapeutic reasons. He was a handsome man
with a physique that people compared to that of a Greek god. Spiritually
a seeker as well and physically the male equal of her beauty, he was an
ideal match for St. Denis. Together they became Denishawn.
26 MoDERN DANCE
Denishawn shifs the story of modern dance away from the pre-
cursors. St. Denis and Shawn created more than a dance company—
they started a dance school, brought men into dance innovation, and
eventually created one of the most important dance festivals in the
world. Tey were innovators who were not uncomfortable creating in-
stitutions that would secure a place for modern dance in theater arts.
Fuller and Duncan had been worshipped during their lifetimes, but
only St. Denis lived long enough to hear herself called the mother of
modern dance.
27
Denishawn
2
Dance . . . the symbol and language for communicating
spiritual truth.
—Ruth St. Denis
10
When Ruth St. Denis married Ted Shawn in 1914, neither could have
imagined the dance legacy their union would produce. At the time, it
seemed a straightforward partnership of two attractive dancers who
both needed something the other had to give. St. Denis wanted a male
dance partner, and Shawn, who had long admired St. Denis’s spiritual
approach to dance, wanted to learn from her. Te two shared long-term
dreams of a school and dance communities that would be centered on
utopian ideals. Almost immediately, they began a conversation about
such goals. If the introspective St. Denis tended to see these possibilities
as spiritual directions, the ever-practical Shawn started to implement
them almost at once.
28 MoDERN DANCE
A new sChooL of
Modern dAnCe
Billed as “Ruth St. Denis, assisted by Ted Shawn, with Hilda Beyer” (his
dance partner at that time), St. Denis and Shawn began touring. Not long
afer they had started working together and just as World War I was de-
clared, they married on August 13, 1914. St. Denis was 36 and Shawn was
just 23. Prematurely white-haired, St. Denis was a regal fgure, and Shawn,
at more than six feet tall, made a noble consort. Te name Denishawn was
actually not of their design but rather the result of an enterprising theater
owner’s promotion. It stuck, although the company that began with their
partnership would continue to be billed as “Ruth St. Denis” until 1921.
Romantic as the combined name sounds, there was a tension be-
tween the couple from the start. St. Denis, the dreamer, and Shawn, the
realist, were ofen at odds. Depending on the observer’s point of view,
Shawn either was St. Denis’s perfect complement or someone who used
her to further his own ambition. Agnes de Mille, the great dancer/cho-
reographer who knew both dancers, observed much later:
He [Shawn] refers to her as though she were his guru. But she was
not his guru, she was his middle-aged wife, famous while he was
unknown, sought afer while he was passed by, worshipped by
dancers while he was tolerated as their equal, envied only as hav-
ing special and unfair advantages. In short, she was a genuine star
while he was a pretender. She was also a woman of genuine convic-
tions; what he had were genuine ambitions.
11
Others were less unkind. Jane Sherman, a member of the Denishawn
troupe who worked closely with the two for years, observed more mildly
that, “[s]he supplied the glamour and inspiration, he the organization
and teaching drive.”
12
In any event, the 1915 opening of the Ruth St. Denis School of Danc-
ing on a wooded hilltop in Los Angeles was a major milestone—not just
in the lives of these two dancers but also in the history of American dance.
By the next year, the name was changed to the Denishawn School, thus
ofcially acknowledging the joint nature of their endeavors. For St. Denis,
the school was a place of fnal repose in a lifetime of touring, providing
29 Denishawn
her a base from which to practice and reafrm her spiritual beliefs. She
had limited interest in teaching, however, and focused her energies pri-
marily on performance. She had been dancing professionally long before
Ted Shawn (top) and Ruth St. Denis (bottom) pose in costumes for
a performance of a dance entitled Xochitl.
30 MoDERN DANCE
achieving real success in 1906’s Radha, when she was 27 years old. Te
huge success of this “Indian” dance propelled her into years of touring in
vaudeville and performing in private engagements.
As St. Denis’s repertory had expanded to Egyptian and Japanese
themes, she used dancers on an as-needed basis to fll out larger dances.
When she mounted her full-length Egypta with a cast of 50 in 1910, the
dancers were hired for the tour, and the elaborate costumes and sets of
this dance-theater piece had to be created for ease in transport. Tus,
the establishment of a school with facilities for training dancers, as well
as for creating and storing sets and costumes, was no small gif from
a young husband to a revered older wife. Te Los Angeles facility was
joined later by the addition of a major Denishawn center in New York
City and countless branches across the United States. Shawn made it
possible for his charismatic wife to become universally known and ad-
mired as “Miss Ruth,” and he helped show future generations that it was
possible to fnancially support their creative concert work on a founda-
tion of teaching and touring.
Te goal of the school was “the eternal quest for truth, the ecstasy of
an instant’s communication with a divine being, the harmony of rituals,
beautifully performed.”
13
If Shawn’s drive brought the school into being, it
was St. Denis’s vision that kept Denishawn set on a course of high purpose,
where spiritual goals would be pursued in partnership with performing. It
would be a place where Miss Ruth could hold seminars on Oriental mysti-
cism and religion, at least as it was known in the West at that time. Te
seminars provided a heady infusion of breathing exercises, meditation,
Hindu philosophy, and even Christian Science practices.
St. Denis did not teach dance, although she instructed on facial
expressions and gestures. Shawn and a small teaching staf introduced
students to a variety of Oriental dances as well as ballet and general
movement exercises, based primarily on the Delsarte method of “natu-
ral” movement theory. Te school managed to advertise itself as some-
thing of a fnishing school, which attracted the daughters and sons of
the middle class. However, the school’s prosperous neighbors, residing
in secluded and beautifully landscaped homes nearby, found the under-
taking dangerously arty. Every incident, such as the young women of
Denishawn dashing down the school’s suburban street in bathing suits
trying to retrieve the resident peacock, managed to be reported in the
newspaper. To this island of serene introspection and emotive movement
31 Denishawn
high in the Los Angeles hills came dancers from all over. Some stayed
for a session or two and drifed away, while others became members of
the Denishawn touring company. Tree of them would eventually split
away from Denishawn to form their own companies—thus actually be-
ginning modern dance as we know it.
In 1916, in the second summer of the school’s existence, the frst of
the three visionary dancers, Martha Graham, entered the school in spite
of Miss Ruth’s initial impression that she was “totally hopeless”
14
and the
fact that Graham was considered to be short, dumpy, and untrained.
Doris Humphrey arrived from Chicago in 1917 with the goal of simply
teaching dance, and in her case, Miss Ruth approved, saying to her, “You
should dance.”
15
At about the same time, Charles Weidman arrived from
Lincoln, Nebraska, where he had seen Denishawn on tour.
One other key fgure in the history of modern dance was also in
the group. Louis Horst was Denishawn’s musical director from 1915
to 1925 and would go on to accompany, compose for, and collaborate
with succeeding generations of modern-dance innovators. Te impact
of this quartet lay in the future; for the next 15 years, their lives would
be intertwined with Denishawn, and their personal visions would be
submerged in its high exoticism.
The Spread of Denishawn
Unlike Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan, St. Denis and Shawn were inter-
ested in fnding an audience in the United States. To do this, they took the
company to the small towns and burgeoning cities of the 48 states. Tey
did not despise the vaudeville circuit as Duncan and Fuller had, nor did
they feel that their artistic integrity was in any way threatened. Te only
truly respectable stage for dance was at the New York Metropolitan Opera
House, but opportunities there were very limited and mostly restricted to
ballet dancers flling out crowd scenes in opera productions.
To most Americans, vaudeville simply meant a variety show pre-
sented in a theater. Small theaters across the United States were built by
enterprising owners who created chains, while others were individually
owned. Te term vaudeville comes from the French term vaux-de-ville,
used in France as early as the eighteenth century to describe a theatrical
entertainment with a variety of acts. But by the 1880s, vaudeville was
universally accepted in the United States as a variety show that could
32 MoDERN DANCE
consist of dancers, comedians, singers, acrobats, animal acts, and just
about any stage novelty imaginable. When motion pictures frst became
popular, vaudeville acts ofen preceded or followed the flm presenta-
tion. For almost 80 years, vaudeville provided the average American ac-
cess to entertainment and culture.
Ruth St. Denis had frst presented Radha, the dance that made her
famous, at Worth’s Family Teater and Museum in New York. Here, she
danced six times a day on a program of variety acts in a setting that was
shared with displays of pickled animal freaks and between lectures on
historical relics, which were also on view. So, going from one theater to
another as a featured act of a theater chain did not seem all that terrible.
St. Denis could also leave the tedious task of bookings or arranging tour
logistics to the impresario hiring her troupe.
denIshAwn tAkes off
As the Denishawn company grew in size, augmented continually by danc-
ers training at its own school, the company’s productions became grander.
Each program included several St. Denis solos, which might be anything
from her famous cobras, in which her arms became serpents, to Yogi, just
one of her many dance meditations based on Eastern religious practices.
St. Denis and Shawn began performing in new works that showcased
their combined talent in duets ranging from ballroom dance to mystical
and exotic creations such as Te Garden of Kama, a love story between a
highborn Indian beauty and a fsherman. Te program also included full-
company dances and usually one or two short “musical visualizations,”
which St. Denis described as “the scientifc translation into bodily action
of the rhythmic, melodic, and harmonious structure of musical composi-
tion.” St. Denis readily said that Isadora Duncan had inspired her to ap-
proach music in this way. Trough the years, Shawn began to be show-
cased in solo work as well, and later, his own full-company choreography
was performed. Each of these was a short work that could be interspersed
throughout a program with other acts.
An opportunity to work on a large scale came to Denishawn in 1916
in the form of an invitation to perform at the Greek Teatre of the Uni-
versity of California at Berkeley. Denishawn was the frst dance compa-
ny so honored. St. Denis used the entire school to create a dance pageant
33 Denishawn
of Egyptian, Greek, and Indian styles, including having the students dye
and stencil cloth as well as sew some of the 450 costumes. In addition
to the Denishawn students, St. Denis used almost 100 dancers from the
Berkeley summer session.
St. Denis’s dream of recapturing the spirit of ancient performance
was nearly realized in the Berkeley commission. Later in life, she said,
“Te experience of these rehearsals is among the high points of my ca-
reer.” She mused happily over the long hours of rehearsal with trunks of
costumes open in the sunshine and the pleasant sounds of hammering
going on backstage, where sets and props were being constructed. All
the while, visitors strolled by watching the preparations. She had felt
then as though “the antique world hovered in the radiant sunshine. We
could have been in a Greek theater in the ancient land.”
16
Each of the pageant sections portrayed daily life and spiritual pursuits
of the three selected civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and India. An actual
river of water created along a broad walk at the front of the stage suc-
cessively represented the Nile, the Styx, and, fnally, the Ganges. One of
St. Denis and Shawn’s most enduring dance duets, Toilers of the Soil, ap-
peared frst in the Egyptian section. In Toilers, the pair moved in profle
like hieroglyphic fgures as they went about their daily tasks of plowing,
planting, and harvesting. Shawn’s head was shaved and he wore a loin-
cloth, while St. Denis was draped in a shapeless, sacklike garment. Tis
dance is one of the very few to survive on flm, and although both danc-
ers were more than 60 years old at the time it was flmed, Shawn’s balletic
training and poise still is apparent, as is St. Denis’s mesmerizing ability to
suggest character and thought in movement. Te pageant was later per-
formed at the Panama California Exposition in San Diego, as well as in
Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Its individual dances, such as Toilers in the
Soil, would enter into the permanent Denishawn repertory.
Although a huge artistic success, the pageant lef Denishawn in
debt. As St. Denis said, the only real answer to this problem was vaude-
ville. “Tis contingency always disturbed Ted more than it did me,” she
said. “He sometimes questioned whether this means of freeing ourselves
from debt was worth the loss in artistic prestige, which he believed ac-
companied a two-a-day. But to me debt loomed as a greater moral defeat
than any hypothetical loss of prestige.”
17
One other avenue of popular work supported Denishawn: the bur-
geoning movie industry that was then taking root in Los Angeles. Te
34 MoDERN DANCE
sumptuous, epic nature of Denishawn found its counterpart in the silent
movies then being produced by Cecil B. de Mille (whose niece, Agnes
de Mille, would become a dancer/choreographer) and D.W. Grifth.
Both virtually invented the screen epic with flms such as Te Ten Com-
mandments and Te Birth of a Nation. Many Denishawn dancers and
students ended up in motion pictures, including Julianne Johnston, who
starred with Douglas Fairbanks in Te Tief of Baghdad. Silent-screen
great Louise Brooks, herself a flm icon, was also a Denishawn dancer.
D.W. Grifth actually required his actresses to attend Denishawn classes
to learn how to convey emotion through movement. St. Denis choreo-
graphed a Babylonian dance for Grifth’s huge flm Intolerance, calling
on Denishawn students to appear in it.
Touring, however, paid the bills. Following the pageant’s success in
1916, the troupe spent the rest of that year and much of 1917 performing
on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. With America’s entrance into World
War I and Shawn’s enlistment in the United States Army Ambulance
Corps, St. Denis toured vaudeville on her own once again. When the
war ended and Shawn returned, Denishawn was promptly out touring
the Pantages vaudeville circuit in 1919. During this time, Shawn himself
Movie star Louise Brooks, who appeared in 17 silent films during
her acting career, was also a prominent member of the Denishawn
dance troupe. Brooks (center) is pictured in the late 1920s.
35 Denishawn
began experimenting as a choreographer. He took the exploration of
American Indian myth and tradition as his personal territory in such
dances as Xochitl, which gave Martha Graham her frst star turn as a
feisty Toltec maiden.
Year afer year, the dancers were on the road doing two-a-day perfor-
mances on the vaudeville circuit, which one former dancer described as
“uninspiring, almost degrading labor.”
18
It was not uncommon for Den-
ishawn, even with its high-art aspirations, to appear on a program with
comedian Fanny Brice as the next act. Denishawn even had the honor of
playing New York’s Palace, vaudeville’s greatest stage, where they were so
popular that their performances were extended for a second week. Te
high point of their life on the road came in 1925 and 1926 with a presti-
gious tour through the Orient, taking their Western imitations of East-
ern religion and myth to the source itself. Tey visited eight countries,
including Japan, China, and India. Te tour was a triumph, with Eastern
audiences more appreciative of the implied compliment than critical of
any irregularities or errors in Denishawn’s vision of them. Te troupe re-
turned home exhausted, only to go back on the road immediately, spend-
ing 40 weeks in 1927 and 1928 touring with the Ziegfeld Follies.
denIshAwn unrAveLs
By then, the pressure of touring was taking its toll on everyone in the
company. Drawn to Denishawn by a desire to perform serious, high-art
dance, the troupe felt wearied, and sometimes even sullied, by the gru-
eling demands of touring and the ofen makeshif environments where
they performed. Shawn and St. Denis’s relationship was strained by this
as well. St. Denis was never comfortable as a married woman, resisting
the notion of an ordinary domestic life, a family, and a home. Meanwhile,
Shawn pushed for more control over Denishawn as well as visibility for
his own dance works. He also was a fervent pioneer in the efort to lure
men back to serious dance afer a long period during which dancing was
considered—especially in the United States—to be something that only
women did. St. Denis wanted time to refect and to recoup, but Shawn,
ever full of energy, was bursting with new ideas for the company. Both
partners had firtations with other people, and there were rumors that
Shawn’s were with other men, something vehemently denied at a time
36 MoDERN DANCE
when homosexuality actually was illegal in much of the United States.
Shawn summed up his own view of the situation when he wearily titled
one of his books One Tousand and One Night Stands.
Martha Graham was the frst dancer to defect, but others such as Do-
ris Humphrey and Charles Weidman would follow, going on to become
the great founding generation of independent modern-dance artists. Less
inevitable but perhaps even more damaging was the departure of Louis
Jacob’s PIllow
Dance FestIval
In 1930, Ted Shawn bought a farm in Massachusetts to use
as a retreat. The farm could be reached only by a windy
road that locals called The Ladder. Behind the farmhouse
was a huge boulder with a sunken middle that looked like
a pillow. Pious New Englanders who had built the farm
called it Jacob’s Pillow, because it suggested to them the
Book of Genesis passage in which Jacob laid his head on a
rock and dreamed of a ladder leading to heaven.
Jacob’s Pillow would become Denishawn’s gift to the
dance community and longest-lasting achievement, al-
though this came about quite accidentally. In 1933, Shawn
brought together eight men—some of whom were physical
education students at a nearby college—to create a new kind
of male-based dance performance. He wanted to establish
a strong masculine style that would convince audiences
that dance was not something for ladies only. While he was
training these young men in dance arts, he also kept them
in shape by using them to build the compound of structures
that exist at Jacob’s Pillow to this day.
For seven years, Shawn and His Men Dancers (as they
were called) toured worldwide, always returning to Jacob’s
Pillow for summer performances and lectures open to the
37 Denishawn
Horst, Denishawn’s musical director. Unlike dancers, who—at least in
theory—could easily be replaced within the Denishawn system, Horst was
fundamental to the acts of choreographing and producing. Tere were no
other composer-musicians training in Denishawn workshops.
Agnes de Mille called Graham’s departure “the frst wound in the
fesh of Denishawn,”
19
saying Graham “spurned” Shawn in particu-
lar. Graham herself described her leaving more prosaically, saying,
public. Although Shawn and Ruth St. Denis were separat-
ed by this point, Miss Ruth always was invited to perform.
World War II changed this pleasant routine when the Men
Dancers all joined the armed forces. In need of money,
Shawn leased the property to Mary Washington Ball. The
next year, Shawn leased it to ballet stars Alicia Markova and
Anton Dolin, who staged an international dance festival that
was so successful that a local group purchased Jacob’s Pillow
outright to keep the summer dance festival in operation.
Jacob’s Pillow now is a dance institution, annually pre-
senting a summer program of diverse performances. Pil-
low Talks are given by artists before and after events and
as separate gatherings. A summer school for dancers of
varying skill levels offers dance training in a wide variety
of styles. For example, during the summer of 2009, Rennie
Harris was an instructor. Harris is a hip-hop artist who
has been at the forefront of turning street movement into
mainstream stage art worldwide. There is a huge dance
arc between 1930s ballerina Markova and twenty-first
century street-based Harris.
It turned out that Jacob’s Pillow, with its friendly bell
clanging to announce the theater open for seating and an
eclectic mix of dancers from around the world, would be
the means of keeping a spark of Denishawn’s fervent ex-
perimental spirit alive.
38 MoDERN DANCE
“Denishawn was preparing for their famous tour of the Orient and we
were all excited. . . . I was told I looked too Oriental and would not be
a true representative of Denishawn.”
20
Te truth lies somewhere in be-
tween. Miss Ruth never liked Graham’s dancing, though Shawn encour-
aged her, even making her a teacher. Graham felt misunderstood and
underutilized. She even carried around clippings that said Graham was
the only Denishawn dancer to perform with passion and excitement.
Each of this trio had a well-developed ego, and a split was inevitable.
Denishawn sputtered to an end in the early 1930s, a victim of the
economic crisis of the Great Depression, as well as of the internal strains
within the company. Te company had accomplished great things, tour-
ing and spreading their artistic yearnings across America. Men and
women began to look at stage dance as a potentially real art form, and a
generation of young people was inspired to dance. By 1932, Shawn had
struck of on his own, touring with his own Company of Male Danc-
ers. He eventually turned his farm in Massachusetts, Jacob’s Pillow, into
an important summer dance festival. St. Denis returned to solo perfor-
mances, usually in a religious setting. Te couple parted, and although
they never divorced, they lived separately for the rest of their long lives.
Meanwhile, on October 28, 1928, Doris Humphrey and Charles
Weidman, along with 16 other dancers, made American dance history
with the frst performance by a modern-dance ensemble. Tis, in com-
bination with Martha Graham’s 1926 solo concert, established the idea
of modern dance as an art form based on individual movement vocabu-
laries unrelated to the past. Almost every modern dancer performing
today can trace his or her own dance lineage back to one of these three
Denishawn dancers.
Ruth St. Denis died in 1968, and Ted Shawn in 1972. No one had
called their art “modern dance.” Afer Denishawn, dancers as well as
painters, musicians, and authors were called modern artists. Denishawn,
in its lovely Spanish mansion overlooking Los Angeles, was the cradle
of a great theater movement where dancers were taught not only how to
move but also to have the confdence to assume the title of artist.
39
3
Te Founding
Modern-Dance
Generation
I feel that the essence of dance is the expression of man—
the landscape of his soul.
—Martha Graham
21
By the late 1920s, Americans had become accustomed to the idea of
“artistic” dance. Denishawn had crisscrossed the country many times as
well as making itself newsworthy with its famous Orient tour. Moreover,
Isadora Duncan, although reviled in her lifetime as a decadent Com-
munist, inspired young women across the United States to seek self-
expression by putting on Greek tunics and dancing barefoot. Ballet also
attracted widespread interest as Anna Pavlova toured the United States,
leaving in her wake scores of would-be ballerinas, including Agnes de
Mille. Meanwhile, word fltered back from Europe that Russian impr-
essario Serge Diaghilev was presenting dazzling new productions with
charismatic dancers such as Vaslav Nijinsky. Te latter performed in
ballets utilizing innovative collaborators, including composer Igor Stra-
vinsky, artist Pablo Picasso, and choreographer George Balanchine.
40 MoDERN DANCE
A tIMe for experIMentAtIon
Tis general climate of curiosity about serious dance was new. Martha
Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman benefted from it, and
were also inspired by it. Te decision to leave Denishawn to evolve a
personal way of moving might not have happened in a less supportive
cultural climate. Each dancer had come of age professionally in the exu-
berant post–World War I era, when skirts went up, jazz and nightclubs
thrived, movie palaces appeared across the country, and the automobile
made Americans increasingly mobile. It was a time of high confdence
and experimentation. Graham, Humphrey, and Weidman were uninter-
ested in conquering Europe or in the great reforms sweeping ballet; they
sought to create movement that represented American energy.
Te dancers who embarked on this exciting artistic journey could
not know that within a few years of their frst solo concerts, this envi-
ronment of high excitement and encouragement of the arts would dis-
appear. In 1929, the crash of the stock market precipitated a worldwide
economic depression. Breadlines, hobos, and striking workers replaced
the high-living fappers and their tuxedoed admirers. “Brother, Can You
Spare a Dime?” was the song on everyone’s lips. Abroad, Adolf Hitler
seized power in Germany, as did Benito Mussolini in Italy, and civil war
broke out in Spain. Te confdent, afuent 1920s disappeared into the
fearful, impoverished Depression era of the 1930s. Inevitably, the change
was refected in the arts.
Martha Graham did not immediately take to the stage and become
the great lady of American modern dance. She had a long period of trial
and error before entering her great era of sustained choreographic inven-
tion in her 40s. When she frst lef Denishawn, she happily performed
for two years in the Greenwich Village Follies, becoming something of a
Broadway star where “each night one of my solos,” she exulted, “would
stop the show.”
22
Later, restless and unsatisfed with the life of a showgirl,
even a very popular one, Graham lef the Follies in 1925 in order, as she
stated, “to create my own dances, on my own body.”
Although Graham remained a loner all her life, she had a knack for
fnding people who saw something special in her and were willing to
lend her substantial assistance. Tis happened when she had frst ap-
plied at Denishawn and been turned away by Miss Ruth, only to have
41 The Founding Modern-Dance Generation
Ted Shawn step in. He recognized Graham’s sheer determination and
decided to encourage her desire to become a better dancer. Although the
relationship between Shawn and Graham ended in disillusionment, each
acknowledged the role Shawn had played in Martha’s Denishawn career.
Shawn went so far as to say, “I trained her. Ruth didn’t and wouldn’t.
Tere’d be no Martha Graham without me.”
23
Graham, however, had a
In the mid-1920s, Martha Graham set out to create her own dances
based on the principles of muscle contraction and release. Here,
Graham poses in a scene from the dance Salem Shore, circa 1943.
42 MoDERN DANCE
diferent take on her Denishawn experience, saying, “I worshipped ev-
erything about Miss Ruth—how she walked, how she danced. Miss Ruth
was everything to me, but I got stuck with Ted who really was something
of a dud.”
24
Her Broadway exit came about when Rouben Mamoulian, a Rus-
sian-born theatrical director, invited her to act as codirector of the newly
established dance department at the Eastman School of Music in Roch-
ester, New York. George Eastman, whose invention of the Kodak cam-
era in 1888 had made him wealthy enough to turn to philanthropy, had
brought in Mamoulian to direct his school of music. Mamoulian sur-
prised everyone by insisting on including a dance department. “Dance,”
he declared, “is the foundation of the theater.”
25
Mamoulian had seen
Graham perform on Broadway and thought her a gifed dancer with an
unusual personality—and, like himself, a very idiosyncratic talent.
Louis Horst, who had spent time in Vienna afer leaving Denishawn
as its musical director, joined Graham at Eastman. Others would regard
such artistic encouragement and collaboration as wonderful, but Gra-
ham, who did not have a spirit suited to working at institutions—with
or without congenial colleagues—lef afer one year.
Using three Eastman students, Graham gave her frst independent
dance concert in New York City at the Forty-Eighth Street Teater on
April 18, 1926—but it was not the debut that would have critics hailing
her as a genius. Alas, even some of the titles of these frst dances show
that she was still locked into a Denishawn approach to movement and
programming: Tree Gopi Maidens, Florentine Madonna, and Clair de
Lune. Any of these would have been appropriate for one of Miss Ruth’s
dance dramas or music visualizations. Te newspapers remarked that
the work was merely “pretty” and “graceful,”
26
and Graham herself con-
ceded her frst dances were “infuenced by Denishawn.”
27
Graham continued to experiment with movement, focusing on a
new way for the dancer to breathe that she called “a contraction and
a release” (also known as contraction-release)—that is, not only to
breathe involuntarily, but also to exaggerate the sharp intake of breath
and its explosive expulsion. Even today, when a Graham-trained danc-
er performs this torso-based movement, the viewer can see the body
pull back at its center and then expand outward—like being socked in
the stomach. Graham based her dances not on simple counts, as most
43 The Founding Modern-Dance Generation
choreographers do, but on breath counts: short, fast breath quickly ex-
pelled for anger, and longer, slower breath counts for quieter moods.
Used this way, she invited the audience, instinctively breathing the same
rhythm, to be pulled emotionally into the performance as well.
28
Most stage-dance techniques before Graham elongated the body
and moved it upward into space, as did ballet. Graham, on the other
hand, celebrated the foor and the earth—sitting on it, falling on it, and
touching it. Deliberately violating ballet’s classical technique of point-
ing the foot and creating a line of the leg from thigh to toe, she danced
fat-footed and with bare (and ofen fexed) feet. Tese innovations were
not new—they had all been employed at Denishawn—but that company
used them in the service of exoticism. Graham used these techniques
without glamorous trappings. She did not disguise the efort that went
into her movements—she sweated. She would not leap; she pounced.
When she kicked her leg in the air, the audience saw a dirty foot. It was
not pretty, as Graham acknowledged: “In many ways I showed onstage
what most people came to the theater to avoid.”
29
It would take years for Martha Graham’s technique to mature, but
all the elements were in place by the late 1920s and early 1930s. In 1927,
she presented a solo dance called Revolt, which was about man’s injus-
tice to man. It was defnitely not a Denishawn or ballet topic. Reviewers
called this work “stark” and even “ugly.” Graham had found her idiom,
and from this point on, she experimented with movement that made a
statement. She wanted technique to service her ideas rather than dem-
onstrate dance virtuosity. It was not that she deliberately wanted to an-
tagonize audiences, “but I’d rather they disliked me than be apathetic,
because that is the kiss of death,” observed Graham.
30
In 1929, she presented Heretic, her frst concert dance for a com-
pany of dancers. Wearing a simple long, white jersey dress, Graham
confronted 12 women in identical long, black dresses who became, in
her words, “a wall of defance that I could not break.”
31
A Breton song
played and then stopped; at this moment of silence, the women in black
reformed into another group. Explained Graham, “I was the heretic des-
perately trying to force myself free of the darkness of my oppressors.”
32
She herself was a heretic in the world of dance, challenging old concep-
tions of dance and facing similar opposition. People either loved her
boldness or hated it.
44 MoDERN DANCE
Te next year, she created and performed Lamentation, a solo per-
formed seated while she stretched and moved inside a long tube of
jersey material— “. . . to indicate,” Graham said, “the tragedy that ob-
sesses the body, the ability to stretch inside your own skin, to witness
and test the perimeter and boundaries of grief. . . . ”
33
Martha Graham
had found her genius.
BreAkIng AwAy froM the
shAdow of denIshAwn
Martha Graham was not the only former Denishawn dancer performing
new work on the concert stage. Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman
lef Denishawn far less dramatically than Graham. From the beginning,
their company, known as Humphrey-Weidman, was composed of both
men and women; Graham’s company, in contrast, was all-female for its
frst 15 years. Although both Humphrey and Weidman were powerful
soloists, their work was conceived primarily for a group to perform.
Humphrey was an exquisite dancer performing “like a nymph” in airy,
light, delicate movements, in direct contrast to Graham’s earthbound
ferceness.
34
Weidman was that rare performer in modern dance—a hu-
morist and mime, someone whose most celebrated dances made people
laugh. Neither had the immense personality of Graham, her glamour,
nor her occasionally irritating high-handedness.
Humphrey had come to Denishawn afer teaching dance in Chica-
go, and it was St. Denis who saw her talent and urged her to perform. To
the end of her days, Humphrey remained at heart a natural teacher, leav-
ing behind a legacy of talented dancers. One of these, José Limón, would
be at the forefront of the next modern-dance generation. She never was
interested solely in creating new dances; she was equally committed to
developing a dance language that facilitated movement composition.
If Martha Graham wanted to explore her interior life, Doris Hum-
phrey was much more interested in abstract questions about the nature
of movement. “My entire technique,” said Humphrey, “consists of the
development of the process of falling away from and returning to equi-
librium.”
35
In the danger of the fall and the peace of recovery, Humphrey
45 The Founding Modern-Dance Generation
saw the quest for adventure and the desire for peace. She described the
movement between the two actions as the “arc between two deaths.”
36
She insisted that one did not “make up” dances, but rather that one com-
posed them. Tis view infuenced every serious dance artist who came
in contact with her.
Doris Humphrey was considered Martha Graham’s equal, and even
to this day, some believe Humphrey was the greater artist of modern
dance’s founding trio because of the methodology she set in place to
compose dance. Tis is an old argument not dissimilar to the equally
ferce and forgotten battles between supporters of modern dance and
ballet.
Martha Graham performed in one way or another until she died
in 1991 at age 97. She had appeared on stage, in flm, and in television.
She had taught dancers, written books, given lectures, and graciously
accepted awards from everyone from presidents of the United States to
university presidents. By sheer force of will, she had turned herself into
a beauty—a mesmerizing presence both onstage and of.
By contrast, Doris Humphrey was a red-haired, pale-skinned, and
fragile, fne-boned woman of real beauty and an unassuming nature. By
1944, she had given up performing because of severe arthritis but con-
tinued working as an artistic director, choreographer, and teacher for
José Limón, the most talented of the Humphrey-Weidman dancers. She
died in 1958, revered by students and audiences alike. She was not well
known to the world at large and performed too early to be enveloped
in the celebrity machine that caught up with some of the early surviv-
ing modern-dance pioneers later in the century. Agnes de Mille said of
Humphrey, “She cared far less about production, little about recogni-
tion, and nothing at all about remuneration. In this, I believe, she was
unique, being compelled to create for the joy of the work to the very end
of her life.”
37
One of the bylaws of dance—whether ballet or modern—is that
movement should respond to music. Boldly, Humphrey composed
completely abstract dances to be performed in silence, an idea that is
still considered very avant-garde. An early Humphrey solo, 1929’s Life
of the Bee, had her dancing to the sound of someone blowing on a tis-
sue-covered comb mimicking the sound of a bee. In 1931, Humphrey
created what is still considered one of her major works: Te Shakers, a
46 MoDERN DANCE
dance for seven people that centered on Humphrey’s solo in which “with
wide skirts swirling about her, Doris Humphrey lifed her arms, opened
her hands, and raised a transfgured face. To the music of a drum, an
Doris Humphrey, pictured during a performance in Seattle,
Washington, in 1925, was considered every bit as talented as her
contemporary Martha Graham. Like Graham, Humphrey was a
member of Denishawn but left the group in 1928 to form her own
company with Charles Weidman.
47 The Founding Modern-Dance Generation
accordion, and a wordless soprano voice, Humphrey and her dancers
re-created a moment in the past for American theater.”
38
Her partner, Charles Weidman, had simply shown up at Den-
ishawn one day afer having seen the company perform in his native
Nebraska. He had been an artistically inclined child and was headed
toward a career in architecture. “Ten,” he observed later, “Ruth St.
Denis came to the Orpheum Teatre in Lincoln, with her pageant of
India, Egypt, and Greece, and there was my history of dancing before
me. I just put two and two together, and from then on I wanted to
do that kind of dancing.”
39
Shawn gave him a couple months of in-
struction and then sent him on the road. Weidman survived his sink-
or-swim introduction to performance and went on to create dances
himself during the Denishawn years. Shawn capitalized on Weidman’s
gifs as a mime, creating amusing dances such as Danse Americaine for
the Denishawn repertory. In 1925, Weidman described how this dance
was to be performed: “Te character is a small mill-town dude. He is
the sport of the town and knows it. He is afraid of nothing on earth but
the ‘skoits’! Remember to keep this spirit of bravado throughout the
entire dance. Tere are no regular fxed steps: It is merely the interpre-
tation of a story by gesture.”
40
Weidman was as involved as Humphrey in creating the technique
that came to be associated with the Humphrey-Weidman troupe, but
balanced out her cerebral and refned approach with his satirical gifs. If
Humphrey was drawn to the logical, Weidman was drawn to the illogi-
cal. He liked to draw a movement from an everyday incident and then
use it in a situation removed from the context in which it had occurred.
Much of his work was shaped by his own skill as a brilliant mime and
comic and by his talent for fnding the telling gesture.
Tese young experimenters set out not only to create new work, but
also to fnd an audience. Tey were forced to consider the very prob-
lems that had plagued Denishawn: how to support themselves and their
dancers while continuing to create and perform. No one wanted to go
into Broadway revues again, nor did they want to tour. Teaching classes
in their studios helped some but not much. Te costs of renting a the-
ater or mounting a production were beyond most of their means. Until
they could fnd a way to fnancially survive, their artistic endeavors were
simply marking time.
48 MoDERN DANCE
In 1929, the Dance Repertory Teater was formed to pool resources
and engage a single manager, share advertising costs, and even rent a
theater for as long as a week. Te organizing group consisted of Mar-
tha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and Helen Tamiris,
who had actually suggested this approach. Te idea was to fnd a way to
ensure both fnancial support and an audience, thereby addressing the
most serious problems facing these dancer/choreographers’ futures.
Tis efort was doomed from the start. None of the big three—Gra-
ham, Humphrey, or Weidman—considered Tamiris to be an artist on
their level. Humphrey and Weidman worried about being “organized to
death” as they had been in Denishawn. And Humphrey thought Gra-
ham was “a snake.”
41
For her part, Graham hated collaboration of any
kind, as she was always an intensely single-focused and independent
personality. When José Limón stood in the wings watching her dance,
she asked the stage manager to tell him she “would not tolerate being
watched from the wing.”
42
Te Dance Repertory Teater experiment only lasted two seasons. Tis
lef Graham, Humphrey, and Weidman right where they had been before:
trying to create new dance and get it on stage while somehow supporting
themselves fnancially. Teir work, however, had not gone unnoticed.
A young educator named Martha Hill had been “fairly hypnotized”
by seeing Graham dance and even briefy became a Graham dancer be-
fore turning back to education.
43
Hill became a pioneer in advancing the
cause of dance in colleges and universities, beginning frst at New York
University and then at Midwestern colleges. But it would be Bennington
College that would become the place where modern dance would fnd
a secure base.
In 1932, Bennington College was founded in southern Vermont to
establish an avant-garde educational program. Martha Hill originated
its dance program and received permission to establish summer sessions
that would bring in the great modern dance leaders. Not only would
they teach, but they would also create their own dances and perform
locally. Nearby, Ted Shawn’s Massachusetts farm, Jacob’s Pillow, opened
in 1933 as a summer festival, primarily showcasing his Male Dancers
troupe. When both Bennington College and the Jacob’s Pillow Festival
were up and running, the area became the focus of avant-garde dance.
Word spread throughout the nation, although the Bennington group
looked down on Shawn’s work as reactionary and old-fashioned.
49 The Founding Modern-Dance Generation
German dancer and choreographer Mary Wigman was influenced
by the same movement and emotion theories that served to inspire
Isadora Duncan. Unlike Duncan, however, Wigman was not afraid
to explore the ugliness that can be tied to human emotions and
relationships in her dance.
50 MoDERN DANCE
Te Bennington program got underway in 1934 with a faculty con-
sisting of Graham, Humphrey, Weidman, and newcomer Hanya Holm.
Bringing these maverick experimental dancers into the college curricu-
lum supported the artists in ways beyond their wildest dreams. It was
the Great Depression, yet here they were with free theaters, studios, and
production workshops. Tey had freedom to work, students to teach,
theaters to perform in, audiences to see the work—and prestige.
Hanya Holm, the new name among the experimenters, was ac-
tually German. She had come to the United States in 1931 to set up a
dance studio teaching the technique of fellow German Mary Wigman.
Germany was the only country other than the United States to develop
modern dance early in the century. Wigman was an important innova-
tor, infuenced by the same movement and theories on expressing emo-
tion that had inspired Isadora Duncan. Yet, unlike her contemporary
Duncan, Wigman was not afraid of being ugly or exploring unattractive
subjects. Her work has been associated with the emotional excesses and
high drama of German Expressionist art.
When Holm arrived in New York to set up a Mary Wigman school,
she found that her American students were not naturally suited to the
German Expressionist approach, with its distortion and heightened theat-
ricality. Wigman gave Holm permission to change her school’s American
curriculum to make it more suited to American temperament and skills.
Had Mary Wigman not been persecuted by the Nazis and forced to close
all her dance schools, the history of modern dance might have become a
joint American and German story. Instead, German Expressionist mod-
ern dance as taught by Holm at Bennington and at her studio was folded
into the story of the frst pioneers of American modern dance, and did
not become an independent component of a worldwide explosion of new
movement. By the time Wigman began to perform and teach once more
afer World War II, Graham, Humphrey, and Weidman were celebrated
artists, and Wigman, major innovator that she was, remained merely an
important footnote to the main story.
Modern dance had come into its own by the 1940s. No longer
a dancer’s solitary vision or a choreographer’s experiment, modern
dance existed as a theater art. Soon, the burgeoning art form would
experience a new generation of rebels, as well as contact with other
dance genres.
51
4
Te Reformers
and Post-Modern
Dance
. . . dancing is a spiritual exercise in physical form, and
. . . what is seen is what it is.
—Merce Cunningham
44
On the small stage of the Coolidge Teatre at the Library of Congress in
Washington, D.C., Martha Graham stood taking a bow. It was October
30, 1944, and, at age 50, she had just danced the lead role of a young
bride in the premiere of her Appalachian Spring. Te radiant Graham
accepted the applause hand-in-hand with Erick Hawkins, a 35-year-old
dancer who had appeared in the stage role of her bridegroom—a role he
would play later in real life. Merce Cunningham, a phenomenally tal-
ented dancer who had portrayed the frontier preacher, was on her other
side. It was Graham who—with funds from the Coolidge Foundation
(headed by music patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge)—had commis-
sioned composer Aaron Copeland to create the ballet’s original score.
Her act marked the frst time a major commission would be given to
a modern-dance choreographer, and the performance piece would be-
come the most famous of all Graham’s dances. Furthermore, Copland’s
52 MoDERN DANCE
score, based on a Shaker hymn theme, would go on to win a Pulitzer
Prize. Appalachian Spring made it absolutely clear to the world at large
that modern dance was no longer to be considered a vaudeville novelty.
It had come of age as an art form.
Shown here in 1944 at the age of 50, Martha Graham (left) played
a featured role in the ballet Appalachian Spring. The original
ballet is preserved on film, produced for a 1958 public television
performance. In it, the 64-year-old Graham performs on designer
Isamu Noguchi’s minimalist prairie set.
53 The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance
A new generAtIon tAkes
the stAge
Yet, within a few years of the Appalachian Spring premiere, the trio
of dancer/choreographers (Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and
Charles Weidman) largely responsible for this remarkable theatrical
accomplishment would fnd themselves considered out-of-date. Young
dancers, many of them students of these modern-dance pioneers, be-
gan to look for new subjects to draw upon as they explored ideas of
how to artistically move bodies in diferent ways. Te “historic” frst
modern-dance generation wanted to establish itself as uniquely Amer-
ican, taking its subjects from the social and intellectual concerns of
the era. Above all, these individuals wanted to be taken seriously and
to erase lingering associations of experimental dance with vaudeville
and show business.
If modern-dance innovators shared any single view, it was that they
were not doing ballet. Tey wanted to move freely. From their vantage
point, these groundbreakers saw ballet dancers as trapped in an estab-
lished movement system based on fxed positions of the body, feet and
arms, and ballet as a performing style that had been codifed centuries
earlier. Every generation of ballet choreographers and dancers gave bal-
let a new look, but it was true that they did not change the basic steps
and positions. Te moderns could not see the way ballet had changed
and how it too was in the process of a movement revolution—what the
innovators saw was stagnation. Modern-dance choreographers wanted
to create new ways of moving suited to their own, more democratic
time; they rejected movements they saw as tied to an aristocratic past.
Te disdain modern dancers shared for ballet was returned in full
measure. Ballet performers and audiences alike thought all the mod-
erns’ grand, mythic statements and high-purposed intentions were sim-
ply smoke screens covering up the latters’ inability to dance.
Many of the earliest innovators of modern dance were women, but
this, too, was about to change. Dancers from Isadora Duncan to Mar-
tha Graham had had the extra burden of proving that a woman could
construct a dance that was not about the shape of her legs, but about the
content of her mind and spirit. No one had questioned whether or not
54 MoDERN DANCE
a woman should dance. Te apparent sexism refected as much as any-
thing the lack of esteem that dance was given as a theater art.
Te modern-dance revolution did not happen immediately. Mar-
tha Graham did not retire from performing until 1969, when she was
75 years old. Even then, she stayed on stage, usually sitting in a chair
and wearing fowing garments as she introduced her company’s per-
formance. Doris Humphrey, however, retired from performing in 1945.
She had struggled for years with near-crippling arthritis and, fnally, as
her hip pain became unbearable, was forced to stop performing. Still,
Humphrey did not stop working with dance, although her retirement
did bring to an end the Humphrey-Weidman Group.
Te troupe’s most talented dancer, José Limón, went on to found an
experimental company of his own in 1946. Te Mexican-born Limón,
a dancer/choreographer of great presence, took the unique step of ask-
ing Doris Humphrey if she would act as an artistic director along with
himself. By doing this, Limón ensured the continuation of Humphrey’s
dance theories and dance works, as he incorporated Humphrey’s dances
into the repertoire of his newly emerging troupe. Te José Limón Dance
Company still exists, although its founder died in 1972. It still performs
Doris Humphrey’s work along with Limón’s in an unbroken line that ex-
ists nowhere else in modern dance.
Charles Weidman established a studio and a small company of his
own at the time Humphrey-Weidman dissolved. He was still living in a
room of his rehearsal space and giving Sunday afernoon dance pro-
grams when he died in 1975. One of Weidman’s most famous students
was Bob Fosse, the choreographer who took Weidman’s wit and humor
and added the sharp edge of jazz dance to became one of America’s most
important Broadway and Hollywood choreographers, staging such
works as Chicago and the movie version of Cabaret.
Although Graham, Humphrey, and Weidman are the recognized
pioneers responsible for founding modern dance, they were not the only
modern dancers working in the 1930s and into the 1940s. As previously
discussed, among their contemporaries, Helen Tamaris had organized
the Dance Repertory Teatre experiment, and Hanya Holm was an
important instructor at the Bennington College Dance Festival. Both
women created serious dances refecting the social concerns of their
55 The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance
times. Ironically, however, both Tamaris and Holm, as well as Fosse,
would fnd their lasting fame choreographing for Broadway.
Tamiris is particularly remembered as one of the frst dancer/chore-
ographers to turn to African-American material, and her Negro Spiritu-
als is still considered an innovation. Tis was not one dance but a series
created through the years 1929 to 1942 using African-American themes
and music. Te Federal Dance Project, organized in 1935 by the Works
Progress Administration as part of the efort to combat the devastating
unemployment caused by the Great Depression, funded Tamiris’s How
Long Brethren? in 1937. It was the frst dance in the United States to be
created with public funding. Yet, Tamaris is chiefy remembered today
as a Tony award–winning choreographer for the musical Touch and Go
and even more so for her work in Annie Get Your Gun.
One of the Humphrey-Weidman troupe’s most talented dancers
was Mexican-born José Limón, who moved to New York City
in 1928. Limón (left), pictured leaping in mid-air with Charles
Weidman in 1939, would go on to form his own dance group, the
José Limón Dance Company, in 1946.
56 MoDERN DANCE
Holm remained an important teacher as well as choreographer,
and 1937’s Trend, which she composed while in charge of the workshop
group at Bennington College, had the very topical theme of a society
being destroyed by false values. In 1941 she established a summer dance
institute at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and she lef a legacy
of many outstanding students, including Alwin Nikolais, whose work
would relight the fame of German Expressionism in American modern
dance. Holm, too, found her greatest recognition on Broadway as chore-
ographer for Kiss Me Kate (for which she received the New York Drama
Critics Award), My Fair Lady, and Camelot.
Black dance was more than an occasional theme for modern dance,
however—it was a thriving dance category of its own. Katherine Dun-
ham and Pearl Primus, two black women who both held doctorates in
anthropology, were presenting the genuine article—based on feld re-
search they had undertaken in Africa and the Caribbean—to wildly
enthusiastic audiences of every color. Dunham’s frst important work,
L’Ag’ya, also supported by the Federal Dance Project, depicted life on
Martinique, and she typically presented exciting and glamorous move-
ment and dazzling costumes representing black culture. Primus did this
as well, but also focused on grimmer visions of African-American life.
Tese two women anthropologist-performers brought black movement
out of the specialty revue or nightclub to the concert stage.
In Los Angeles, Lester Horton—a man with wide-ranging inter-
ests in dance experimentation and a particular fascination with Native
American culture—formed a dance company in 1932. Horton devel-
oped his own technique that centered on an unmoving torso with asym-
metrical movements of the arms and legs. (Horton’s most important stu-
dent, Alvin Ailey, made this style his own. In dance afer dance, Ailey’s
troupe drew together and leaned their torsos into space, centered and
still, while bent-elbowed arms moved in the air like wings, suggesting
fight or escape.) Trough the years Horton had tried everything from
designing outdoor pageants to choreographing nightclub acts and work-
ing on movie musicals. He established the frst theater in the United
States devoted solely to dance. His most important legacy, however, was
that his dance company was the frst fully integrated company in the
United States, drawing on African-American, Mexican-American, Japa-
nese, and white dancers. Horton dancers, Alvin Ailey being foremost,
57 The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance
carried more than good dancing into the next generation; they brought
a color-blind eye to what they did and who did it.
In Martha Graham’s company, an extremely talented male dancer,
Merce Cunningham, had been singled out repeatedly for praise, par-
ticularly for his role as the preacher in Appalachian Spring and for his
fantastic high leaps as March in Graham’s ode to Emily Dickinson, Let-
ter to the World. While still dancing with Graham, Cunningham began
working in creative partnership with avant-garde composer John Cage,
whom he had met in Seattle during his dance student years. When not
dancing character roles with Graham, he was experimenting with move-
ment that would be only about dancing. Te frst joint performance by
Cunningham and Cage was given at the Humphrey-Weidman Studio
on 16th Street in 1944. New York Herald Tribune critic Edwin Denby
said of this performance, “I have never seen a frst recital that combined
such taste, such technical fnish, such originality of dance material”; he
added that the efect of hearing Cage’s “odd timbres” with Cunningham’s
“dancing has an efect of extreme elegance in isolation.”
45

Born in 1919 and still working up until the time he died in July
2009, Cunningham never stopped devising movement that derived its
value from what is done in the moment, at a particular performance. His
dances had no subject, and no historical, biographical, or psychological
meaning. Te dance simply exists. Tat does not mean, however, that he
created simple dances. His interest in both chance and indeterminacy
led to complex dance compositions. He used chance to decide, ofen by
a fip of a coin or drawing a number, which movement sequence would
follow which and who would dance it. Te elements thus came together
at the performance. It was not the same thing as improvisation, because
each movement phrase had been set by the choreographer. Since their
order was undetermined until the actual performance, they had to be
able to ft together once the cards were thrown into the air. It was like
creating a puzzle in which every piece must ft but which was never as-
sembled in the same way.
At age 90, Merce Cunningham was still throwing everything up in
the air by making new dance compositions and leading company class.
To celebrate the occasion of his 90th birthday, on April 16, 2009, Cun-
ningham premiered a full evening composition entitled Nearly Ninety.
Performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music, this work was created in
58 MoDERN DANCE
collaboration with the legendary indie rock group Sonic Youth, former
Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, and mixed-media sound com-
poser Takehisa Kosugi.
Dance critic Joan Acocella wrote in Te New Yorker about the
event:
For his anti-classicism and his anti-lyricism, together with his more
ingratiating qualities, notably the cleanness and intensity of his
Merce Cunningham won acclaim for his role as the preacher in
Appalachian Spring, but he would go on to become one of the most
influential choreographers in modern dance during a career that
spanned more than 50 years. Cunningham is pictured here at the
premiere of Appalachian Spring in 1944.
59 The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance
dances, he will always be recognized as the foremost representative
of high modernism—the Joyce-Pound-Beckett kind—in the history
of modern dance, and as a creator of beauty and meaning on their
level. On opening night, there was a little ceremony afer the show,
and Cunningham came out onstage in a wheelchair, wearing a black
velvet jacket, black sneakers, and an embarrassed smile.
46
Completely comfortable with twenty-frst century technology,
Cunningham decided the best way to reach young dancers worldwide
was to put his company class online. Tis gave anyone with access to a
computer the opportunity to see and take class with one of the greatest
of modern-dance masters. Tey could see his teaching technique and
learn from his instruction. Cunningham acknowledged his age by sit-
ting down to give instruction but knew exactly what and how he wanted
his company to move. “Curve and tilt,” he instructed, “but not fast,” he
corrected them.
Cunningham was still Cunningham. Tere is no one point of ref-
erence in a Cunningham dance—no central couple, no corps, and no
repeating movement patterns to guide the viewer’s eye. Even the center
of the stage is not necessarily the focus of attention. John Cage’s music
is created on its own without reference to anything the choreographer is
doing, as are the sets and costumes designed by important visual artists.
Tis is as close to total abstraction as anyone has ever come in sustained
movement.
Te dances Cunningham created had no inherent dramatic value.
Tey exist as movement and tend to either fascinate or repel by that ele-
ment alone. In the 1950s at the height of Abstract Expressionism, with
Jackson Pollock painting by dribbling color onto a canvas, Cunningham
essentially did the same thing by mixing his dance elements somewhat
by chance at the performance moment. Tis was—and is—so radical
and demanding that audiences routinely walk out of his performances,
and more than 50 years later, his are regarded as the most avant-garde
work. Ironically, Cunningham died only three months afer his triumph
with Nearly Ninety. Seemingly, this was how this great dance fgure
would have wanted to leave the world stage.
Cunningham’s contemporary Alwin Nikolais had been a Benning-
ton dance student who had gone on to become Hanya Holm’s assistant
60 MoDERN DANCE
before devising his own dance abstractions. Nikolais experimented with
lights, color, and costumes to transform the entire stage space into mov-
ing abstractions that engulfed the dancers. He called what he did “dance
theater,” although none of his dances had a plot. In his high theatricality,
he demonstrated his lineage through Holm to German Expressionist
dance and its great fgure Mary Wigman, who had used masks and wigs
to distort her appearance. Nikolais, in fact, had become interested in
going into dance when he saw Mary Wigman perform in one of her
three tours of the United States in the early 1930s. His choreographic
work was like a painting creating itself in front of the audience’s eyes.
Anonymous dancers stretched inside jersey tubes or between elastic
tapes while colors changed and light shifed in focus and intensity. Ev-
erything on stage—the movements, costumes, and music—all came out
of Nikolais’s imagination.
Nikolais’s 1953 work Masks, Props, and Mobiles was not even con-
sidered by many critics to be a dance at all, because all the performers
wore costumes that disguised or hid their bodies. In one section, they
were enclosed in cloth bags that they moved and manipulated from
within, creating what looked like kinetic sculpture pieces. Because
Nikolais so ofen made what were called “dances of sorcery or carnival
in which the dancers may be engulfed by an entranced landscape light
. . . disappear, metamorphose, be imprinted with whirling patterns,”
critics ofen did not know quite what to make of what he was doing.
Nikolais was not interested in developing dances exploring the human
psyche; he wanted to help both dancers and the audience look beyond
the personal, saying, “I wanted man to identify with things other than
himself.”
47

Choreographer Paul Taylor is an important transitional fgure be-
tween the modern-dance pioneers and the free-foating world of mod-
ern dance today. Taylor trained at Juilliard and the Martha Graham
School in New York while assisting artist Robert Rauschenberg and
decorating store windows at night. He danced in Merce Cunningham’s
troupe before moving on to Martha Graham’s company, of which he
was a member for seven years. In his real job, Taylor was partnering
Graham herself, who was still dancing in her sixties, in her highly dra-
matic Clytemnestra or in roles that required a more imposing stature,
such as that of Hercules in Alcestis. But on his own, Taylor was making
61 The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance
a name for himself as someone at the forefront of a very diferent kind
of dance.
Taylor was experimenting with movement that had absolutely noth-
ing to do with Greek myths, as Graham sometimes did. He was inter-
ested in the way people walked, sat, and ran—in other words, the most
ordinary movements of everyday life. Tus, he began exploring move-
ment without using set dance steps. He expanded the idea and thought
that if dance could be broadened to include everyday moves, perhaps its
accompaniment could, too.
Taylor used studio showcases to try out ideas, including Duet, in
which neither he nor his accompanist moved for the duration of John
Cage’s Non Score. In the same showcase, Taylor—wearing a business suit
Paul Taylor performed in the companies of Martha Graham and
Merce Cunningham and went on to form his own dance group, the
Paul Taylor Dance Company, in 1954. Taylor is pictured with Bettie
De Jong and Renee Kimball in 1964.
62 MoDERN DANCE
and carrying a briefcase—walked back and forth across the stage as the
sound of a telephone’s recorded time announcement played in a piece
called Epic. Proto-Pop artist Robert Rauschenberg designed the set for
this piece. Louis Horst, long Graham’s musical associate and an impor-
tant composer in his own right, reviewed Taylor’s Seven New Dances
(which included Duet and Epic) for Dance Observer with four inches of
blank space and his initials “L.H.” neatly printed at the bottom. Martha
Graham shook her fnger at Taylor and called him a “naughty boy.”
48
Eventually, Taylor learned to trust his own instinctive love of move-
ment, going from anti-dance and avant-garde to creating plotless dances
of great joyous—and even athletic—movement performed to classical
and popular music. As a dancer/choreographer, he did not become
frozen in the experiments of one era, although he did occasionally slip
some of his earlier experimental ideas into his later work. Twenty years
afer his Epic exploration, Taylor’s 1975 work Esplanade sent his com-
pany walking, running, jumping, sliding, and repeatedly falling to Bach
in a glorious burst of lyric dance where ordinary movement became bal-
letic. No one walked out of that performance, and critics described the
beauty of merging these unlikely movements with such sublime music.
the post-Modern dAnCe
generAtIon
During the 1960s, the United States lurched from one internal upheaval to
another, beginning with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. An
escalating Vietnam War and universal draf provoked anti-war activities
across the country. At the same time, the civil rights movement exploded
under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King with sit-ins, marches, and
campaigns for voting rights. When Dr. King Jr. was assassinated in 1968,
riots erupted. Yet, unlike the 1930s and 1940s, when social upheaval in-
spired the arts and shaped the look of modern dance, the sheer violence
and personal disafection of the 1960s seemed to push artists away from
examining these massive problems and further into abstraction.
Te new choreographers of the 1960s were inspired by Cunning-
ham, Taylor, and Nikolais, but they went further than these men. Tey
63 The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance
wanted to be as abstract as Cunningham without his complex organi-
zation, to push Taylor’s experiments with ordinary movement as far as
they could go, and to depersonalize their work without using masks or
costumes. Te Judson Dance Teatre—or Judson Group, as this loose
collection of dancers was known—got its name almost 15 years af-
ter they had been presenting individual movement experimentation
at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square in Greenwich
Village.
Judson Dance was never a self-conscious movement. People came and
went throughout the 1960s, using the studio space at the church, watching
each other’s work, and taking lessons in dance composition at the Cun-
ningham studio. Tere were no dues, no rules, and no organization, but
there was a manifesto. At one time or another during that decade, it in-
cluded Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Laura Dean, Simone Forti, Mer-
edith Monk, and Twyla Tarp. Tese dancers were all young, talented,
and eager to see if walking, running, or even falling might be dance. Did a
dance have to happen on a stage? What if a musician danced? Te Judson
manifesto, created by dancer Yvonne Rainer, stated:
No to spectacle, no to virtuosity, no to transformations and magic
and make-believe, no to glamour and transcendency of the star
image, no to the heroic, no to the anti-heroic, no to trash imag-
ery, no to involvement of performer or spectator, no to style, no to
camp, no to seductions of spectator by the wiles of the performer,
no to eccentricity, no to moving or being moved.
Tese young experimenters were uninterested in historic modern
dance with its allusions to myth and psychology. Equally, they dis-
missed ballet, considering its classical technique to be constraining.
Tey tested the very notion of theatrical dance with pieces such as
Trisha Brown’s 1971 Roof Piece, in which dancers stationed on roofops
relayed movements that were passed along from roofop to roofop
while observers stood on sidewalks far below. David Gordon dropped
his trousers and spat during his 1966 solo work Walks and Digressions
and was roundly booed. Audiences regularly walked out on Judson
Church performances, but others took their place. In a continuing se-
ries of work, Gordon explored chairs—he sat on them, he fell of them,
64 MoDERN DANCE
he tipped them over, and tried just about anything imaginable with a
chair. He maddened people, but he challenged and ignited their imagi-
nations as well.
tRIsha bRown:
the lonGevIty oF
JuDson Dance theateR
On May 9, 2009, Trisha Brown, one of the key figures of
the Judson Dance Theater movement, had a major open-
ing in New York City. This time the opening was a show
of her visual art at the Chelsea gallery Sikkema Jenkins &
Co. Through the years this major modern-dance figure had
often shown drawings and sketches in group exhibitions.
This, however, was her first major solo show. As a chore-
ographer, she often collaborated with avant-garde artist
Robert Rauschenberg, whose creations resonated with her
own abstract movement experimentation. As a working
method for her choreography, Brown preferred to get on
her hands and knees and sketch the lines and placement
of the dancers. “Dancers think like this,” she told The New
York Times. “I don’t think people do.”
In her seventies, Brown began to pull back from the
rigorous physical activity, although she did not stop work-
ing. Occasionally, she performs with her nine-member
dance troupe. Increasingly, she seems content to direct
her dancers while continuing her own personal explora-
tion of the visual arts. She remains committed to chore-
ography based on ordinary movement and the element of
surprise. At a recent gallery performance entitled So the
Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Danc-
ing, Brown positioned live dancers on the gallery walls
65 The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance
Tese dancers became the frst of the Post-Modern dance genera-
tion. Historic modern dance no longer looked new—its movement so-
lutions were dated. Worse, many of the early experimenters had created
and asked visitors to lie on the gallery floor and contem-
plate the ceiling.
This is the same experimenter who in the 1970s de-
signed a series she called “equipment pieces.” Walking on
the Wall presented dancers literally walking down verti-
cal walls using ropes, pulleys, and mountain climbing gear
for support. Brown also created a solo called Man Walking
Down the Side of a Building. Terrifying to watch, yet con-
structed to be safe, the solo was typical of Brown’s innova-
tive ways of transforming dance. She constructed a series
of dances based on mathematical systems of accumulation.
Primary Accumulation, choreographed in 1972, consists of
30 movements accumulated thus: 1; 1.2; 1.2.3; 1.2.3.4 and
on to the full count.
In her ability to keep creatively active, Brown refects the
astounding endurance of the Judson School. For example,
Twyla Tharp choreographed two Broadway musicals, includ-
ing 2002’s Movin’ Out. This enormous hit used Billy Joel’s
music and is still being presented across the country. Other
Judson dancers have remained active in a variety of ways.
David Gordon is a member of Actor’s Studio and has worked
as a theatrical director at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapo-
lis, the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mas-
sachusetts, and other regional companies. Lucinda Childs
directed the opera Zaide at the opera house in Brussels, Bel-
gium. Tharp and Brown have also choreographed and staged
operas. In their youth, these dance artists changed the way
we think about stage movement, and they are still fnding
new ways to push the artistic envelope.
66 MoDERN DANCE
techniques full of rules and requirements almost as severe as those
of ballet. Because of what happened at Judson Church, Post-Modern
dancers today feel free to move in any way they choose, wear whatever
they prefer, move with or without music, and collaborate with anyone—
from painters to videographers. Te high theatricality of Alwin Nikolais
merged into the intense and intellectually demanding experiments of
Merce Cunningham, and were then transformed by the ordinary moves
Paul Taylor explored into dance of unlimited possibility.
While the Post-Modern movement was underway, another dance
revolution was taking place. Alvin Ailey had formed an African-American
modern dance troupe in the early 1950s afer the death of his mentor,
Lester Horton. Ailey not only sought to showcase his own choreography
but also to provide creative employment for African-American dancers
and choreographers. He wanted to reveal and celebrate the black experi-
ence in America. Tis was not anthropological re-creation of traditional
In 1958, Alvin Ailey formed the Alvin Ailey American Dance
Theater in New York City. The group opened up opportunities
for African-American dancers to perform modern dance but
also served to promote the black experience in America. Here,
members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater rehearse a
scene in Revelations, Ailey’s most famous work.
67 The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance
black dance or even theatrical versions of them. Instead, this would be
modern dance in the purest, historic sense of using movement to por-
tray ideas and social viewpoints on the concert stage.
In 1960, Ailey premiered what would become his company’s best-
known work, Revelations, in which dancers performed to black spiritu-
als. Ailey’s masterpiece manages to be both a statement about oppres-
sion and yet an explosion of joy. It was the right dance for the right time.
As his proud dancers, parasols lifed over their heads, went “Wading in
the Water,” they permanently took their place in the history of dance.
Troughout the 1960s, audiences stood with tears in their eyes, black
and white alike, to applaud this pure expression of the hunger of the era
to face down and destroy the evils of segregation and bigotry.
Te battle to establish modern dance as an American art form was
over. Modern dance was acknowledged, and its choreographers became
cultural heroes. Martha Graham, for one, received a Presidential Medal
of Freedom. Merce Cunningham was awarded a National Medal of Arts,
and France gave him the Legion d’Honneur. Tere really was only one
last wall to be brought down—that between modern dance and ballet.
68
Fusion
5
How do you make a dance? My answer is simple. “Put
yourself in motion.”
—Twyla Tharp
49
It was the frst time that ballet and modern dance were presented on
the same stage. Te year was 1959, and ballet’s great twentieth-century
innovator, George Balanchine, artistic director and founding genius of
New York City Ballet, reached a hand across the divide between classical
ballet and modern dance. He invited Martha Graham to cochoreograph
a two-part work called Episodes with him. Using the same music, they
would each choreograph a dance. Te two dances would give the audi-
ence a glimpse of how two artists working in diferent dance traditions
used the same music, and how these results would look danced one afer
the other. It was not a contest or even a challenge, but an opportunity
for the choreographers, their dancers, and the audience to see just how
profoundly diferent, or alike, the work could be. It was a symbolic white
fag, a moment of respect, in the ongoing war between the modern and
classical camps.
69 Fusion
the endurIng
MArthA grAhAM
Balanchine picked the music of Anton von Webern, a composer whose
music was experimental and somewhat atonal. Te composer used a
broken melodic line and odd combinations of instruments, and made
extremely brief compositions. A Webern symphony movement was of-
ten less than two minutes long. Balanchine’s particular genius was for
choreographing to the internal structure of music. He liked turning the
mathematics of modern music into fgures on stage. Graham also used
modern music, but the composers she worked with most successfully,
such as Aaron Copland in Appalachian Spring, gave her enough melodic
line to use music as a way to shape characters and establish mood. She
was not interested in making dances that looked like a geometry equa-
tion. She wanted emotion and high drama. Having risen to the chal-
lenge of performing back-to-back and face-to-face with New York City
Ballet at City Center, Graham accepted Balanchine’s music choice.
At 65 years of age, Graham was theoretically long past her danc-
ing days. However, she could not give it up. Nothing in Graham’s life
mattered more to her than performing. Famously she had said, “Te
center of the stage is where I am.”
50
Her highly dramatic approach to
movement, with spectacular twisting falls to the ground and deep body
contractions expressing yearning, were synonymous in most people’s
minds with modern dance. Balanchine’s great contribution to classical
ballet was to transform it into a sleek, abstract movement form we now
call neoclassical ballet. He sometimes used stories and traditional sets
and costumes, but only occasionally. Te pure Balanchine style, with its
high leg extensions, intricate footwork, and speed performed by dancers
wearing black practice leotards, was as foreign to nineteenth-century
classical ballet in its way as the Graham style.
Graham decided to base her dance on the historic standof between
Queen Elizabeth I of England and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. She
staged it as a tennis match between the two, wherein Graham danced the
role of Mary. She selected New York City Ballet dancer Sallie Wilson to
perform the part of Queen Elizabeth, and two other male ballet dancers
to hold up banners. Similarly, Balanchine asked that Paul Taylor—then
70 MoDERN DANCE
dancing in the Graham company to great acclaim—perform a variation
in his section. Tis was the extent of actual performance interaction be-
tween the modern camp and the ballet citadel.
Te opening performance, on May 14, 1959, was a personal triumph
for Graham. Te audience spontaneously rose as soon as she appeared
onstage. No one who saw Graham dance in her last years forgot the sheer
force of personality on stage. She dominated stage space, obscuring both
her age and limited physical abilities. Sixty-fve years old or not, Graham’s
Mary was a commanding presence, and, at least in this danced version,
Wilson’s Elizabeth—a slight, much younger woman—was at a severe dis-
advantage. Although Graham’s feet were crippled with arthritis and she
could barely stand or walk, she danced magnifcently. George Balanchine
wisely stayed backstage and let Martha take the bows.
Te critics weighed in with reviews that tended to favor whichever
of the two geniuses they most admired. Tose who disliked Balanchine
saw his section as “inhuman” and “perverse.” Graham’s critics saw her
section as “melodramatic” and “the same old steps.”
51
Episodes was just
that—an episode—and not the beginning of any true relationship be-
tween the two fgures who as much as any were making the United
States the world capital of dance.
Within a short time, Episodes would appear a quaint event. Te 1960s
were unfolding, and Balanchine was headed into his years of acknowl-
edged greatness, when his work would come to dominate ballet. More
important for modern dance, though, the Judson choreographers were
beginning the experiments that would lead to yet another refocusing of
modern dance. Te emerging Post-Modernists would superfcially ap-
pear the least likely candidates to bridge the gap between modern and
ballet. What could be less balletic than dancing in sneakers or climbing
a fre escape and calling it a dance?
the versAtILe twyLA thArp
Yet, once again, modern dance was about to be jolted by someone trained
from within. A Judson Dance Teater member from California named
Twyla Tarp would introduce the frst real artistic interchange between
modern dance and ballet.
71 Fusion
When Twyla Tarp arrived in New York City in 1961 as a mid-
year transfer student at Barnard College, her major was art history,
but her real interest was dance. As a child, she had studied ballet, tap,
violin, and baton twirling with a self-imposed schedule of school, les-
sons, and practice that began at 6 a.m. with “Put practice clothes on”
and ended more than 15 hours later at 9:30 p.m. with “Eat supper, get
ready for bed.”
52
As a young adult in New York City, Tarp’s willpow-
er remained as ferocious as ever. She combined lessons in ballet and
every form of modern dance, ofering classes with her college stud-
ies. She fell in love with Balanchine’s work and would have studied
at his School of American Ballet, but, as she wrote, “Fortunately his
school was closed to the general public; had I been allowed access to
After arriving in New York City in 1961, Twyla Tharp immersed
herself in dance. Tharp, who is pictured in 1975 rehearsing with
an American Ballet Theatre dancer, has choreographed dances for
many other dance troupes, including the Martha Graham Dance
Company, the Royal Ballet, and the Joffrey Ballet.
72 MoDERN DANCE
Balanchine, I probably would have signed up for life and never devel-
oped my own idiom.”
53

Her classes ranged from ballet to Martha Graham and Merce Cun-
ningham and even the Broadway jazz style of Bob Fosse. Tarp was ac-
cumulating an encyclopedic knowledge of diferent dance techniques
and found the possibility of making out of “this swirling kaleidoscope of
choices . . . a kind of a dance no one else could do.”
54
Still an undergradu-
ate at Barnard, Tarp focused on Paul Taylor and simply kept hanging
around his studio until he put her in his company. Taylor described her
as “a little person with enormous magnetism and push—a brash but lov-
able Munchkin.”
55
She fnished her Barnard degree but skipped gradua-
tion in order to go on tour with Taylor’s company.
It was not long before Tarp began working on her own experimen-
tal dances, working in the Judson Church gym. Her frst works were
presented at Judson as well, but although her work looked like other
products at Judson, philosophically it was diferent. Her 1966 Re-Moves
was a four-section work performed in silence. It involved the dancers
moving around a large plywood box, and then, in the fnal section, the
dancers sat inside the box. Afer a long period of silence, they emerged,
but not to take a bow. Tarp had declared that the audience was super-
fuous, and continued for fve years instructing the dancers in her per-
formances not to bow because, she explained, “I was worried, frst, that
there would be no audience, and second, that even if there was one, they
would hate what we did.”
56
Tarp herself saw Re-Moves as representing
the bleakness of the Vietnam War era during which it was constructed.
Even in works as challenging as this, Tarp was polishing an inclusive
dance style that called for “trigger-quick shifs of weight from toe-to-
heel, rapid changes of direction.”
57
Her choreography compacted “innu-
merable slivers of movement.” She resisted the Judson manifesto, saying
that all the Judson no’s—to spectacle, virtuosity, transformations, magic,
and make-believe—“would become my yeses.”
58
In 1973, innovator Tarp happily accepted a commission from
Robert Jofrey to create a new work for his Jofrey Ballet. Tis would be
no Episodes, with ballet and modern greats performing cautiously and
separately on the same stage space. Tis was Robert Jofrey, an innova-
tive ballet director whose small troupe survived on an eclectic repertoire
of twentieth-century ballets and newly commissioned dances, working
73 Fusion
with Twyla Tarp, a very fexible, imaginative choreographer who had
made her name as a revolutionary who was well-grounded in ballet.
Tarp would use some members of her own company (Twyla Tarp
Dance), but they were making it happen for the Jofrey Ballet.
Te result, Deuce Coupe, was set to the Beach Boys’ pop songs that
Tarp had grown up with in California. Te backdrop was long paper
rolls of original grafti art. While the main body of the dance spilled
across the stage with both Tarp and Jofrey dancers doing Tarp’s quick
changes between boogaloo, jazz, ballet, and modern steps, a solitary
ballerina moved across the stage, methodically assuming many of the
traditional positions of ballet. In a very interesting moment in dance
and theater history, ballet visually intersected the modern dance realm.
Tarp herself noted: “In 1959, Balanchine and Graham had shared a
program . . . but my collaboration with the Jofrey marked the frst time
ever that a modern company performed in a ballet.”
59
It was a critical
and box-ofce hit.
Deuce Coupe was such a phenomenal success that Robert Jofrey
quickly signed up Tarp to create another dance for his company, and
eight months later in 1974, she presented As Time Goes By, danced to
Haydn. Working with the Jofrey had its drawbacks though. Te troupe
survived by touring, and novelty is what brought audiences to see it. Te
Tarp pieces were huge novelties to audiences not used to ballet com-
panies dancing to popular music or performing modern dance steps.
Tarp thought she had made “well crafed dance(s), challenging and
developing techniques and traditions . . . ” but found the audiences were
responding to bright lights, loud music, and “sexy people.”
60
Te Jofrey successes were not ignored by the larger, more estab-
lished ballet companies. Te American Ballet Teatre (ABT) had re-
cently hired Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, who had defected
from the Soviet Union the summer of 1974. Baryshnikov was the latest
in a series of spectacular ballet dancers who had fed from the Soviet’s
superb but highly institutionalized and confning ballet tradition. Ru-
dolf Nureyev’s defection to the West in 1961 had been the frst, and he
had electrifed the ballet world and inspired a stream of other Soviet
trained dancers to fee as well.
Tese dancers were magnifcent talents, and they became cultural
heroes in the Cold War-era standof between the democracies of the
74 MoDERN DANCE
West and the totalitarian Communist system of the East. Tey drew
people to dance not simply to see their extraordinary abilities, but also
to applaud their personal courage as well. When American Ballet Te-
atre approached Tarp about making a dance for Baryshnikov, she was
initially hesitant. Here was a dancer being called one of the greatest,
perhaps the greatest, to ever perform. Alvin Ailey said to her, “Are you
going to do a ballet for Baryshnikov? You’ve got to be nuts. You’ll be
eaten alive.”
61
Baryshnikov, however, had not defected so that he could perform
the same dances as those in the Russian repertory. He was in love with
American culture, modern dance, and experimentation of all kind. Te
Mikhail Baryshnikov rehearses the Twyla Tharp ballet Push Comes
to Shove at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles in 1979.
75 Fusion
dancer he most admired was Fred Astaire. It was Baryshnikov himself
who had suggested the Tarp commission afer seeing what she had
done for the Jofrey Ballet. He settled the question once and for all when
Tarp came to watch him during an ABT rehearsal. He suddenly in-
terrupted what he was doing to turn a cartwheel and do a somersault,
landing literally at Tarp’s feet. “Take me,” he said. “I promise I’ll never
be boring or predictable.”
62
One of the most intriguing partnerships in
dance was born in that instant.
Te dance Tarp made for Baryshnikov, Push Comes to Shove, was
a mingling of everything imaginable—not just ballet and modern, but
also jazz and ragtime and pure Tarp nonsense. She picked the name
because it suggested the “juxtapositions in the ballet: the old classical
forms of ballet versus jazz and its own classicism, the East of Misha
[Baryshnikov’s nickname], the West of Me . . . then too I knew it would
please Misha: the name of the great Kirov instructor, responsible for
Misha’s development . . . was Aleksandr Pushkin.”
63
Te dance premiered on January 9, 1976. Dancing to ragtime and
Haydn, one of the greatest male dancers of all time was transformed into
a “bowler-hatted, womanizing rogue.” It was an astonishing success and
established a partnership between Baryshnikov and Tarp that would
be both personal and professional. Push really had come to shove in the
dance world.
Essentially Twyla Tarp threw all the cards up in the air, catching
and using those that suited her. She was not the frst choreographer to
shufe steps from diferent dance techniques into one dance. Modern
choreographers as early as Ruth St. Denis had been familiar with bal-
let technique and freely used ballet poses or turns in their work. Ballet
dancers ofen danced in less formal classical works. Jerome Robbins’s
1944 Fancy Free, a breezy, jazzy ballet of three sailors on leave in New
York City, is only one of many examples.
What Tarp did diferently was to blend steps together, string-
ing jazz, ballet, tap, and modern in one movement phrase. Tere was
no signal she was changing from modern to ballet. A rolling modern
Tarp torso shifed up into an airborne ballet jeté (leap in ballet in
which one leg is extended forward and the other backward) and land-
ed with the turned-in bent knees of jazz. She was not simply a modern
choreographer who worked in ballet—she was a choreographer who
76 MoDERN DANCE
threaded together steps from tap, ballet, modern, jazz, and ballroom
seamlessly.
Push Comes to Shove was a defning moment in dance, and its ef-
fects are felt even now, more than 30 years later. By the late 1970s,
the sharp divide between modern dance and ballet began to disap-
pear. Yet, this did not mean that everyone was happy. Modern-dance
purists scolded Tarp for abandoning her earlier experiments to work
in “mainstream” ballet and theater. Ballet commentators worried that
ballet was not producing enough of its own new choreographers and
was relying too much on the modernists. Endless discussions have
continued as to whether modern dancers or classical ballet dancers
are better trained.
experIMentAtIon In
Modern dAnCe
Tis late 1970s experimentation was the beginning of what has come
to be called the dance boom or dance explosion. Whether the audience
started to come to dance performances to see a “novelty” dance or see a
famous Russian or even out of simple curiosity turned out not to mat-
ter. An audience for dance was developing, one that was able to enjoy it
as theater art, whether it understood the fne points of dance technique
or a choreographer’s philosophy. Audiences found that watching David
Parsons appear to fy through the air as he danced in fickering strobe
lights was thrilling enough, so that it did not matter whether they knew
Parsons had danced with Paul Taylor’s troupe and represented a line of
modern dance tracing right back to Martha Graham.
Te National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) established a dance
touring program that sent smaller modern companies touring across
the United States to perform in theaters and at universities. Tis was
not vaudeville or a sequestered college summer session. Even when the
dance touring program was cut back in the 1980s, companies continued
to tour, having established audiences for their work across the coun-
try. American modern dance spread overseas, where important com-
panies, including the Netherlands Dance Teater in Te Hague and the
77 Fusion
Frankfurt Ballet in Germany, have fourished with American dancers as
artistic directors and choreographers.
Meanwhile, colleges and universities across the country included
dance programs in their curriculum. Dance companies sprang up in the
wake of the coursework and with the chance to see the professionals on
tour. Students at Dartmouth College put together a funny, athletic, and
professional troupe called Pilobolus, which specialized in contorting
themselves into odd body sculptures onstage. Four more dance com-
panies can claim descent from Pilobolus: Momix, Crowsnest, ISO, and
BodyVox. If it is possible to see the Nikolais multimedia dance theater
tradition in their work, it is not necessary or even intended.
In 1985—almost 25 years afer David Gordon was making bizarre
dances falling of chairs at Judson Church—Baryshnikov, then the
American Ballet Teatre’s artistic director, commissioned Gordon to do
a work for the company. In Gordon’s dance Field, Chair, and Mountain,
In 1971, students at Dartmouth College founded Pilobolus, an
imaginative and athletic professional dance troupe. Named for a
genus of fungi, Pilobolus is still prominent today. Here, Andrew
Herro, Jeffrey Huang, and Manelich Minniefee perform as part of
the troupe.
78 MoDERN DANCE
the ballet dancers carried around folding chairs that they opened and
then arranged in ballet corps patterns. Te dancers clambered up on the
chairs and danced on them.
Totally abstract and experimental choreography continues as well.
Judson dancer Steve Paxton experimented with a system of contact
improvisation, where partners reacted to each other as the other moved.
“Contact improv” started in dance studios and has entered into dance
curriculum and is even performed as concert dance. It is almost like a
game. Because the dancers slide and fall, needing to be caught or braced
by the partner, it is more like an art sport. Te tension for the dancers,
and for anyone watching, resides in the trust the dancers must have in
each other and how quickly they must respond. Te partners constantly
touch as “the inevitable result of leaning, sliding, twisting to follow the
current of movement and play with the tug of gravity.”
64
Probably no dancer/choreographer gives a better picture of the
state of modern dance in the early twenty-frst century than Mark
Morris. Morris was born in 1956, and his life mirrors the dance ex-
plosion. In the 1960s, while the Judson dancers were beginning their
experiments, Morris was just a little boy in Seattle, Washington. Tis
child loved to dance, and when he saw José Greco’s Spanish dance
troupe, he insisted on taking famenco lessons. By the time he was
14 years old, Morris himself was teaching Spanish dance. In order to
keep this hypertalented, hypercurious young man busy, his famenco
teacher directed him to ballet. He absorbed movement like a sponge.
Ten he became infatuated with Balkan folk dances and music, and, as
a teenager, added a stint with the Koleda Folk Ensemble, a semiprofes-
sional Balkan folk-dance company.
Because Morris was growing up in the era of the NEA dance tour-
ing program, living in Seattle did not prevent him from becoming fa-
miliar with companies such as Paul Taylor’s, which visited regularly, or
Martha Graham’s. Te Jofrey Ballet spent long weeks every summer in
residence in the Seattle area, and Morris haunted their performances,
especially loving the funky Deuce Coupe by Tarp.
By the time Morris began dancing professionally, he had trained
and was interested in performing everything. Tat is exactly what he
did. He performed in a ballet troupe (Eliot Feld), a modern dance com-
pany (Lar Lubovitch), and a Post-Modern ensemble (Laura Dean). He
79 Fusion
even worked with the outsized talent who started this whole wide-open
dance scene, Twyla Tarp, when she choreographed the flm Hair in
1979. In other words, Morris was the living exemplar of the almost un-
limited possibilities of Post-Modern dance. When his own company
(the Mark Morris Dance Group) had its frst performance in 1980, it was
held in Merce Cunningham’s studio.
Gregarious, funny, and phenomenally talented, Morris ft in any-
where. He was not a modern dancer who wanted to dance in silence
or pick his music by chance. Since he openly relished everything from
Romanian folk songs to Schubert, he quickly became noted as a choreog-
rapher who also was a music connoisseur. As a performer, he physically
managed to be a uniquely Post-Modern dancer as well. He is large—in
fact, he is a huge, barrel-chested man, making him a very unlikely candi-
date for a dancer. When Morris came onstage, it was like seeing a prepos-
terous hippo in dance shoes. Ten he would move and viewers saw that
he was—in his own way—as elegant as Baryshnikov. Morris is openly gay
in a very famboyant way, which is a part of his stage persona. He plays
with spoofs on cross-dressing, even costuming some of his male dancers
in fufy ballerina tutus but always in the context of the dance.
In 1991, Morris choreographed Te Hard Nut, which is his version
of ballet’s Christmas classic Te Nutcracker. It was created and frst pre-
sented at the Téâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, Belgium, when
Morris was its dance artistic director. Te generous resources of Bel-
gium’s national opera house were put at his disposal to create a sumptu-
ous anti-Nutcracker. Morris set the Christmas party not in a lovely nine-
teenth-century European mansion but in an ordinary 1960s American
living room with white vinyl couches and a white plastic Christmas tree.
Te partygoers wear bell-bottomed pants and hot-colored minidresses.
When the mysterious family friend Drosselmeier arrives, he does not
present the heroine with toy soldiers and a dancing doll to entertain her.
Instead, he brings robots and a life-sized Barbie. Te traditional mock
battle between the mice and the toy soldiers becomes a contest between
big, hairy rats that fght G.I. Joes. In the “Waltz of the Snowfakes,” both
men and women—wearing fufy white tutus and hats that look like the
swirled tops of Dairy Queen ice cream cones—dance, and they all toss
snowfakes merrily in the air. Morris himself danced the Arabian varia-
tion at the opening, wearing slinky veils, ankle bells, and sunglasses.
80 MoDERN DANCE
Te Hard Nut is outrageous, funny, and extravagantly inventive. It
now plays annually in New York as an alternative to the better known
traditional versions. Tis is how modern dance works—it is always per-
sonal art. It is a history of individual artists, each an intriguing personal-
ity. Some have the high drama of Martha Graham. Others seek the high
plateau of Merce Cunningham’s cerebral experimentation. Still others
want to soar across stage like Paul Taylor, or see how it would work to
add in hip-hop or Balinese moves.
Tere will be more of these original choreographers in the twenty-
frst century—stubborn yet talented people who will insist on working
in their own unique ways. Tere undoubtedly will be a manifesto issued
now and then. In its exuberance, ingenuity, and innovation, modern
dance refects the American spirit. Like jazz, hip-hop, and bluegrass,
much of it was born here. Modern dance’s story is one of expanding
inclusion and equality, and it shows no sign of going away.
One of the most prominent choreographers on the modern-dance
scene today is Mark Morris. Known for his flamboyance and
humor, Morris’s first big hit was The Hard Nut, which debuted in
1991. Here, the Snowflakes dance during a performance of The
Hard Nut at Zellerbach Hall, in Berkeley, California, in 2007.
81 Fusion
Beyond fusIon: pop CuLture
goes MAInstreAM
Fusion brought one more signifcant change to what we call main stage
contemporary dance. While modern and ballet choreographers were
adding in vernacular moves to their choreography, vernacular perform-
ers—ordinary people, using their natural or ethnic dance styles—began
constructing dances they intended to be performed on stage as well as
in the neighborhood or community center. No longer content to pro-
vide intriguing accents to someone else’s main stage work, they started
companies of their own and began staging full evening performances
using their own idiosyncratic movement vocabulary. What started as
the fusion of diferent dance forms into mainstream modern and bal-
let companies transformed seamlessly into a profusion of new dance
companies, working in totally diferent ways than the main stage dance
troupes.
No one personifes the way contemporary dance has expanded its
boundaries more than Rennie Harris, who grew up in North Phila-
delphia learning street dance moves and listening to the boom boom
beat of the music. Tese loose-jointed and athletic moves to propulsive
sound, whether instrumental or vocal, came to be called hip-hop. In
1992, Harris founded his company, Puremovement, which performs full
evening stage events across the United States and Europe with all move-
ment and sound being hip-hop. He wasn’t just interested in moving; he
wanted to change things. He wanted respect for the hip-hop movement
and musical forms that shaped his own talent. He staged his own version
of Romeo and Juliet, calling it Rome and Jewels, which includes a little
Shakespeare, a lot of rap, and Juliet remaining ofstage. Harris explains:
We did a modernization of the text utilizing the language of hip-
hop—the rapper’s poetry. If you notice, rappers speak in rhythm.
Tey speak indirectly and behind things. Tey switch words
around or change their infection, which changes the meanings of
the words. Tat’s called signifying. Tey take English language that
stems from slave culture. Slaves created a way of talking to each
other so that white people wouldn’t understand what they were
82 MoDERN DANCE
saying. It had the same grammatical structure as many traditional
African languages. Professors and scholars have written about this.
We’ve carried our language rhythms with us over time. But because
America is a big melting pot, no one wants to accept the fact that
people hold on to their original language or aspects of it.
65
Audiences now are used to dreadlock hair styles, dancers spinning
around stage on one hand, and seeing a dancer’s legs go one way while
his torso fips of in an opposite direction. Even ballet choreographers
look to hip-hop for movement inspiration. Trey McIntyre and Matthew
Neenan are just two ballet choreographers who seamlessly twine hip-
hop moves with ballet. Tis is not unlike the nineteenth-century bal-
let era, when folk dances were included in ballet productions staged in
European opera houses for a mostly upper-class audience. Te happy
peasants dancing in Giselle or Swan Lake were a similar innovation in
their own era.
Te Irish dance troupe Riverdance is an example of the happy vil-
lagers taking their tradition of Irish step dancing (rapidly moving feet,
an erect upper body) and turning it into a full evening performance
for their own cultural beneft. Since its beginnings in 1994, Riverdance
has spawned a host of smaller traditional dance troupes, although none
of them have achieved the worldwide success of the original. In 2009,
Riverdance announced it was sending three troupes into the world to
perform in every theater where they have performed in their 15-year
history. It was announced that at the tour’s completion the company
disbanded permanently.
Doris Humphrey wrote in 1959, “Te dance has been, until re-
cently, entirely ingénue, a sweet obedient child brought up in the the-
ater and the court, and told to be young, pretty, and amusing. Steps
and whole dances were borrowed for this infant from the lower classes
(who were really inventive), and had their vulgarities removed so that
kings and courtiers might fnd them acceptable for both performing
and viewing.”
66
In the 1940s and 1950s, important choreographers were turning to
lower class, even criminal class movement, as inspiration in creating main-
stage theater. Agnes de Mille used American folk dance, square dance, tap
(which began as a street performance form), and hoedown in the musical
83 Fusion
Oklahoma and her ballet Rodeo. When Jerome Robbins choreographed
the 1957 musical West Side Story, which, like Harris’s Rome and Jewels,
drew its inspiration from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—the story in-
volved two opposing gangs in New York City. Like Harris’s work, Robbins
was using the movement of dance to convey the menace and violence of
big-city gangs.
Tere are no longer any obedient children in dance. Twenty-frst-
century choreographers and dance companies revere its founders
while constantly seeking new and inventive ways to stretch its skills
and confound the audience. La La Human Steps, a Montreal-based
troupe, has toured a version of Swan Lake entitled Amjad, an Arabic
word that means either a male or a female. Edward Lock’s choreogra-
phy has both men and women dancing en pointe as swans, and Tchai-
kovsky’s famous score is transformed and “punked up” by one of the
most inventive music composers of the day, David Lang. Tis is not
strictly modern dance because the company dances en pointe, but it
clearly isn’t classical ballet either.
Having first performed in 1994, Riverdance has become one of the
most popular dance shows in the world. Here, dancers perform in
Berlin in September 2007.
84 MoDERN DANCE
Are all dance innovators either modern-dance choreographers or
ballet choreographers? At this point in time, the most innovative of
them are a bit of both. Tis is where fusion has taken dance. Te most
contemporary work being done today in any of the so-called disciplines
involves rethinking what can and cannot be done on stage by dancers. In
this way, Rennie Harris follows in Agnes de Mille’s footsteps, and no one
would be more interested in Harris’s work than the feisty, opinionated
de Mille. Edward Lock follows the tradition of Twyla Tarp when he
tweaks our notions of dance partnering, but he owes a good deal to Ted
Shawn, as well as to an all-male dance troupe called Ballets Trocadero
de Monte Carlo, which has spent years putting on full-length parody
performances of classics such as Swan Lake, while dressed in tutus and
performing en pointe.
For more than 100 years, choreographers have created work that is
based on personal experience, utilizing emerging technologies and eth-
nic traditions. Tis won’t stop—it will simply become more and more
diverse. Tis is what makes contemporary dance so exhilarating.
85
choosing a
Modern Dance
class
6
Girl or boy, gifted or clumsy, learn then, if you can, to
dance. You will stand up straighter and walk prouder the
rest of your life. And you will be kinder and more polite
in all physical matters, and less afraid.
—Agnes de Mille
67
Tere is nothing neat and tidy about studying modern dance. Unlike bal-
let—where one enters a beginning class and is instructed in the basic posi-
tions of the body, arms, legs, and feet in order to develop the movement
vocabulary that a student ballet dancer will build on indefnitely—there is
no standard introduction to modern dance. No fxed modern-dance ter-
minology exists either, and confusingly enough, all modern-dance tech-
niques use ballet terms, tap terms, and even jazz-dance terms to describe
movements that may or may not be identical to the actual ballet, tap, or
jazz-dance moves. Tis does not mean that there is no actual discipline of
modern dance. Rather, it means that every modern dancer gets to experi-
ence something of the great exhilaration of the pioneering modern danc-
ers as each fnds his or her own way to dance.
86 MoDERN DANCE
Hundreds of modern dance styles are taught across the United States.
Some focus on the technique of one major modern-dance fgure. Most
serious modern dancers have taken classes at one time or another in the
techniques of Martha Graham, Limón-Humphrey, Lester Horton, Merce
Cunningham, and Mary Wigman. Tese particular techniques are stud-
ied in part not only because the people were great dancers, but because
they made movement systems that could be taught. Some of these are
almost as formal and codifed as ballet. Ten there are brilliant instructors
who have been infuenced by Paul Taylor or Twyla Tarp or some other
currently working modern choreographer who ofer slightly diferent and
still emerging approaches to modern dance. Any of these and countless
other techniques can ofer fne introductions to modern dance.
Modern-dAnCe CLAsses
To make matters even more complicated, the beginning modern dancer
usually can fnd the option of taking a general introductory course on
modern movement, ofen called Creative Dance or Expressive Move-
ment. Te quality of these courses ranges widely, but they usually em-
phasize work that centers the body through breathing and teaches how to
move freely and comfortably on bare feet. A general creative dance class
is ofen not very diferent from the kinds of freestyle, self-exploratory
movement that Isadora Duncan and the early-twentieth-century adher-
ents of eurythmics advocated.
In one way, a modern-dance class will be exactly like a ballet, tap,
or jazz class. It will have a certain etiquette that is required of all stu-
dents. Te student will wear appropriate clothing for the class, and this
includes footwear, if any. In most cases, the costume will be a leotard
that enables the student to move freely and the instructor to easily see
whether the student’s movements are correct. Being prompt to every
class is important. Every class will begin with some warm-up move-
ments and then proceed to the increasingly more difcult and strenuous
exercises. It is not possible to come in late and catch up, which is also
rude to the instructor and the other students.
Te dance teacher instructs by demonstrating and explaining the
movement, and then the class will repeat this movement. Look for a
87 Choosing a Modern Dance Class
class where the instructor is actively engaged in the students’ work and
is walking around, doing corrections both by talking and by actually
physically moving a student’s foot or shoulder into the correct place.
Tere really is only one way to learn dance, and that is from another
dancer, so corrections are essential. In most cases, the class takes place
in a studio with a wall of mirrors. Tis allows the student as well as the
instructor to focus on details of the movement. Good dancers are able
to assess their own movements and make adjustments and corrections
as they watch themselves. Te studio will have a long barre along the
wall for balance while students perform exercises on one side of the
body. Te barre is used primarily for ballet exercises and rarely with
modern steps.
Class will be held to taped music, but it is not unusual for a modern-
dance class to be accompanied by someone on piano and ofen with
drums. Live accompaniment allows the instructor to stop and start
the exercise as well as to change the tempo as the class moves along.
There are hundreds of modern dance styles taught throughout
the United States, many of which blend ballet, tap dance, and
even jazz dance. Here, members of a modern-dance class at the
University of California at Los Angeles prepare for an upcoming
performance.
88 MoDERN DANCE
Modern-dance classes have been held to the sound of people reading
poetry. When the class is fnished, it is appropriate to give the instructor
a round of applause before leaving the foor. Tis dance tradition comes
from ballet, where class traditionally ends with a reverence, or bow, on
the part of the students, followed by the students applauding the in-
structor. Te structure of the dance lesson is a reminder to the student
that the work is serious, and that those who wish to run, play, laugh, in-
terrupt, and do whatever they want may do so only on their own time. A
professional dancer is one of the most disciplined people in the world.
To select a modern-dance class, one must visit modern-dance class-
es ofered in his or her local area. Classes are available in private studio
classes, and in professional high schools for those in large metropoli-
tan areas. Tere are many university and college dance departments,
and these may ofer opportunities, including public performances and
seminars. If the student is near a city where touring companies perform,
there will be chances to take master classes with the professionals just
as Mark Morris did. In fact, if Morris’s company is on tour, it would be
possible to take classes with his company.
Sitting in on classes gives a prospective student an opportunity to
get a feel for diferent techniques and to gauge his or her own reactions.
Starting in one technique does not mean it is impossible to learn others
in the future. Not every beginner feels ready to tackle a Martha Graham
contraction. Since virtually every modern-dance instructor is diferent
and usually a disciple of one particular technique, it is a good idea to vis-
it before enrolling. Te major techniques a prospective student is likely
to fnd available include the following.
Martha Graham Classes
Martha Graham classes have four parts and are done on the center of
the foor. Tey begin with foor work, which involves actually lying, as
well as sitting, on the ground to do exercises intended to stretch and
strengthen the torso. Tese include breathing exercises of inhaling and
exhaling coordinated with contractions of the pelvic muscles, which
are Graham’s central movement device. Tere is nothing pedestrian
about Graham movements; even the foor exercises are dramatic. Te
89 Choosing a Modern Dance Class
class proceeds to exercises standing in one place, which include pliés
(knee bends) and battement (beats of the feet and legs). Te ballet
terminology is used, but the Graham dancer does not seek ballet’s ex-
treme turnout of the hip and feet. Te class moves on to work with
elevation (leaping), and fnally with falling to the ground. Graham
technique is full of falls, and she herself was famous for a spiral fall to
the ground as treacherous to perform as it looked. Paul Taylor, Merce
Cunningham, and Alwin Nikolais are only a handful of the important
students of Graham technique.
Merce Cunningham Classes
Merce Cunningham classes begin in the center of the foor as well, but
standing. Here the class does back stretches and pliés. Tere will be
work on back curves, tilts, and twists. Attention will be given to exer-
cises that increase feet articulation (the ability to use any part of your
foot) and speed of footwork. Normally a Cunningham class does not
do foor work, and it ofen looks like a ballet class, though the students
are standing in the studio instead of working at an attached ballet barre.
Te movements have no inherent drama like Graham’s but may be sped
up or slowed down over and over to train the dancer to have the quick-
est possible response to movement. Cunningham’s studio launched the
Post-Modern Judson movement. His technique shares honors with Gra-
ham for being among the most infuential in modern dance and is as
abstract as Graham’s is dramatic.
Lester Horton Classes
Lester Horton movement is very well known, even if his name may sound
less familiar than Graham’s or Cunningham’s. Trough his famous stu-
dents (Alvin Ailey especially), the fat back projected forward into space
with arms extending laterally is a movement image everyone recognizes.
Like Graham’s and Cuttingham’s, Horton classes usually stay in the center
of the foor, and only occasionally on the foor, with attention given to
strengthening the torso. It is a very exhilarating as well as demanding way
to move, and even the classes can look like a performance.
90 MoDERN DANCE
Limón-Humphrey Classes
Limón-Humphrey is the distillation of Doris Humphrey’s fall-and-
recovery movement theories. Tere are many important students of
Limón-Humphrey (and Weidman) who, like the Horton students, have
kept this more lyric modern-dance methodology alive. Doris Hum-
phrey’s philosophy remains at the core of the technique, stressing that
emotion comes before movement. In addition to Humphrey’s most fa-
mous student, José Limón, Sybil Shearer and Anna Halprin have passed
on this way of moving to succeeding generations.
A serious modern-dance student usually studies ballet and tap.
Sometimes it is helpful to do this before beginning modern-dance class-
es. All of the great modern dancers know the basic ballet steps and posi-
tions. Te reason for this is simple: Ballet supplies a useful terminology
Choreographer Sara Rudner learned under Twyla Tharp and
became the principal dancer for Tharp’s dance company in 1966.
Tharp’s varied instruction played a major role in influencing
Rudner’s dance style. Here, dancers from Rudner’s troupe perform
Dancing-on-View, a six-hour improvisational dance, in New York
City in 2007.
91 Choosing a Modern Dance Class
for all dancers. Even if modern dancers never attempt to have a fully
turned-out leg, they will take classes and study choreography where
they are asked to do something in a turned-out position. For a modern
dancer, this means a comfortable turnout and not the extreme ballet
position, which is only achieved even by ballet dancers afer years of
rigorous practice.
All modern-dance instructors scatter ballet terminology in their
classes. Routinely, they ask a class to put their feet in second position,
or even do a tendu. Just as routinely, they mix ballet with simple com-
mands to move up or go down. Sometimes the instructor will ask for a
battement and just as casually ask the dancers to lif their legs to the side,
which is the same thing as a battement. In other words, ballet is dance’s
universal language, and it helps in any dance form one might study.
Tap is very useful for a modern dancer as well. Learning to create
beats with the feet teaches the dancer about rhythm using his or her
own body. Since the dancers are creating the beat and the sound, they
experience sound and rhythm as a total body experience. Tis is difer-
ent from dancing to music or even to drumming. If a modern dancer
has any interest at all in going into jazz dance, he or she will fnd that the
tap terms are jazz’s basic vocabulary. A “ball and chain” is a tap sound
that moves from the ball of one foot to the ball of another. It can be
Twyla Tarp instructing: right ball change, sur le cou-de-pied on the
lef. Translated from tap and ballet, that means: shif your weight from
the ball of the lef foot to the right, and then place your right foot on the
ankle of your lef leg.
Tere are two magazines about dance that will help any modern-dance
student. Dance Magazine is aimed at dance professionals and the gen-
eral dance audience, and Dance Spirit is aimed at the student and young
dance professional, as well as anyone interested in a dancer’s world.
Both magazines regularly list schools, summer sessions, camps, and
other training opportunities. Tey have college issues and special sec-
tions on performing arts high schools, as well as listings for the profes-
sional giving auditions and job listings. If there are no modern-dance
classes where the would-be student lives, the student can search these
periodicals and write to information ofces of modern-dance camps or
short-term programs nearby to inquire about eligibility. Much of this,
including checking the magazines, can be done online.
92 MoDERN DANCE
Modern dance is still about fnding a personal way of moving,
whether in the classroom or on the stage. Tere are people right now
experimenting with new ideas for a dance. Maybe they are doing it in
front of the mirror in their bedroom or twirling around and watching
their refection in the glass of a sliding door. Tese are people who think
about movement. Sometimes they jump of a bus and add an extra hop
just for the pleasure of doing it. Tey are movers. Fify years from now,
or even sooner, some of these preoccupied, dedicated, hardworking fu-
ture dancer/choreographers will be added to yet another chapter of the
history of modern dance.
93
ChronoLogy
1900 American experimental dancer Loie Fuller
dances in her own pavilion at the Paris
Exposition; American experimenters Isadora
Duncan and Ruth St. Denis are in the audience.
1914 Ruth St. Denis selects Ted Shawn as dance
partner; the two dancers subsequently marry in
August of that year.
1915 Denishawn, the frst important school teaching
new dance methods, opens in Los Angeles, with
the name created out of the names of founders
Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Te name
Denishawn is used for their dance troupe as well.
1921 Isadora Duncan establishes dance institute in
Soviet Union afer period of fame in France.
1925–1926 Denishawn tours Japan, China, Burma, India,
Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Malaya (Malaysia), Java,
and the Philippines.
1926 Martha Graham, a former Denishawn dancer,
performs her frst independent solo dance
concert.
1927 Isadora Duncan dies.
1928 Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, former
Denishawn dancers, form their own troupe
composed of other former Denishawn dancers
94 MODERN DANCE
and hold the rst dance concert by a modern
dance ensemble.
1929 Martha Graham premieres e Heretic, her rst
concert dance for a group of dancers.
1932 Lester Horton establishes a dance company
in Los Angeles, which becomes the rst fully
racially integrated dance company in the United
States.
1934 e Bennington College School of Dance
summer program, the rst important college
program in modern dance, begins with
instructors Martha Graham, Ruth Humphrey,
Charles Weidman, and many other modern-
dance pioneers on the faculty.
1944 Merce Cunningham, a member of the Martha
Graham troupe, performs his rst solo dance
concert, with John Cage providing musical
accompaniment.
1948 Lester Horton establishes the rst theater in
the United States dedicated solely to presenting
dance.
1953 Merce Cunningham establishes his own dance
company, with John Cage as musical director.
1954 Paul Taylor establishes his own modern dance
troupe, the Paul Taylor Dance Company.
1957 Paul Taylor, a member of the Martha Graham
troupe, presents Seven New Dances, which
includes not moving to “non-music.”
1958 Alvin Ailey, a Lester Horton dancer, establishes
the Alvin Ailey American Dance eater,
continuing Horton’s emphasis on inclusion,
particularly in creating opportunities for
African-American dancers and choreographers.
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95 Chronology
1960s Beginning of Judson Dance eater, a free-
owing and changing group of avant-garde
dance experimenters working at a Greenwich
Village church. ey reject traditional technique
and explore ordinary movement as dance.
1965 Twyla arp, at one time a Judson eater
experimenter, leaves the Paul Taylor Dance
Company to form her own modern-dance
company.
1976 Twyla arp choreographs Push Comes to
Shove for Mikhail Baryshnikov at American
Ballet eatre in a successful blend of modern,
ragtime-era popular dance, and ballet; it signals
the beginning of a trend to assimilate a wide
range of dance styles in one work.
1980s–present is period is the Post-Modern dance explosion,
although it is tapering o in recent years.
Creative fusion of dance techniques leads to
wide acceptance of experimental dance.
1992 Rennie Harris establishes Puremovement, a
professional dance troupe devoted completely
to hip-hop movement, performed to hip-hop
music.
2002 Twyla arp choreographs Movin’ Out for
Broadway; in 2003, she wins two Tony Awards—
for best choreography and direction.
2009 To celebrate the occasion of his 90th birthday,
on April 16, Merce Cunningham premieres
a full evening composition entitled Almost
Ninety. Shortly aer this nal composition,
Cunningham dies in July.
Aer a successful decade-and-a-half run, it is
announced that the company of Riverdance will
perform its nal shows in 2010.
WD ModDance - dummy.indd 95 2/2/10 3:33:23 PM
96
notes
Chapter 1
1 Isadora Duncan, My Life.
(New York: Boni & Liv-
eright, 1927; New York:
Liveright, 1955 ), 3.
2 Peter Selz and Mildred Con-
stantine, eds., Art Nouveau,
Art and Design at the Turn of
the Century (New York: Mu-
seum of Modern Art, 1975),
62.
3 Loie Fuller, Fifeen Years of a
Dancer’s Life (Boston: Small,
Maynard & Co., 1913), 127.
4 Duncan, op. cit., 95.
5 Lincoln Kirstein, Dance: A
Short History of Classical
Teatrical Dancing (New
York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons,
1935; New York: Dance Ho-
rizons, 1977), 268.
6 Duncan, op. cit., 21.
7 Ibid., 3.
8 Agnes de Mille, America
Dances (New York: Mac-
millan, 1980), 46.
9 Walter Sorell, Te Dance has
Many Faces (Cleveland and
New York: World Publish-
ing, 1951), 14.
Chapter 2
10 Ibid., 15.
11 Agnes de Mille, Martha: Te
Life and Work of Martha
Graham (New York: Vintage
Books, 1992), 41.
12 Jane Sherman, Denishawn:
the Enduring Infuence
(Boston: Twayne Publishers,
1983), 17.
13 Ibid., 11.
14 de Mille, op. cit., 52.
15 de Mille, op. cit., 54.
16 Ruth St. Denis, An Unfn-
ished Life (New York and
London: Harper & Bros.,
1939), 189.
17 Ibid., 191.
18 Sherman, op. cit., 63.
19 de Mille, op. cit., 68.
97 Notes
20 Martha Graham, Blood
Memory: An Autobiography
(New York and London:
Doubleday, 1991), 91.
21 Graham, op. cit., 6.
22 Ibid., 103.
23 Walter Terry, Frontiers of
Dance: Te Life of Martha
Graham (New York: Tomas
Crowell, 1975), 40.
24 Graham, op. cit., 68.
25 Ibid., 106.
26 Terry, op. cit., 49.
27 Graham, op., cit., 110.
28 Terry, op. cit., 59–60.
29 Graham, op. cit., 114.
30 Ibid.
31 Ibid.
32 Ibid.
33 Graham, op. cit., 117.
34 Olga Maynard, American
Modern Dance, Te Pioneers
(Boston: Little Brown & Co.,
1969), 127.
35 Ibid., 130.
36 Ibid., 131.
37 de Mille, op. cit., 102.
38 Maynard, op. cit., 143.
39 Elinor Rogisin, Te Dance
Makers. Conversations with
American Choreographers
(New York: Walker & Co.,
1980), 16.
40 Sherman, op. cit., 41.
41 Terry, op. cit., 73.
42 José Limón, An Unfnished
Memoir (Middletown, CT:
Wesleyan University Press,
1998), 32.
43 Terry, op. cit., 62.
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
44 Richard Kostelantz, ed.,
Merce Cunningham: Dancing
in Space and Time (Penning-
ton, NJ: A Cappella Books,
1992), 39.
45 Edwin Denby, “Elegance
in Isolation.” Looking at the
Dance (New York: Popular
Library, 1968), 303–304.
46 Joan Acocella, “Twos and
Trees.” Te New Yorker.
(May 4, 2009), 77.
47 Deborah Jowitt, Te Dance
in Mind (Boston: David
Godine, 1985), 199.
48 Paul Taylor, Private Domain
(San Francisco: North Point
Press, 1988), 80.
98 MoDERN DANCE
Chapter 5
49 Twyla Tarp, Push Comes to
Shove (New York: Bantam
Books), 3.
50 Graham, op. cit., 69.
51 Taylor, op. cit., 94.
52 Ibid., 30.
53 Ibid., 47–48.
54 Ibid., 54.
55 Taylor, op. cit., 161.
56 Tarp, op. cit., 89.
57 Don McDonagh, Te Rise
and Fall of Modern Dance
(New York: Mentor Book,
1970), 109.
58 Tarp, op. cit., 88–89.
59 Ibid., 177–178.
60 Ibid., 185–186.
61 Ibid., 205.
62 Ibid.
63 Ibid., 218.
64 Jowitt, op. cit., 336.
65 Rose Eichenbaum, Masters
of Movement: Portraits of
America’s Great Choreogra-
phers, (Washington, D.C.:
Smithsonian Books, 2004),
158.
66 Doris Humphrey, Te Art of
Making Dances (New York:
Rinehart, 1959; Princeton,
NJ: Princeton Book Co.,
1987), 15.
Chapter 6
66 Agnes de Mille, To A Young
Dancer: A Handbook
(Boston: Little Brown & Co.
1962), 12.
99
gLossAry
ballet From the Italian ballare. As theatrical dance, it is an art form
based on a specifc technique involving a fxed set of steps and positions
developed over hundreds of years. Nonspecifcally, the term is used by all
choreographers to describe a concert dance. For example, it would not be
incorrect to call Alvin Ailey’s dance Revelations a ballet, although it actually
is modern dance.
barre A horizontal wooden handrail used by dancers to maintain bal-
ance while doing studio exercises. It is used by both modern and ballet
dancers, but principally in classical ballet classes. A ballet dancer places one
hand lightly on the barre while doing exercises that require balance.
battement A beating movement of an extended leg or foot. Tis is a
ballet term but is widely used in all forms of dance.
choreography From Greek, literally meaning “dance-writing.” It is the
steps and patterns of a particular dance. Te person who designs the steps
and patterns is called the choreographer.
contact improvisation A playful improvisation between two or more
dancers in which they respond to each other’s movement as it occurs in the
moment. Tus, dancers must react very quickly to protect themselves from
falling or slipping if not instantaneously supported. Ofen called “art sport.”
Steve Paxton, a Judson Teater experimenter, is credited with creating the
movement form.
contraction-release Te fundamental movement of the Martha Gra-
ham technique. It refers to movement in the torso as the dancer inhales
(contracts) and exhales completely (releases).
cou-de-pied A ballet position that puts the working foot on the ankle
of the supporting leg. Te term is used in other dance forms as well.
100 MoDERN DANCE
dalcroze Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865–1950) was a student of Francois
Delsarte. He furthered the Desarte method by designing a system of train-
ing music students to understand rhythm by translating sounds into physi-
cal movements. It could be, and was, applied to dance as well and infuenced
many early modern dancers. He called the system “rhythmic gymnastics,”
and it became known as eurythmics.
delsarte François Delsarte (1811–1871) was a French music teacher in
the early nineteenth century who developed a system known as the Delsarte
method, in which performers were taught to develop the expressiveness
of their bodies. He placed his movements into three categories (eccentric,
concentric, and normal) and three zones (head, torso, and limbs). It was a
very infuential methodology for all the early modern-dance pioneers, as
well as for several generations of gymnasts and students of calisthenics.
eurythmics Rhythmic gymnastics created by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze,
sometimes called the Dalcroze system. See Dalcroze.
german expressionism In the early twentieth century, Expression-
ism dominated the arts in Germany and Central Europe. Te artist stressed
the emotional content of experience and symbolic meaning in objects. In
dance, these ideas were explored by Mary Wigman (1886–1973), among
others, who taught and performed a technique emphasizing dramatic in-
tensity and distortion of body shapes. Wigman was one of the most impor-
tant pioneers of modern dance, but her career was interrupted when she
was condemned by the Nazis and forced to shut down her schools. She did
not resume teaching and performing until 1949.
hip-hop A music genre that uses a rhythmic vocal style called rap, which
is accompanied by heavy beats. Hip-hop originated in African American
communities on the East and West Coasts. Each version is slightly difer-
ent from the other, but both emphasize rhyming, strong beats, and fearless
physical movement ofen performed on sidewalks. Hip-hop, which began
in the 1970s, has now been around long enough to have more than one
style.
leotard A tight garment covering the torso, usually worn over tights. It
is the basic practice costume for any dance study. Tere actually was a man
named Jules Léotard, a French gymnast who is credited with creating the
costume.
101 Glossary
modern dance An unsatisfactory term usually used to describe any
experimental concert dance that is not classical ballet or ethnic/folk dance.
It was considered an old-fashioned term by the 1940s, when even Martha
Graham called her company Martha Graham Contemporary Dance. Te
term still continues, largely out of common usage.
plié A bend of the knee, ofen in preparation for jumps or turns. Tis is a
ballet term, widely used in all forms of dance.
post-Modern A catch-all phrase covering experimental dance
from Merce Cunningham to the present. Essentially, it separates the
post-Cunningham experimenters from the so-called historic modern danc-
ers. Generally, it favors abstraction of content, the cerebral over the highly
emotional, and movement representing many techniques. It can, however,
include any and all of the above as well.
tendu Short for battement tendu, a ballet term for any move by the
working foot, with the working toes on the foor and the legs straight and
stretched; used widely in other dance forms.
turnout Te outward rotation of the legs from the hips at a 90-degree
angle. Turnout enables a dancer to move quickly to either side of the body
as well as forward and backward without breaking the line of the leg. A bal-
let position widely used in all forms of dance.
tutu A ballerina’s traditional costume consisting of a projecting skirt
made of many layers of net or tulle. It is derived from a French slang term
meaning “backside.”
vernacular A term meaning “native” or “of the people.” It can refer to
everything from architecture (houses made with local materials in func-
tional styles suited to ordinary people) to spoken language and word choic-
es (English as opposed to Latin, which is no longer a vernacular language
but one of liturgy and literature).
102
BIBLIogrAphy
Acocella, Joan. Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays. New York: Vin-
tage Books, 2007.
Anderson, Jack. Choreography Observed. Iowa City: University of Iowa
Press, 1987.
Au, Susan. Ballet and Modern Dance. London: Tames and Hudson, 1988.
Banes, Sally. Terpsichore in Sneakers, Post Modern Dance. Boston: Hough-
ton Mifin, 1980.
Bird, Dorothy, and Joyce Greenberg. Bird’s Eye View: Dancing with Martha
Graham and on Broadway. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press,
1997.
Chujoy, Anatole. Te Dance Encyclopedia. New York: Barnes & Co., 1949.
Cohen, Selma Jeanne, ed. Dance as a Teater Art: Source Readings in Dance
History from 1581 to the Present. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.
Constantine, Mildred, and Peter Selz, eds. “Art Nouveau: Art and Design at
the Turn of the Century.” Art Journal, vol. 20, no. 4 (Summer, 1961), pp.
256–258 New York: Museum of Modern Art.
Crain, Debra, and Judith MacKrell. Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Oxford,
UK: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Current, Richard Nelson, and Marcia Ewing Nelson. Loie Fuller: Goddess of
Light. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1997.
de Mille, Agnes. America Dances. New York: MacMillan, 1980.
———. Martha: Te Life and Work of Martha Graham. New York: Vintage
Books, 1992.
———. To a Young Dancer: A Handbook. Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1962.
Denby, Edwin. Dancers, Buildings, and People in the Street. New York: Pop-
ular Library, 1979.
———. Looking at the Dance. New York: Popular Library, 1968.
Duncan, Isadora. My Life. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1927. Reprint, New
York: Liveright, 1955.
103 Bibliography
Eichenbaum, Rose. Masters of Movement: Portraits of America’s Great Cho-
reographers. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2004.
Foulkes, Julia. Modern Bodies: Dance and American Modernism from Mar-
tha Graham to Alvin Ailey. Chapel Hill and London: University of North
Carolina Press, 2002.
Fuller, Loie. Fifeen Years of a Dancer’s Life. Boston: Small, Maynard & Co.,
1913.
Graham, Martha. Blood Memory: An Autobiography. New York and Lon-
don: Doubleday, 1991.
Humphrey, Doris. Te Art of Making Dances. New York: Rinehart, 1959.
Reprint, Princeton, NJ: Princeton Book Co., 1987.
Jacob, Ellen. Dancing: A Guide for the Dancer. Reading, Mass. and Menlo
Park, CA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1981.
Jowitt, Deborah. Te Dance in Mind. Boston: David Godine, 1985.
———. Time and the Dancing Image. New York: William Morrow, 1988.
Kirstein, Lincoln. Dance: A Short History of Classical Teatrical Dancing.
New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1935. Reprint, New York: Dance Hori-
zons, 1977.
Kostelanetz, Richard, ed. Merce Cunningham: Dancing in Space and Time.
Pennington, N.J.: A Cappella Books, 1992.
Kozodoy, Ruth. Isadora Duncan. New York: Chelsea House Publishers,
1988.
Kraus, Richard. History of the Dance. Englewood Clifs, NJ: Prentice Hall,
1969.
Limón, José. Unfnished Memoir. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University
Press, 1998.
McDonagh, Don. Complete Guide to Modern Dance. New York: Popular
Library, 1977.
———. Te Rise and Fall and Rise of Modern Dance. New York: Mentor
Book, 1970.
Martin, John. Te Modern Dance. 1933. Reprint, New York: Dance Hori-
zons, 1965.
Maynard, Olga. American Modern Dancers: Te Pioneers. Boston: Little
Brown & Co., 1969.
Penrod, James, and Janice Gudde Plastino. Te Dancer Prepares: Modern
Dance for Beginners, 4th ed. Palo Alto, CA: Mayfeld Publishers, 1992.
Reynolds, Nancy, and Susan Reimer-Torn. Dance Classics: A Viewer’s Guide
to the Best-Loved Ballets and Modern Dances. New York: Harmony
Books, 1980. Reprint, Chicago: A Cappella Books, 1991.
104 MoDERN DANCE
Robertson, Allen, and Donald Hutera. Te Dance Handbook. Boston: G. K.
Hall, 1988.
Rogosin, Elinor. Te Dance Makers: Conversations with American Choreog-
raphers. New York: Walker & Co., 1980.
Roseman, Janet Lynn. Dance Masters: Interviews with Legends of Dance.
New York: Routledge, 2001.
St. Denis, Ruth. An Unfnished Life. New York & London: Harper and Bros,
1939.
Serof, Victor. Te Real Isadora. New York: Te Dial Press, 1971.
Shelton, Suzanne. Divine Dancer: A Biography of Ruth St. Denis. New York:
Doubleday, 1981.
Sherman, Jane. Denishawn: Te Enduring Infuence. Boston: Twayne Pub-
lishers, 1983.
Sorell, Walter. Te Dance Has Many Faces. Cleveland and New York: World
Publishing Co., 1951.
Taylor, Paul. Private Domain. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1988.
Terry, Walter. Frontiers of Dance: Te Life of Martha Graham. New York:
Tomas Y. Crowell, 1975.
Tarp, Twyla. Push Comes to Shove. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
105
FURTHER
RESOURCES
Boo×s
Au, Susan. Ballet and Modern Dance. London: ames and Hudson, 1988.
de Mille, Agnes. Martha: e Life and Times of Martha Graham. New York:
Vintage Books, 1992.
Duncan, Isadora. My Life. New York: Liveright, 1955.
Graham, Martha. Blood Memory: An Autobiography. New York and Lon-
don: Doubleday, 1991.
Kozodoy, Ruth. Isadora Duncan. New York: Chelsea House Publishers,
1988.
Limón, José. An Unnished Memoir. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University
Press, 1998.
Shelton, Suzanne. Divine Dancer: A Biography of Ruth St. Denis. New York:
Doubleday, 1981.
Taylor, Paul. Private Domain. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1988.
arp, Twyla. Push Comes to Shove. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
V¡ovoox»Þux
Modern Dance: The Founders and the Historic
Generation
Charles Weidman: On His Own, 60 minutes, Dance Horizons Video, 1990.
Narrated by Alwin Nikolais. A lovingly craed documentary that takes
Weidman from Nebraska to Denishawn, and then on through his part-
nership with Doris Humphrey and his own work. Includes footage of
Weidman performing with Humphrey, as well as Weidman talking
about his work and teaching.
WD ModDance - dummy.indd 105 2/2/10 3:33:24 PM
106 MoDERN DANCE
Te Dance Works of Doris Humphrey, a two-part video documenting work
of this important dance pioneer.
Part I: With My Red Fires and New Dance, 60 minutes, Dance Horizons
Video, 1989. Performed by the American Dance Festival Company,
these two dances from the mid-1930s deal, respectively, with confict
between the sexes, and confict between the individual and the group.
Part II: Ritmo Jondo and Day On Earth, 40 minutes, Dance Horizons
Video, 1999. Tese works are danced by the José Limón Dance Com-
pany, which performs Humphrey’s choreography to this day, not as his-
toric relics but as living dance.
Denishawn: Birth of Modern Dance, 40 minutes, Kultur Video, 1988. Con-
tains historic flm as well as recent reconstructions. Performed by Cen-
ter City Collective, a dance troupe dedicated to the preservation of Den-
ishawn material.
Denishawn Dances On!, 100 minutes, Kultur Video, 2002. With twenty-
three dances performed by Denishawn Repertory Dancers, this is the
largest re-creation of Denishawn material in existence. Pulled togeth-
er by Barton Mumaw, member of Denishawn in its last year, and Jane
Sherman, last living member of the original company.
Martha Graham Dance Company, 60 minutes, WNET/Dance in America
Production, 1998. Tis 1976 television broadcast was choreographed
by and produced under Martha Graham herself. Dancers include Janet
Eilber, Yuriko Kimura, and others from one of Graham’s fnest group of
dancers.
Martha Graham in Performance, 93 minutes, Kultur Video, 1988. Graham
narrates and introduces her company performing three important
works, including Night Journey with Graham as Jocasta and Paul Taylor
as Tiresius.
Martha Graham: Te Dancer Revealed, 90 minutes, Kultur Video, 1994.
Considered the defnitive video record of Graham’s work, it includes
historic footage of her most famous work, including Heretic, Lamenta-
tions, and Appalachian Spring, as well as clips of Graham talking about
her work. Graham’s former husband Erick Hawkins, biographer and fel-
low dance innovator Agnes de Mille, and several Graham dancers are
interviewed.
Mary Wigman, 1886–1973: “When Fire Dances between Two Poles,” 41 min.,
Dance Horizons Video, 1990. Famous German Expressionist dance in-
novator Wigman discusses her work (English voiceover). Film includes
rare footage of Wigman’s last performance, which was in 1942.
107 Further Resources
Modern Dance: Reformers
Cage/Cunningham, 95 minutes, Kultur Video, 1991. A collage of interviews
and excerpts from the work of the important partnership of chore-
ographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage. Dancer Ru-
dolf Nureyev and artist Robert Rauschenberg are among fellow artists
included.
A Lifetime of Dance with Merce Cunningham and His Dance Company, 90
minutes, Winstar Home Entertainment, 2000. New and archival perfor-
mances. A coproduction of Tirteen/WNET New York and BBC.
Paul Taylor Dance Company: Esplanade/Runes, 58 minutes, WNET/Dance
in America, 1998. Performed by Paul Taylor and company and recorded
in 1977. Part of the PBS “Dance in America” series.
Paul Taylor: Dancemaker, 98 minute, Artistic License, 1998. Nominated for
an Academy Award in 1999 for Short Subject. One of the best dance
documentaries ever made and certainly an unusually good dance video;
candid, biographical, and inspiring, Dancemaker follows Taylor’s entire
career.
Points in Space, 55 minutes, Kultur Video, 1986. Featuring Cunningham
Dance Company. Interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, as well as
performance.
Te World of Alwin Nikolais, Pro Arts International, 1996. Directed and
narrated by Murray Louis. Performed by Murray Louis and dancers,
Te World of Alwin Nikolais is a fve-part series that re-creates Niko-
lais’s original stage presentations. Each part is approximately 40 minutes
long, and they can be purchased separately or as a set.
Modern Dance: Fusion
Baryshnikov Dances Sinatra and More, 60 minutes, Kultur Video, 1985, vid-
eocassette. Baryshnikov, Tarp, and American Ballet Teatre dancers
perform, including the epoch-making Push Comes to Shove, as well as
Te Little Ballet and Sinatra Suite. Originally part of the PBS “Dance in
America” series.
Four By Ailey, 140 minutes, Kultur Video, 1986. Performed by the Alvin
Ailey American Dance Teatre. An important record of Ailey’s master-
piece Revelations, as well as other major dances.
Pilobolus Dance Teatre, 59 minutes, WNET/Dance in America, 1998. Four
dances by this infuential small troupe that began at Dartmouth Col-
lege, part of the PBS “Dance in America” series.
108 MoDERN DANCE
A Tribute to Alvin Ailey, 120 minutes, Kultur Video, 1989. Dance special
featuring the Alvin Ailey Dance Teatre honoring its founder and intro-
duced by dancer Judith Jamison, who succeeded Ailey as artistic direc-
tor of the troupe afer Ailey’s death in 1989.
Web sites
Alvin Ailey American Dance Teater
www.alvinailey.org
Tis is the ofcial Web site of the Alvin Ailey’s dance troupe, which is
the premier dance company for African American modern dance.
Dance
www.dancemagazine.com
Te renowned dance magazine’s Web site includes back issues, re-
views, forums, videos, and blogs.
Dance Spirit
www.dancespirit.com
Te Web site for Dance Spirit magazine includes a directory of dance
schools and a chat room.
David Parsons
www.parsonsdance.org
Tis is the site for the dance trouped headed by David Parsons, who
has choreographed more than 70 works for the group.
Te Doris Humphrey Society
www.dorishumphrey.org
Information about famed modern dancer Doris Humphrey, includ-
ing workshops and upcoming performances of her works, can be
found here.
Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation
www.isadoraduncan.org
Tis site provides information on the Isadora Duncan dance com-
pany, foundation, and classes and workshops.
Jacob’s Pillow
www.jacobspillow.org
Find information about the famous summer dance festival founded
by Ted Shawn, school, archives, and community programs.
109 Further Resources
Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library
for the Performing Arts
http://www.nypl.org/research/lpa/dan/dan.html
Te New York Public Library’s collection of modern-dance docu-
ments and photos is the largest and most comprehensive archive of
its kind in the world.
José Limón Dance Foundation
www.limon.org
Information about renowned Mexican modern dancer/choreogra-
pher José Limón, including classes and videos, can be found here.
Mark Morris Dance Group
www.mmdg.org
Tis site ofers information about the Brooklyn-based school, dance
center, and company of one of the most successful choreographers
of today.
Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance
www.marthagrahamdance.org
Te site for the oldest and most celebrated modern dance company
in the world provides information about Martha Graham, the com-
pany, and the school.
Merce Cunningham Dance
www.merce.org
Te ofcial Web site of renowned modern-dancer/choreographer
Merce Cunningham includes video of dance classes taught by
Cunningham.
Paul Taylor Dance Company
www.ptdc.org
Te ofcial Web site of the Paul Taylor Dance Company features bio-
graphical information on Taylor and the dancers, as well as informa-
tion on daily classes and summer intensive programs.
Pilobolus
www.pilobolus.com
Tis is the ofcial site for the modern-dance group, founded at Dart-
mouth College in 1971.
110 MoDERN DANCE
Rennie Harris Puremovement
www.rhpm.org
Tis Philadelphia dance troupe preserves and disseminates hip-hop
culture through workshops, classes, lecture-demonstrations, dance
residencies, mentoring programs, and public performances.
Riverdance
www.riverdance.com
Te ofcial Web site of the ultra-successful Irish step-dance group
features photos, biographies, tour dates, and a message board.
Twyla Tarp Dance
www.twylatharp.org
Te ofcial Web site of the Tony Award–winning choreographer
Twyla Tarp includes photos and biographical information about
her.
111
PICTURE
CREDITS
P
15: © INTERFOTO/Alamy
20: Archives Charmet/e
Bridgeman Art Library
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112
A
Abstract Expressionism,
59
ABT. See American Ballet
Teatre
African-American
themes, 55
Ailey, Alvin, 19, 56–57,
66–67, 74, 89
Alcestis, 60
American Ballet Teatre
(ABT), 73–75, 77–78
American Repertory
Teater, 65
Amjad, 19, 83
Annie Get Your Gun, 55
Appalachian Spring,
51–52, 57
Art Nouveau, 16–17
arthritis, 45, 54
articulation, 89
Astaire, Fred, 75
So the Audience Does
Not Know Whether I
Have Stopped Dancing
(Brown), 64–65
audiences, 72
B
back-lighting, 19
Balanchine, George, 8, 39,
68–70, 71
Balkan folk dances, 78
Ball, Mary Washington, 37
ballet, 14, 39, 53, 68–76,
90–91
Ballets Trocadero de
Monte Carlo, 84
Barnard College, 71–72
barre, 87, 89
Baryshnikov, Mikhail,
73–76, 77–78
battement, 89, 91
Beach Boys, 73
Bennington College,
48–50, 54
Berkeley, University of
California at, 32–33
Beyer, Hilda, 28
Te Birth of a Nation, 34
black dance, 56
BodyVox, 77
Bolshevik revolution, 23
breathing, 42–43, 88
Brice, Fanny, 35
Brooks, Louise, 34
Brown, Trisha, 63, 64–65
C
Cabaret, 54
Cage, John, 57, 59, 61
Camelot, 56
car accidents, 22–23
Castle, Irene and Vernon,
25
Caught (Parsons), 18–19
chance, 57
Chicago, 54
Childs, Lucinda, 63, 65
Clair de Lune (Graham),
42
classes, overview of, 86–91
Clytemnestra, 60
Colorado College, 56
Communism, 23
contact improvisation, 78
contraction-release
breathing, 42–43, 88
Coolidge Foundation, 51
Coolidge Teatre, 51
Copeland, Aaron, 51–52
Creative Dance classes,
86–88
Crowsnest, 77
Cunningham, Merce, 51,
57–59, 66, 67, 89
D
Dalcroze, Émile, 16, 22
Dance Magazine, 91
Dance Repertory Teater,
48, 54
Dance Spirit, 91
dance theater, 60
Danse Americaine, 47
Dartmouth College, 77
de Mille, Agnes, 34, 39,
45, 82
Index
113 Index
de Mille, Cecil B., 34
Dean, Laura, 63
debt, 33
Delsarte method, 30
Denishawn
end of, 35–38
fabric and, 19
origins of, 28–31
overview of, 25–26
spread of, 31–32
success of, 32–35
Weidman and, 47
Denishawn School, 28–31
Dennis, Ruth. See St.
Denis, Ruth
Deuce Coupe (Tarp),
73, 78
Diaghilev, Serge, 39
Dolin, Anton, 37
Duet, 61
Duncan, Isadora, 14, 17,
21–23, 32, 39
Dunham, Katherine, 56
E
Eastman, George, 42
Eastman School of Music,
42
Egypta (St. Denis), 30
Elizabeth I (Queen of
England), 69–70
emotions, 8–9, 21
emotive dance, 21–22
Epic (Taylor), 62
Episodes, 68–70
equilibrium, 44–45
Esplanade (Taylor), 62
eurythmics, 16, 22
Te Event of the Year, 9–10
Expressive Movement
classes, 86–88
F
fabric, illusion and, 18–19
facial expressions, 30
Fairbanks, Douglas, 34
Fancy Free (Robbins), 75
Federal Dance Project,
55, 56
Field, Chair, and Mountain
(Gordon), 77–78
Florentine Madonna
(Graham), 42
Folies Bergère, 16
foot position, 43
Forti, Simone, 63
Forty-Eighth Street
Teater, 42
Fosse, Bob, 54
Frankfurt Ballet, 77
Fuller, Loie, 13–18, 22
G
Te Garden of Kama
(Denishawn), 32
German Expressionism,
50, 56, 60
Germany, 22
gestures, 30
Gordon, David, 63–64, 65,
77–78
Graham, Martha
afer Denishawn, 40–44
Appalachian Spring
and, 51–52, 57
Bennington College
and, 50
dance classes and,
88–89
Dance Repertory
Teater and, 48
death of, 45
Denishawn and, 31, 35,
36–38
Episodes and, 68–70
fabric and, 19
Presidential Medal of
Freedom and, 67
retirement of, 54
Taylor and, 60
Great Depression, 38, 40,
50, 55
Greco, José, 78
Greek Teatre, 32–33
Greenwich Village Follies,
40
Grifth, D.W., 34
Guthrie Teater, 65
gymnastics, 16
H
Hair, 79
Halprin, Anna, 90
Te Hard Nut (Morris),
79–80
Harris, Rennie, 37, 81–82,
84
Hawkins, Erick, 51
Heretic (Graham), 43
Hill, Martha, 48
hip-hop, 37, 82
Hitler, Adolf, 40
Holm, Hanya, 50, 54–55,
56
homosexuality, 36, 79
Horst, Louis, 31, 36–37,
42, 62
Horton, Lester, 56–57,
66, 89
How Long Brethren?
(Tamiris), 55
La La La Human Steps,
19, 83
humor, 44, 47
Humphrey, Doris
Bennington College
and, 50
Dance Repertory
Teater and, 48
Denishawn and, 31,
36, 38
Limón-Humphrey
classes and, 90–91
overview of, 44–47
retirement of, 54
Humphrey-Weidman
Group, 44, 54
114 MoDERN DANCE
I
illusion, dance as, 18–19
improvisation, 78
internet, 59
Intolerance, 34
Isadora. See Duncan,
Isadora
Isis, 25
ISO, 77
J
Jacob’s Pillow, 36–37, 38,
48
Jacques-Dalcroze, Émile.
See Dalcroze, Émile
jazz, 91
jeté, 75
Joel, Billy, 65
Jofrey, Robert, 72–73
Jofrey Ballet, 72–73
Johnston, Julianne, 34
Jones, John Paul, 58
José Limón Dance
Company, 54
Judson Dance Teater,
63–66
K
Kennedy, John F., 62
King, Martin Luther Jr.,
62
Kiss Me Kate, 56
Koleda Folk Ensemble, 78
Kosugi, Takehisa, 58
L
La La La Human Steps,
19, 83
La Loie. See Fuller, Loie
L’Ag’ya (Dunham), 56
Lamentation (Graham),
19, 44
Lang, David, 83
Legion d’Honneur, 67
Letter to the World, 57
Life of the Bee
(Humphrey), 45
Limón, José, 44, 45, 48, 54
Limón-Humphrey classes,
90–91
lithographs, 17
Lock, Edward, 83, 84
La Loie. See Fuller, Loie
M
magazines, 91
Male Dancers, 36–37,
38, 48
Mamoulian, Rouben, 42
Man Walking Down
the Side of a Building
(Brown), 65
March Slav (Duncan), 23
Mark Morris Dance
Group, 79
Markova, Alicia, 37
Martinique, 56
Mary, Queen of Scots,
69–70
Masks, Props, and Mobiles
(Nikolais), 60
McIntyre, Trey, 82
Michael (student), 9–11
mime, 44, 47
Momix, 77
Monk, Meredith, 63
Morris, Mark, 78–80, 88
movement theory, 30
movie industry, 33–34
Movin’ Out (Tarp), 65
music, 45–46
musical visualizations, 32
Mussolini, Benito, 40
My Fair Lady, 56
mysticism, 25
N
National Dance Institute,
9
National Endowment for
the Arts (NEA), 76, 78
National Medals of Arts,
67
Native American culture,
56
NEA. See National
Endowment for the Arts
Nearly Ninety, 57–59
Neenan, Matthew, 82
Negro Spirituals (Tamiris),
55
Netherlands Dance
Teater, 76
New York Palace, 35
Nijinsky, Vaslav, 39
Nikolais, Alwin, 56,
59–60, 66
Non Score (Taylor), 61
Nureyev, Rudolf, 73
Te Nutcracker, 79
O
Oklahoma, 82
One Tousand and One
Night Stands (Shawn), 36
online dance companies,
59
opera, 65
P
pageants, 32–33
Panama California
Exposition, 33
Pantages vaudeville
circuit, 34
Paris Exposition of 1900,
13
parody, 84
Parsons, David, 18–19,
76
Pavlova, Anna, 39
Paxton, Steve, 78
Picasso, Pablo, 39
Pillow Talks, 37
Pilobolus, 19, 77
pliés, 89
Pollack, Jackson, 59
115 Index
Post-Modern dance,
65–66, 70, 79
Presidential Medals of
Freedom, 67
Primary Accumulation
(Brown), 65
Primus, Pearl, 56
Pulitzer Prizes, 52
Puremovement, 81
Push Comes to Shove
(arp), 75–76
Pushkin, Aleksandr, 75
R
Radha (St. Denis), 25,
30, 32
ragtime, 75
Rainer, Yvonne, 63
Rauschenberg, Robert, 60,
62, 64
Re-Moves (arp), 72
Revelations (Ailey), 19, 67
Revolt (Graham), 43
Riverdance, 82
Robbins, Jerome, 75, 82–83
Roche, Pierre, 17
Rodeo, 82
Rodin, 17, 21
Rome and Jewels (Harris),
81–82
Roof Piece (Brown), 63
“the runs”, 10–11
Russia, 23
Ruth St. Denis School of
Dancing. See Denishawn
School
S
satire, 47
Seven New Dances
(Taylor), 62
e Shakers (Humphrey),
45–47
Shawn, Ted. See also
Denishawn; Jacob’s
Pillow
as choreographer,
34–37
death of, 38
Denishawn school
and, 30
Graham and, 41
St. Denis and, 25, 27
Weidman and, 47
Shawn and His Men
Dancers, 36–37, 38, 48
Shearer, Sybil, 90
Sherman, Jane, 28
Sikkema Jenkins & Co.,
64
silence, 45–46
skirt dancing, 16
So the Audience Does
Not Know Whether I
Have Stopped Dancing
(Brown), 64–65
Sonic Youth, 58
Spanish dance, 78
spirituality, 25
St. Denis, Ruth. See also
Denishawn
death of, 38
fabric and, 19
Fuller and, 17
Graham and, 41–42
overview of, 23–26
as precursor to modern
dance, 14
Shawn and, 27, 35
stage dancing, 16
stock market crash, 40
Stravinsky, Igor, 39
T
Tamiris, Helen, 48,
54–55
tap, 91
Taylor, Paul, 60–62, 66,
69–70, 72
technology, 19
e Ten Commandments,
34
tendu, 91
tennis, 69–70
arp, Twyla, 63, 65,
70–76, 79
e ief of Baghdad,
34
ree Gopi Maidens
(Graham), 42
As Time Goes By (arp),
73
Toilers of the Soil
(Denishawn), 33
Tony Awards, 55
Touch and Go, 55
Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri,
17
Trend, 56
turnout, 89
U
University of California
at Berkeley, 32–33
V
vaudeville, 31–32, 33,
34–35
vernacular moves, 81
Vietnam War, 62, 72
W
Wade in the Waters, 19
Walking on the Wall
(Brown), 65
Walks and Digressions
(Gordon), 63
“Waltz of the Snowakes”,
79
Webern, Anton von, 69
Weidman, Charles.
See also Humphrey-
Weidman Group
Bennington College
and, 50
Dance Repertory
eater and, 48
death of, 54
WD ModDance - dummy.indd 115 2/2/10 3:33:25 PM
116 MoDERN DANCE
Denishawn and, 31,
36, 38
overview of, 47–48
West Side Story, 83
Wigman, Mary, 50, 60
Wilson, Sallie, 69
Works Project
Administration, 55
World War I, 34
World War II, 37
Worth’s Family Teater
and Museum, 32
X
Xochitl, 35
Y
Yeats, William Butler, 17
Yesenin, Sergey, 23
Z
Zaide, 65
Ziegfeld Follies, 35
117
Author Janet Anderson is a dance critic at Philadelphia’s City Paper and
was previously dance critic at the Philadelphia Daily News. She has writ-
ten about dance for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Seven Arts Magazine, and
PBS’s show Applause. Prior to moving to Philadelphia, she was dance re-
viewer for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Santa Monica Evening Outlook
and Long Beach Press-Telegram. She conducted and wrote Pew Charitable
Trust’s study on improving the quantity and quality of arts journalism. Ms.
Anderson has an M.A. degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill. Her Ph.D. is in process at the University of Texas Austin. Ms. Ander-
son’s art/dance history dissertation is on Degas and his ballet images. She
spent a year as special assistant to the chairman of the National Endowment
for the Arts.
Consulting editor elizabeth A. hanley is associate professor emerita
of Kinesiology at the Pennsylvania State University. She holds a BS in physi-
cal education from the University of Maryland and an MS in physical edu-
cation from Penn State, where she taught such courses as modern dance,
fgure skating, international folk dance, square and contra dance, and ball-
room dance. She is the founder and former director of the Penn State In-
ternational Dance Ensemble and has served as the coordinator of the dance
workshop at the International Olympic Academy, in Olympia, Greece.
ABout the Author
And ConsuLtIng edItor

=Wor d of Dance < Wor

Modern Dance
Second edition

World of Dance
African Dance, Second Edition Asian Dance, Second Edition Ballet, Second Edition European Dance: Ireland, Poland, Spain, and Greece, Second Edition Latin and Caribbean Dance Middle Eastern Dance, Second Edition Modern Dance, Second Edition Popular Dance: From Ballroom to Hip-Hop

Associate Professor emerita of Kinesiology. Penn State University Foreword by Jacques d’Amboise.=Wor d of Dance < Wor Modern Dance Second edition Janet Anderson consulting editor: elizabeth A. Hanley. Founder of the national dance institute .

2. cm. p. MN Date printed: February 2010 Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 This book is printed on acid-free paper. including photocopying. or by any information storage or retrieval systems. Second Edition Copyright © 2010 by Infobase Publishing All rights reserved.World of Dance: Modern Dance. ISBN 978-1-60413-483-4 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-4381-3190-0 (e-book) 1. . Modern dance—Juvenile literature. MN Book printed and bound by Bang Printing.chelseahouse.A55 2010 792. Brainerd. some addresses and links may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. Brainerd. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means. For information. Because of the dynamic nature of the Web. institutions. electronic or mechanical. 1952– Modern dance / by Janet Anderson. GV1783. Series.com Text design by Kerry Casey Cover design by Alicia Post Composition by EJB Publishing Services Cover printed by Bang Printing. recording. You can find Chelsea House on the World Wide Web at http://www. contact: Chelsea House An imprint of Infobase Publishing 132 West 31st Street New York NY 10001 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Anderson. or sales promotions. I. II. Modern dance—History—Juvenile literature. — (World of dance) Includes bibliographical references and index. associations. — 2nd ed. Janet. All links and Web addresses were checked and verified to be correct at the time of publication. without permission in writing from the publisher. Title. Please call our Special Sales Department in New York at (212) 967-8800 or (800) 322-8755.8—dc22 2009033613 Chelsea House books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk quantities for businesses.

CONTENTS Introduction by Consulting Editor Elizabeth A. Founder of the National Dance Institute 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 The Precursors Denishawn The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance Fusion Choosing a Modern Dance Class 13 27 51 68 85 93 96 99 102 105 111 112 117 The Founding Modern-Dance Generation 39 Chronology Notes Glossary Bibliography Further Resources Picture Credits Index About the Author and Consulting Editor . Pennsylvania State University 6 Foreword by Jacques D’Amboise. Associate Professor Emerita of Kinesiology. Hanley.

From these quaint beginnings of traditional dance. it was not readily accepted as an art form. dances continue to evolve as our civilization and society change. many ethnic. and religious nature of a particular people. or folk. and a basic source of enjoyment and beauty. The richness of cultural traditions observed in the ethnic. When the era of modern dance emerged as a contrast and a challenge to the rigorously structured world of ballet. It has been an integral part of celebrations and rituals. dance includes ballroom. The term dance is broad and. geography. aerobics. tap. dance genre offers the participant. particularly in large cities. Modern dance was interested in the communication of emotional experiences—through basic movement. therefore. dress.IntroduC on IntroduCtIon The world of dance is yours to enjoy! Dance has existed from time immemorial. a new genre emerged as a way to appeal to the upper level of society: ballet. The joy derived from participating in dance of any genre and the physical activity required provide the opportunity for the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle in today’s world. as well as the spectator. not limited to the genres noted above. In the twenty-first century. or folk. a means of communication with gods and among humans. Originally passed on from one generation to the next. jazz. Dance is a fundamental element of human behavior and has evolved over the years from primitive movement of the earliest civilizations to traditional ethnic or folk styles. and a myriad of other movement activities. to the classical ballet and modern dance genres popular today. or folk. insight into the customs. This new form of dance rose quickly in popularity and remains so today. The genre of ethnic. as well as uninhibited 6 . dance continues to be an important part of ethnic communities throughout the United States.

*** In this volume. and potential future of each dance form. The one fact that each reader should remember is that dance has always been. Doris Humphrey. but would also have to fight to gain critical acceptance of their artistic expression. as well as the art forms of ballet and modern dance. and remains. Modern dance. or ultimate. or folk. giving the reader a comprehensive knowledge of the past. Martha Graham.Introduction 7 movement—not through the academic tradition of ballet masters. No dance form is permanent. these pioneers set the stage for modern dance to become a viable art in the twenty-first century. This is its legacy to the world. This series features an overview of the development of these dance genres. Janet Anderson will examine the fascinating journey and development of modern dance—a relatively young art form that began at the turn of the twentieth century. Others would expand upon the abstraction of and attention to isolated movement. One need only recall that dance needs neither common race nor common language for communication. definitive. Dance is for all people. but the basic element of dance endures. and Ruth St. Isadora Duncan. Changes occur. their dance steps and movements. and always will be. but modern dance would eventually not only reconcile with ballet. Ballet and modern dance—more recent artistic dance genres—are explored in detail as well. found its aficionados and is a popular art form today. a form of communication. The World of Dance series provides a starting point for readers interested in learning about ethnic. Denis would break from dance traditions such as ballet. from a historical perspective to a practical one. dances of world cultures. and their customs and traditions underscores the importance of these fundamental elements for the reader. Charles Weidman. a universal means of communication. but would also incorporate many other dance styles into its palette. however. Their influence continues to the present day. Prominent modern dancers include the well-known names of Hanya Holm. Hanley Associate Professor Emerita of Kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University . and Merce Cunningham. Pioneers such as Loie Fuller. it has been. present. —Elizabeth A. Highlighting specific cultures.

his very gestures express enchantment. Or a rousing jig or mazurka will have your foot tapping in an accompanying rhythm. contacted through music. Every time we shake someone’s hand. . The emotions. “We met at a dance”? But most of 8 . We live in a universe of time and space. when played.foreword In song and dance. spur the body to react physically. . using the control of movement and gesture to communicate. lift a glass in a toast. There are melodies that. man expresses himself as a member of a higher community. —Friedrich Nietzsche In a conversation with George Balanchine (one of the twentieth century’s most famous choreographers and the cofounder of the New York City Ballet) discussing the definition of dance. we evolved the following description: “Dance is an expression of time and space. . or applaud a performer—we are doing a form of dance. for entertainment. for celebrating weddings. joyfully spinning in circles. for dealing with sadness. tearfully swaying and holding hands at a wake.” Dance is central to the human being’s expression of emotion. Dance is profound. dancing. wave good-bye. How many millions of couples through the ages have said. He forgets how to walk and speak and is on the way into flying into the air. and dance is an art form invented by human beings to express and convey emotions. will cause your heart to droop with sadness for no known reason. for dating and mating. seemingly beyond your control. We dance for many reasons: for religious rituals from the most ancient times. Our bodies have just been programmed to express emotions.

Then he parted his ridged lips and bared his teeth in a grimace that may have been a smile. an 11-year-old. determined line as he learned and executed every dance step with amazing skill. His concentration was intense despite the wild cavorting. then. Apparently. they were scheduled to dance in a spectacular NDI show called The Event of the Year. trim. In the spring. putting the gun to his own head. the JOY OF DANCE! I was teaching dance at a boarding school for emotionally disturbed children. and they were blazing blue eyes—electric. and he stood arrow-straight. His lips were clamped in a rigid. noise. often exclaiming. He’s very intelligent. “Oh. sitting in his own filth. At the end of class I went up to him and said. One of the supervisors of the school rushed over to me and said. ages 9 through 16. was an exception. we dance for joy. Both top and bottom incisors had been worn away by his continual grinding and rubbing of them together. he witnessed his father shooting his mother. This was a tough class.Foreword 9 all. No one had ever heard him speak. One young boy. his name is Michael. In the ensuing weeks of dance class. but he doesn’t speak. It was close to three days before the neighbors broke in to find the dead and swollen bodies of his parents. The boarding school children had been traumatized in frightening and mind-boggling ways. There were a dozen students in my class. “How I love to dance!” Oh. and the average attention span may have been 15 seconds—which made for a raucous bunch. The orphaned Michael disappeared into the foster care system.” I heard Michael’s story from the supervisor. The dehydrated and starving little boy was stuck in his playpen. You’re great! What’s your name?” Those blue eyes didn’t blink. can you dance. set in a chalk-white face. They were participating with 20 other schools in the National Dance Institute’s (NDI) year-round program. eventually ending up in the boarding school. He never took his eyes off of me for the 35 minutes of the dance class. “Wow. when he was a toddler in his playpen. I built and developed choreography for Michael and his classmates. the father killed himself. and otherwise disruptive behavior supplied by his fellow classmates. His body was slim. At the . I covered my shock and didn’t let it show. He had a big hole where his front teeth should be. superbly proportioned.

The foremost challenge was how to get 2. And through all that time. safely pulling into their allotted spaces. That meant going into overtime at a great expense. The dancers line up in the wings. we divide the stage into a grid with colored lines making the outlines of box shapes. it would take us almost an hour just to get the dancers lined up in the correct holding areas offstage.000 dancers. a chorus. running and leaping and following their colored tracks to their respective boxes. hallways. We had scheduled one shot to rehearse the opening. But even before starting. and various holding areas on either side of the stage. Then. the best in the class—the determined and concentrating Michael—never spoke. I gave the cue to start the number. The orchestra. That spring. “The runs” had begun! . There was scenery that was the length of an entire city block and visiting guest children from six foreign countries coming to dance with our New York City children. which consists of 15 to 30 children. and Native American Indian drummers.” It’s as if a couple of dozen trains coming from different places and traveling on different tracks all arrived at a station at the same time. It had to work the first time or we would have to repeat everything. I used Michael as the leader and as a model for the others and began welding all of the kids together. little by little over the months. we add various colored lines as tracks. Broadway stars. At NDI.” First. a jazz orchestra. inventing a vigorous and energetic dance to utilize their explosive energy. ready to make their entrance. It took awhile. singers. We had less than three minutes to accomplish “the runs.10 MoDERN DANCE boarding school. where they explode into the opening dance number. and the avalanche of 2. All of these elements had to come together and fit into a spectacular performance. we have developed a system called “the runs. dancers from the 22 different schools with which the NDI had dance programs were scheduled to come together at Madison Square Garden for The Event of the Year. they burst onto the stage.000 children were let loose on their tracks. with only one day of rehearsal. and stagehands all commenced on cue. narrators. There would be more than 2. At the end of the overture. making a mosaic of patterns and shapes on the stage floor. starting offstage and leading to the boxes. lights.000 dancing children on stage for the opening number. but they were coming together. a symphony orchestra. Each outlined box holds a class from one of the schools.

and chaperones from Michael’s school. they were a crew of leaping. teachers. (We went into overtime. but so what!) —Jacques D’Amboise Author of Teaching the Magic of Dance. I ran over to discover the source of the problem: Michael and his classmates. as close to the audience as he could get. Jacques! Oh. He had ignored everything and led the group from his school right up front. and Founder of the National Dance Institute . it’s so good! I am so happy!” I backed off. mouth open. stunned into silence. “You’re in the wrong place! Back up! Back up!” Michael—with his eyes blazing. yelling. The spirit of dance had taken over Michael and his classmates. I sat down in the first row of the audience and was joined by several of the supervisors. There was a big pileup on stage left and children were colliding into each other and bunching up behind some obstacle. I rushed up to them. winner of an Academy Award for He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’. and legs and arms spinning in dance movements like an eggbeater—yelled out. but blocking some 600 other dancers trying to get through.Foreword 11 After about a minute. Inspiring his dancing buddies. I realized something was wrong. contorting demons—dancing up a storm. No one danced better or with more passion in the whole show that night and with Michael leading the way—the JOY OF DANCE was at work. our mouths open in wonder. I am so happy! I am so happy! Thank you. “Oh.

.

as colored lights projected from her own small electric dynamo played across her swirling figure. The effect was magical. butterflies. one had to enter the vine-carved entrance of the little Art Nouveau theater. In order to see Fuller herself dance.1 —Isadora Duncan When visitors to the Paris Exposition of 1900 crowded into the Palais de Danse to gape at exotic Egyptian belly dancers or Turkish whirling dervishes. Moving in a blur of scarves and draperies. Using electricity. and her audiences gasped and cheered. as well as some Yankee ingenuity. they did so in a building crowned by a statue of American dancer Loie Fuller. Fuller transformed herself into flowers. Le Théâtre de la Loie Fuller. which was dedicated to presenting “La Loie” (as she was known in France) and her protégées. and fire. which she manipulated with sticks. the most advanced technology of her time. Fuller turned her dancing form into a living abstraction. 13 .The Precursors 1 My art is just an effort to express the truth of my being in gesture and movement.

added their own fuel to the early flames. and nothing else seemed to hold more promise for the future in 1900. Individually and separately. Eventually. Quite unexpectedly. La Loie literally stumbled into her dance innovation. later moving from Chicago to New York. breathing spark of electricity. nor did they call their art “modern dance. Of course. Two other dancers. These American women. The oldest of the three dancers. the only two concert forms of dance acceptable at the beginning of the twentieth century. for what they performed on stage could not have been more different from the other. they did not set out to do any such thing. she found that moving her garments in this way . Fuller was one of the sparks that lit the fire we call modern dance.” All these three women wanted to do was to express themselves as dancers in a highly personal way. while rehearsing for a play. Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. each performing independently of the other. Fuller was born in Illinois in 1862. allowing her the practical accomplishment of being able to lift the fabric off the floor and thus avoid falling down on stage. Their dancing was connected only by their will to experiment. Denis. Loie Fuller’s whirling form was not new simply because her dance symbolized the larger scientific interests of her era. were its precursors. but hers was not a typical Midwestern childhood. each following a self-determined method of dancing. she was a dancer as radically different and as fueled by new energies as the industrial accomplishments on view at the exposition. she cleverly placed sticks under her skirt. when their careers flourished. In 1890. Nothing was newer than harnessed electric power. She performed on stages as a child actress and grew up in theater.14 MoDERN DANCE LoIe fuLLer: A spArk of energy No one could identify what Fuller was doing. More than an exotic oddity performing at a world’s fair. She seemed to be the embodiment of the progress that the exhibition was celebrating—a living. she kept tripping over the voluminous material of her costume. they rejected ballet or theatrical show dancing. although artists and writers across Europe tried to capture her in motion.

This poster for the Folies Bergère. . created by famed poster artist Jules Chéret.The Precursors 15 American dancer Loie Fuller thrilled audiences in France during the Paris Exposition in 1900. promotes Fuller’s talents for an upcoming performance at the Parisian music hall.

the living expression of artistic ideas sweeping Paris and the world. for it certainly represented no high artistic aspiration.16 MODERN DANCE glamorously extended the movement of her own body and captivated the audience. Beyond that. whiplash curve. is “New Art” emphasized line. A Parisian critic noted that when Fuller danced. she was “sculptured by the air. Fuller perfected her dance illusion touring across the United States. perhaps adding some acrobatics. . Egyptian. swelled and contracted . At best. e ripple of fabric that she sent into the air seemed to mimic the sinuous decorative-art movement known as Art Nouveau of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Europeans. It is likely that the then-titillating glimpses of petticoats and even an ankle now and then are what gave the form popularity. ere were no ballet companies in the United States at that time. appropriately enough. nor any schools of professional dance. Stage dancing usually meant showgirls performing largely self-taught kicks and turns. especially eurythmics. Artists employed these curving forms for everything from the famous Paris Metro signs to posters. and at its worst degenerated into pretentious calisthenics programs.”2 . Settling in Paris. curving lines were considered to be organic and therefore re ecting nature. or whatever suited her. recalling the uid lines of Art Nouveau designers. and she became a xture at the famous extravaganza the Folies Bergère.” e dancer would swing and li her skirts. Artists and writers saw her transform herself into abstract patterns moving on stage. the cloth rose and fell. saw her as something more than a touring oddity. personal expression in movement usually referred to complicated physicalculture theories. and the arabesque. this system taught gymnastics through response to music. Oriental. Skirt dancing at least provided an outlet for the would-be dance experimenters who used the form in innovative ways. Fuller found herself celebrated as an artist. on the other hand. Loie became the toast of the Parisian art community long before she triumphed at the Paris Exposition. . a system of harmonious body movements rst put forward by Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (better known as “Dalcroze”). Shi ing one’s skirts around on stage was an actual genre of dance at that time and was called. “skirt dancing. Its long. and call it Greek. where her e ects were admired as good entertainment.

famous for his Art Nouveau-in uenced posters of the Paris nightlife establishments he frequented. Even the great sculptor Rodin—whose own work. celebrated the human body—was interested in sculpting Fuller. all the magic of Merlin. had whirled them round . . only tiny feet under the soaring abstraction reveal this as a woman dancing. . Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote of seeing her: 5 When Loie Fuller’s Chinese dancers enwound A shining web. When she died. shining orchids. a oating ribbon of cloth It seemed that a dragon of air Had fallen among dancers. to a wavering.The Precursors 17 e Post-Impressionist artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Other artists tried to capture Fuller’s magic. portrayed Fuller in a lithograph. e skirt dance was about to disappear. she looks like a huge cloud oating in space. such as his famous sculpture e inke . her magic largely died with her. . Duncan said of seeing Loie perform.”3 Both Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. and at length to a spiral-like lily. Fuller’s art was too uniquely her own to survive without her constant attention. they admired her nonetheless. including sculptor Pierre Roche. Yet. (continues on page 21) . Denis would be burdened with this characterization before they banished it forever. Upon rst glance. colour. e respect she gained as an innovator created an artistic climate where other innovators could ourish. What an extraordinary genius. exotic ower. he did call her “a woman of genius. owing form. whose small bronzes made Fuller look like a beautiful. owing sea ower. r Although nothing came of this. Although Fuller’s extravagant performance was quite far removed from their own emotionally and spiritually conceived dances. “Before our very eyes she turned to many coloured.”4 Although she founded a school and staged group productions. Fuller’s high theatricality and her submergence of self in costume and light to create a movement e ect opened up new areas of theater to dancers. the sorcery of light. Denis saw Fuller perform at the Paris Exposition. but Duncan and St.

Like athletes. In 1982. The dancer leaps and is “caught” at the top of his leap just as each round of the strobe light goes off. Thus the audience only sees him as he repeatedly and quickly appears in the air. and then the stage goes dark briefly.18 MoDERN DANCE Dance as IllusIon When Loie Fuller twirled her long scarves and costumes while colored lights rippled over her. and it also means that the dancer must be on the count so that when the light goes on he is at the top of his leap. all dance is an illusion. He performs on a dark stage with a strobe light that hits different parts of the stage every few seconds. skilled dancers are physically able to demonstrate to an audience the range of possibilities contained within our own human form. This means the strobe light has been programmed to go off at a certain spot at a certain time. David Parsons created a solo for himself called Caught. Caught remains a spectacular performance piece. Yet. To this day. At a very deep level. Loie was not interested in demonstrating her athletic skills. she wanted to create something beautiful out of movement. and then at the end—thump. he lands. As he circles the stage. a dazzling tour de force . fabric. and technology. she wasn’t just introducing new movement ideas using emerging technology— she was creating an illusion. he gives the appearance of flying. which in her case meant a small electric dynamo projecting colored lights onto her costumes. After all. many other dancerchoreographers have used fabric and technology to create dance illusions. none of the rest of us can dance on our toes or leap across a stage and land in a perfect position. In the more than 100 years since La Loie created this innovation. Over time. sitting on air. other choreographers have used the same formula.

the Quebec dance group La La La Human Steps features continuously changing black and white nature photographs that extend the illustration of the dances. Fabric continues to be a useful stage device for dancers. Loie’s small electric dynamo started it all. Perhaps the greatest of Alvin Ailey’s dance works is his Revelations. . with the introduction of synthesized music and computerized sound tracks. Then she would drape them herself. With simple backlighting. Creating the illusion of water on stage with this simple device has been used many times but rarely as effectively. as well. Technology has changed music accompaniment. Denis in the Denishawn dance troupe.The Precursors 19 showing what movement and technology can do in the computer era. The dancers holding parasols over their heads daintily step over each rippling wave to reach the safe shore. performed to African-American gospel music. tricots. personally selecting stretch fabrics. in which long pieces of fabric stretched across the stage are rippled and rolled like water. and elasticized synthetics. she wrapped herself totally in a jersey tube so that all an audience saw were the shapes made by her body moving inside this tube. a table. Children use this same technique when they make shadow images with their hands. One of the show-stopping segments of this work is Wade in the Waters. No choreographer took more interest in the fabric used to costume and set the scene for her work than Martha Graham. the dancers bodies twine together in a way that can create the illusion of a plant. She actually picked out specific fabric for each of her works. or even a giraffe. a skill she learned from her days with famed dancer Ruth St. It is a rare dance company in the twenty-first century that does not use computerized backdrop images. Pilobolus is a dance company that chooses illusion as its primary choreographic device. For Amjad. For her solo Lamentation. It remains a masterpiece.

Duncan admired Loie Fuller and. Isadora Duncan was one of the founders of modern dance.20 MoDERN DANCE Pictured here posing for a studio portrait. was praised throughout Europe. like her predecessor. .

Seeking to express pure emotion through movement. saying later that she began dancing in her mother’s womb. As a teenager accompanied by her family. There were no positions to learn or steps to memorize. Seeking a more appreciative audience. Duncan focused on the idea of becoming a serious concert dancer while using her own style of movement. But Duncan wanted recognition as an artist. although his admiration included unwanted amorous advances. Encouraged to dance by her artistic mother. I followed my fantasy and improvised.”7 Early in her life. however.”6 For Duncan. She too became world famous and was then known simply by her first name. but she felt these positions were not true to her theory of dancing. She was forced to take her serious. She certainly had complete confidence in her own intuitive movements from her earliest days. Duncan and her . the fundamental notion of the Duncan style. she and her siblings would teach neighborhood children to dance. This is. and Duncan avoided special lighting or stage effects. Duncan turned inward. nothing accidental about Duncan’s dancing or her career. not as a parlor entertainer. where she was politely applauded. Duncan was a lonely child. The dancer needs to go into his or her very center and produce a pure movement in response to specific feeling. “We called it a new system of dancing but in reality there was no system. As a teenager. Without much difficulty. she went first to Chicago and then on to New York looking for work as a dancer. introspective solo dances into society ladies’ salons. in fact. There was.” she said. “is just an effort to express the truth of my being in gesture and movement. she found jobs in musical revues.The Precursors 21 (continued from page 17) IsAdorA dunCAn: MoveMent CoMes froM eMotIon Isadora Duncan’s story was in some ways similar to Fuller’s. growing up in a family that was socially shunned because of her father’s financial troubles and her parents’ subsequent divorce. movement sprang out of emotion. Said Duncan of her earliest instruction. Duncan looked for a place where she could perform. “My art. This had nothing to do with technique. She also was admired by Rodin.

Duncan had a dramatic and unhappy life. She became a passionate feminist as a result of seeing her mother struggle to support her family while being scorned for her divorce. This. Her pleasure in her children was short-lived as they drowned in a freakish automobile accident in Paris in 1913. when the car plunged into . however. When Duncan had two children of her own. and the two dancers admired each other’s work. She looked—as indeed she had intended to—as though she had stepped out of an ancient fresco of dancing goddesses. Careful reconstructions of her famous dances show us nothing of the power she had individually as a performer. beautifully draped Grecian robes). as her dances were carefully crafted. Isadora Duncan must have been a sight to behold. Fuller arranged for Duncan to join a tour to Berlin.22 MoDERN DANCE accommodating family went first to London and then to Paris. “Her greatest technical contribution—her personal performance—tends to be forgotten because it cannot be copied. where. (Isadora’s more personal. particularly those of Dalcroze’s eurythmics.) So enthusiastic were the Germans about Duncan’s innovative dancing that she chose to establish her first school teaching the Isadora Duncan dance method in Berlin in 1905. She performed on bare stages in front of a simple blue backdrop to the accompaniment of highly dramatic classical music—Beethoven and Wagner being particular favorites—or in absolute silence. however. Her emotive dance was performed wearing loose tunics (and later.”8 Loie Fuller saw Duncan dance in Paris. creating a sense that the entire production was improvised. As dancer/choreographer Agnes de Mille observed. They are re-created even today by her still-dedicated followers. like Loie Fuller. Duncan was an original who really was touched by genius. emotion-based theories of dance were not strictly the same as those of Dalcroze and his followers. and she usually danced without shoes. was not true. both styles could look the same since each relied on an easily moving. The Germans in particular were taken by Duncan’s approach to dancing. In personal matters. She often paused to tell the audience her views on current events. she found great success and a new home. well-balanced body using simple gestures to express emotion. However. she chose not to marry their father. although changed and modified in any given performance. as they had embraced the movement systems popular at the time.

Tragedies and setbacks. The notion of dance as expression of inner states of being was Isadora’s gift to what became modern dance. even composing dances to be performed at Lenin’s funeral. the scarf broke her neck when the car moved forward. such as March Slav. eventually even moving to Russia. in fact—and what everyone else did was simply theatrical silliness. demonstrating that her charisma was undiminished by age. however. who was 17 years her junior. Denis looked to what she called the spirit. She intellectualized her movements while claiming they sprang from emotions. where she established yet another European dance institute in 1921 in Moscow. Duncan surprised everyone in 1922 by marrying the young Russian poet Sergey Yesenin. A bizarre automobile accident claimed her life in 1927. and her dances at that time. when she dramatically tossed a scarf around her neck as she got into a sports car. This was a very new concept indeed. She returned to France and began giving dance performances again. She considered her art to be true dance—genius. unfortunately. Born Ruth Dennis in 1879 in New Jersey. She was completely oblivious to critics who labeled her a Communist. Isadora Duncan never set out to be part of a reform movement in dance. ruth st denIs: dAnCe As A . Caught in the wheel spokes. her autobiography appeared almost immediately following her death. never affected Duncan for long.The Precursors 23 the river Seine. reflect this emotional state. Duncan defended the newly Communist Soviet Russia. however. Duncan sank into despair. Her comeback triumph did not last long. she changed her name in the early years of her . her contemporary Ruth St. Certainly no skirt dancer before her had ever made such extravagant claims. An impoverished Duncan eventually left Russia in 1924 after her school lost government support and her husband had committed suicide. She had more to tell the world. spIrItuAL pursuIt If Duncan turned to emotion as movement’s source. Admiring the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. After avoiding the convention of marriage for her entire life.

Ruth St. Denis gained notoriety while on America’s vaudeville circuit. career when she danced in musical revues.24 MoDERN DANCE Known for her portrayal of Eastern cultures in her dance. Denis. She is pictured here during a solo performance in the 1890s. She liked the sound of St. A producer called her “Saint Dennis” as a way of teasing her about her high-minded and serious approach to dance. and it was true that for .

She was so hypnotizing as she slithered off her temple pedestal to explore the temptations of the senses that it hardly mattered that her steps were a hodgepodge of ballet turns.The Precursors 25 her. While on tour in 1904. Together they became Denishawn. She eventually became receptive to the entire spectrum of spiritual thought that she associated with the Near East and Far East. . No one cared that the set was not a Jain temple or that the music by Delibes had been composed for a European opera. with the vaudeville circuit in mind. mesmerizing performer like Duncan and Fuller. Radha was her solo dance. Denis’s earliest stage appearances were in popular musical theater. he was an ideal match for St. and she actually created her first major success. Denis’s career as she singly— and eventually with a company—brought the entire world of mysticism and Oriental religious practices as she envisioned it to stages of all sizes throughout the country. acrobatics in the eurythmic tradition. Denis decided to find a male partner. St. dance was a spiritual pursuit. This formula would be reinvented throughout St. influenced by the enormous success of the ballroom dancers Irene and Vernon Castle (who were then at the height of their fame). This image so captured her imagination that she became determined to create dances in the Oriental manner—that is. In 1914. “As I see it. Spiritually a seeker as well and physically the male equal of her beauty. Denis.” she said. Denis into Oriental images directly out of nothing more authentic than her own imagination. Although she toured in Europe. she happened to see a cigarette advertisement with an image of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Radha. and poses that froze the lovely St.”9 Like Fuller and Duncan before her. He was a handsome man with a physique that people compared to that of a Greek god. St. “the deepest lack of Western cultures is any true workable system for teaching a process of integration between soul and body. a Western notion of Eastern cultures that was more romanticized than authentic. and she portrayed a Hindu temple idol. Denis was a beautiful. But she was more interested in the performing tension between male and female partners than ballroom dance. a former divinity student. who had trained in ballet for therapeutic reasons. She selected Ted Shawn. St. Denis’s professional life unfolded in the United States. but she was less fussy about where she danced. St.

They were innovators who were not uncomfortable creating institutions that would secure a place for modern dance in theater arts. Fuller and Duncan had been worshipped during their lifetimes. and eventually created one of the most important dance festivals in the world. . but only St. Denis and Shawn created more than a dance company— they started a dance school.26 MoDERN DANCE Denishawn shifts the story of modern dance away from the precursors. Denis lived long enough to hear herself called the mother of modern dance. St. brought men into dance innovation.

. St. Denis wanted a male dance partner. Denis tended to see these possibilities as spiritual directions. neither could have imagined the dance legacy their union would produce. At the time. and Shawn. If the introspective St. The two shared long-term dreams of a school and dance communities that would be centered on utopian ideals. Denis10 When Ruth St. Denis married Ted Shawn in 1914. the symbol and language for communicating spiritual truth. wanted to learn from her.Denishawn 2 Dance . Denis’s spiritual approach to dance. the ever-practical Shawn started to implement them almost at once. Almost immediately. they began a conversation about such goals. 27 . it seemed a straightforward partnership of two attractive dancers who both needed something the other had to give. who had long admired St. . —Ruth St.

the realist. at more than six feet tall. Denis. 1914. worshipped by dancers while he was tolerated as their equal. the 1915 opening of the Ruth St.11 Others were less unkind. St. By the next year. sought after while he was passed by. For St.”12 In any event. Denis” until 1921. It stuck.28 MoDERN DANCE A new sChooL of Modern dAnCe Billed as “Ruth St. assisted by Ted Shawn. made a noble consort. Jane Sherman. But she was not his guru. Agnes de Mille. observed much later: He [Shawn] refers to her as though she were his guru. envied only as having special and unfair advantages. Denis. Not long after they had started working together and just as World War I was declared. Denis’s perfect complement or someone who used her to further his own ambition. St. the school was a place of final repose in a lifetime of touring. Denis was 36 and Shawn was just 23. Romantic as the combined name sounds. Denis and Shawn began touring. the dreamer. Denis School of Dancing on a wooded hilltop in Los Angeles was a major milestone—not just in the lives of these two dancers but also in the history of American dance. Prematurely white-haired. she was a genuine star while he was a pretender. St. with Hilda Beyer” (his dance partner at that time). observed more mildly that. the name was changed to the Denishawn School. famous while he was unknown. although the company that began with their partnership would continue to be billed as “Ruth St. were often at odds. Depending on the observer’s point of view. St. there was a tension between the couple from the start. a member of the Denishawn troupe who worked closely with the two for years. what he had were genuine ambitions. Denis was a regal figure. thus officially acknowledging the joint nature of their endeavors. Shawn either was St. she was his middle-aged wife. The name Denishawn was actually not of their design but rather the result of an enterprising theater owner’s promotion. the great dancer/choreographer who knew both dancers. In short. Denis. providing . he the organization and teaching drive. and Shawn. they married on August 13. and Shawn. “[s]he supplied the glamour and inspiration. She was also a woman of genuine convictions.

She had been dancing professionally long before . however. Denis (bottom) pose in costumes for a performance of a dance entitled Xochitl. her a base from which to practice and reaffirm her spiritual beliefs. She had limited interest in teaching. and focused her energies primarily on performance.Denishawn 29 Ted Shawn (top) and Ruth St.

such as the young women of Denishawn dashing down the school’s suburban street in bathing suits trying to retrieve the resident peacock.” and he helped show future generations that it was possible to financially support their creative concert work on a foundation of teaching and touring. When she mounted her full-length Egypta with a cast of 50 in 1910. Every incident. was no small gift from a young husband to a revered older wife. the dancers were hired for the tour. at least as it was known in the West at that time. although she instructed on facial expressions and gestures. the ecstasy of an instant’s communication with a divine being. However.”13 If Shawn’s drive brought the school into being. Shawn made it possible for his charismatic wife to become universally known and admired as “Miss Ruth. it was St. Denis’s repertory had expanded to Egyptian and Japanese themes. the establishment of a school with facilities for training dancers. meditation. the school’s prosperous neighbors. The seminars provided a heady infusion of breathing exercises. as well as for creating and storing sets and costumes. beautifully performed. The Los Angeles facility was joined later by the addition of a major Denishawn center in New York City and countless branches across the United States. Denis did not teach dance. To this island of serene introspection and emotive movement . where spiritual goals would be pursued in partnership with performing. managed to be reported in the newspaper. The school managed to advertise itself as something of a finishing school. found the undertaking dangerously arty. Thus. and the elaborate costumes and sets of this dance-theater piece had to be created for ease in transport. Shawn and a small teaching staff introduced students to a variety of Oriental dances as well as ballet and general movement exercises. based primarily on the Delsarte method of “natural” movement theory. which attracted the daughters and sons of the middle class. the harmony of rituals. and even Christian Science practices. It would be a place where Miss Ruth could hold seminars on Oriental mysticism and religion. Denis’s vision that kept Denishawn set on a course of high purpose. residing in secluded and beautifully landscaped homes nearby. The huge success of this “Indian” dance propelled her into years of touring in vaudeville and performing in private engagements. when she was 27 years old. Hindu philosophy. St. she used dancers on an as-needed basis to fill out larger dances. The goal of the school was “the eternal quest for truth.30 MoDERN DANCE achieving real success in 1906’s Radha. As St.

One other key figure in the history of modern dance was also in the group. To most Americans. while others became members of the Denishawn touring company. and in her case.”15 At about the same time. The impact of this quartet lay in the future. nor did they feel that their artistic integrity was in any way threatened. the first of the three visionary dancers. Nebraska. vaudeville was universally accepted in the United States as a variety show that could .Denishawn 31 high in the Los Angeles hills came dancers from all over. for the next 15 years. Small theaters across the United States were built by enterprising owners who created chains. saying to her. vaudeville simply meant a variety show presented in a theater. The only truly respectable stage for dance was at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. Three of them would eventually split away from Denishawn to form their own companies—thus actually beginning modern dance as we know it. Martha Graham. Louis Horst was Denishawn’s musical director from 1915 to 1925 and would go on to accompany. and collaborate with succeeding generations of modern-dance innovators. But by the 1880s. They did not despise the vaudeville circuit as Duncan and Fuller had. St. entered the school in spite of Miss Ruth’s initial impression that she was “totally hopeless”14 and the fact that Graham was considered to be short. while others were individually owned. The Spread of Denishawn Unlike Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan. Denis and Shawn were interested in finding an audience in the United States. Miss Ruth approved. and untrained. dumpy. Some stayed for a session or two and drifted away. In 1916. their lives would be intertwined with Denishawn. Doris Humphrey arrived from Chicago in 1917 with the goal of simply teaching dance. The term vaudeville comes from the French term vaux-de-ville. “You should dance. in the second summer of the school’s existence. Charles Weidman arrived from Lincoln. used in France as early as the eighteenth century to describe a theatrical entertainment with a variety of acts. but opportunities there were very limited and mostly restricted to ballet dancers filling out crowd scenes in opera productions. they took the company to the small towns and burgeoning cities of the 48 states. compose for. where he had seen Denishawn on tour. To do this. and their personal visions would be submerged in its high exoticism.

” St. the company’s productions became grander. and just about any stage novelty imaginable. Denis could also leave the tedious task of bookings or arranging tour logistics to the impresario hiring her troupe. his own full-company choreography was performed. to Yogi. and later.” which St. at Worth’s Family Theater and Museum in New York. Denis solos. So. Each of these was a short work that could be interspersed throughout a program with other acts. Ruth St. just one of her many dance meditations based on Eastern religious practices. Denis described as “the scientific translation into bodily action of the rhythmic. Through the years.32 MoDERN DANCE consist of dancers. melodic. When motion pictures first became popular. An opportunity to work on a large scale came to Denishawn in 1916 in the form of an invitation to perform at the Greek Theatre of the University of California at Berkeley. singers. St. which were also on view. going from one theater to another as a featured act of a theater chain did not seem all that terrible. augmented continually by dancers training at its own school. vaudeville acts often preceded or followed the film presentation. in which her arms became serpents. acrobats. she danced six times a day on a program of variety acts in a setting that was shared with displays of pickled animal freaks and between lectures on historical relics. which might be anything from her famous cobras. Each program included several St. Denishawn was the first dance company so honored. a love story between a highborn Indian beauty and a fisherman. St. Denis had first presented Radha. Shawn began to be showcased in solo work as well. Denis and Shawn began performing in new works that showcased their combined talent in duets ranging from ballroom dance to mystical and exotic creations such as The Garden of Kama. denIshAwn tAkes off As the Denishawn company grew in size. Here. For almost 80 years. The program also included fullcompany dances and usually one or two short “musical visualizations. and harmonious structure of musical composition. vaudeville provided the average American access to entertainment and culture. comedians. Denis used the entire school to create a dance pageant . St. Denis readily said that Isadora Duncan had inspired her to approach music in this way. animal acts. the dance that made her famous.

But to me debt loomed as a greater moral defeat than any hypothetical loss of prestige. Its individual dances. Shawn’s head was shaved and he wore a loincloth. the Ganges. “This contingency always disturbed Ted more than it did me. As St. Denis’s mesmerizing ability to suggest character and thought in movement. and Indian styles.Denishawn 33 of Egyptian. Greek.” She mused happily over the long hours of rehearsal with trunks of costumes open in the sunshine and the pleasant sounds of hammering going on backstage. and harvesting. and although both dancers were more than 60 years old at the time it was filmed. In Toilers. Denis used almost 100 dancers from the Berkeley summer session. In addition to the Denishawn students. such as Toilers in the Soil. “He sometimes questioned whether this means of freeing ourselves from debt was worth the loss in artistic prestige. An actual river of water created along a broad walk at the front of the stage successively represented the Nile. planting. would enter into the permanent Denishawn repertory. We could have been in a Greek theater in the ancient land. and. Denis’s dream of recapturing the spirit of ancient performance was nearly realized in the Berkeley commission. including having the students dye and stencil cloth as well as sew some of the 450 costumes. Denis and Shawn’s most enduring dance duets. she said. This dance is one of the very few to survive on film. appeared first in the Egyptian section. One of St. the only real answer to this problem was vaudeville. Denis was draped in a shapeless. The . which he believed accompanied a two-a-day. The pageant was later performed at the Panama California Exposition in San Diego. “The experience of these rehearsals is among the high points of my career. St. as is St.”16 Each of the pageant sections portrayed daily life and spiritual pursuits of the three selected civilizations of Egypt. She had felt then as though “the antique world hovered in the radiant sunshine. while St. as well as in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. and India. the pageant left Denishawn in debt. Denis said. the Styx. All the while. Later in life. St. Shawn’s balletic training and poise still is apparent. the pair moved in profile like hieroglyphic figures as they went about their daily tasks of plowing. sacklike garment. visitors strolled by watching the preparations. Greece. Although a huge artistic success. where sets and props were being constructed.” she said. finally.”17 One other avenue of popular work supported Denishawn: the burgeoning movie industry that was then taking root in Los Angeles. Toilers of the Soil.

paid the bills. St. With America’s entrance into World War I and Shawn’s enlistment in the United States Army Ambulance Corps.W. Brooks (center) is pictured in the late 1920s. the troupe spent the rest of that year and much of 1917 performing on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit.W. . Touring. including Julianne Johnston. would become a dancer/choreographer) and D. Denis toured vaudeville on her own once again. who starred with Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Baghdad. however. herself a film icon. Agnes de Mille.34 MoDERN DANCE sumptuous. Griffith actually required his actresses to attend Denishawn classes to learn how to convey emotion through movement. Both virtually invented the screen epic with films such as The Ten Commandments and The Birth of a Nation. Following the pageant’s success in 1916. calling on Denishawn students to appear in it. D. When the war ended and Shawn returned. St. During this time. was also a prominent member of the Denishawn dance troupe. de Mille (whose niece. Silent-screen great Louise Brooks. Denis choreographed a Babylonian dance for Griffith’s huge film Intolerance. Griffith. who appeared in 17 silent films during her acting career. epic nature of Denishawn found its counterpart in the silent movies then being produced by Cecil B. Shawn himself Movie star Louise Brooks. Many Denishawn dancers and students ended up in motion pictures. was also a Denishawn dancer. Denishawn was promptly out touring the Pantages vaudeville circuit in 1919.

which one former dancer described as “uninspiring. The troupe returned home exhausted. a family. even with its high-art aspirations. was bursting with new ideas for the company.Denishawn 35 began experimenting as a choreographer. something vehemently denied at a time . denIshAwn unrAveLs By then. ever full of energy. He took the exploration of American Indian myth and tradition as his personal territory in such dances as Xochitl. Denis’s relationship was strained by this as well. Denis wanted time to reflect and to recoup. They visited eight countries. Year after year. including Japan. taking their Western imitations of Eastern religion and myth to the source itself. resisting the notion of an ordinary domestic life. but Shawn. vaudeville’s greatest stage. and there were rumors that Shawn’s were with other men. which gave Martha Graham her first star turn as a feisty Toltec maiden. He also was a fervent pioneer in the effort to lure men back to serious dance after a long period during which dancing was considered—especially in the United States—to be something that only women did.”18 It was not uncommon for Denishawn. high-art dance. and a home. St. the troupe felt wearied. Meanwhile. only to go back on the road immediately. spending 40 weeks in 1927 and 1928 touring with the Ziegfeld Follies. Denis was never comfortable as a married woman. Both partners had flirtations with other people. and India. China. to appear on a program with comedian Fanny Brice as the next act. Shawn and St. where they were so popular that their performances were extended for a second week. the pressure of touring was taking its toll on everyone in the company. almost degrading labor. The high point of their life on the road came in 1925 and 1926 with a prestigious tour through the Orient. by the grueling demands of touring and the often makeshift environments where they performed. Shawn pushed for more control over Denishawn as well as visibility for his own dance works. with Eastern audiences more appreciative of the implied compliment than critical of any irregularities or errors in Denishawn’s vision of them. St. the dancers were on the road doing two-a-day performances on the vaudeville circuit. Drawn to Denishawn by a desire to perform serious. Denishawn even had the honor of playing New York’s Palace. The tour was a triumph. and sometimes even sullied.

While he was training these young men in dance arts. Pious New Englanders who had built the farm called it Jacob’s Pillow. Shawn brought together eight men—some of whom were physical education students at a nearby college—to create a new kind of male-based dance performance. because it suggested to them the Book of Genesis passage in which Jacob laid his head on a rock and dreamed of a ladder leading to heaven. going on to become the great founding generation of independent modern-dance artists. always returning to Jacob’s Pillow for summer performances and lectures open to the . Behind the farmhouse was a huge boulder with a sunken middle that looked like a pillow. although this came about quite accidentally. Less inevitable but perhaps even more damaging was the departure of Louis Jacob’s PIllow Dance FestIval In 1930. he also kept them in shape by using them to build the compound of structures that exist at Jacob’s Pillow to this day. Shawn summed up his own view of the situation when he wearily titled one of his books One Thousand and One Night Stands. For seven years. but others such as Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman would follow. The farm could be reached only by a windy road that locals called The Ladder. Jacob’s Pillow would become Denishawn’s gift to the dance community and longest-lasting achievement. Martha Graham was the first dancer to defect.36 MoDERN DANCE when homosexuality actually was illegal in much of the United States. In 1933. Ted Shawn bought a farm in Massachusetts to use as a retreat. Shawn and His Men Dancers (as they were called) toured worldwide. He wanted to establish a strong masculine style that would convince audiences that dance was not something for ladies only.

Denishawn 37 Horst, Denishawn’s musical director. Unlike dancers, who—at least in theory—could easily be replaced within the Denishawn system, Horst was fundamental to the acts of choreographing and producing. There were no other composer-musicians training in Denishawn workshops. Agnes de Mille called Graham’s departure “the first wound in the flesh of Denishawn,”19 saying Graham “spurned” Shawn in particular. Graham herself described her leaving more prosaically, saying,

public. Although Shawn and Ruth St. Denis were separated by this point, Miss Ruth always was invited to perform. World War II changed this pleasant routine when the Men Dancers all joined the armed forces. In need of money, Shawn leased the property to Mary Washington Ball. The next year, Shawn leased it to ballet stars Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, who staged an international dance festival that was so successful that a local group purchased Jacob’s Pillow outright to keep the summer dance festival in operation. Jacob’s Pillow now is a dance institution, annually presenting a summer program of diverse performances. Pillow Talks are given by artists before and after events and as separate gatherings. A summer school for dancers of varying skill levels offers dance training in a wide variety of styles. For example, during the summer of 2009, Rennie Harris was an instructor. Harris is a hip-hop artist who has been at the forefront of turning street movement into mainstream stage art worldwide. There is a huge dance arc between 1930s ballerina Markova and twenty-first century street-based Harris. It turned out that Jacob’s Pillow, with its friendly bell clanging to announce the theater open for seating and an eclectic mix of dancers from around the world, would be the means of keeping a spark of Denishawn’s fervent experimental spirit alive.

38 MoDERN DANCE “Denishawn was preparing for their famous tour of the Orient and we were all excited. . . . I was told I looked too Oriental and would not be a true representative of Denishawn.”20 The truth lies somewhere in between. Miss Ruth never liked Graham’s dancing, though Shawn encouraged her, even making her a teacher. Graham felt misunderstood and underutilized. She even carried around clippings that said Graham was the only Denishawn dancer to perform with passion and excitement. Each of this trio had a well-developed ego, and a split was inevitable. Denishawn sputtered to an end in the early 1930s, a victim of the economic crisis of the Great Depression, as well as of the internal strains within the company. The company had accomplished great things, touring and spreading their artistic yearnings across America. Men and women began to look at stage dance as a potentially real art form, and a generation of young people was inspired to dance. By 1932, Shawn had struck off on his own, touring with his own Company of Male Dancers. He eventually turned his farm in Massachusetts, Jacob’s Pillow, into an important summer dance festival. St. Denis returned to solo performances, usually in a religious setting. The couple parted, and although they never divorced, they lived separately for the rest of their long lives. Meanwhile, on October 28, 1928, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, along with 16 other dancers, made American dance history with the first performance by a modern-dance ensemble. This, in combination with Martha Graham’s 1926 solo concert, established the idea of modern dance as an art form based on individual movement vocabularies unrelated to the past. Almost every modern dancer performing today can trace his or her own dance lineage back to one of these three Denishawn dancers. Ruth St. Denis died in 1968, and Ted Shawn in 1972. No one had called their art “modern dance.” After Denishawn, dancers as well as painters, musicians, and authors were called modern artists. Denishawn, in its lovely Spanish mansion overlooking Los Angeles, was the cradle of a great theater movement where dancers were taught not only how to move but also to have the confidence to assume the title of artist.

The Founding Modern-Dance Generation
I feel that the essence of dance is the expression of man— the landscape of his soul. —Martha Graham21 By the late 1920s, Americans had become accustomed to the idea of “artistic” dance. Denishawn had crisscrossed the country many times as well as making itself newsworthy with its famous Orient tour. Moreover, Isadora Duncan, although reviled in her lifetime as a decadent Communist, inspired young women across the United States to seek selfexpression by putting on Greek tunics and dancing barefoot. Ballet also attracted widespread interest as Anna Pavlova toured the United States, leaving in her wake scores of would-be ballerinas, including Agnes de Mille. Meanwhile, word filtered back from Europe that Russian impressario Serge Diaghilev was presenting dazzling new productions with charismatic dancers such as Vaslav Nijinsky. The latter performed in ballets utilizing innovative collaborators, including composer Igor Stravinsky, artist Pablo Picasso, and choreographer George Balanchine. 39

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Martha Graham. Inevitably. when skirts went up. Can You Spare a Dime?” was the song on everyone’s lips. and were also inspired by it. as did Benito Mussolini in Italy. as she stated. The decision to leave Denishawn to evolve a personal way of moving might not have happened in a less supportive cultural climate. Abroad. In 1929. When she first left Denishawn. Graham left the Follies in 1925 in order. She had a long period of trial and error before entering her great era of sustained choreographic invention in her 40s. and Charles Weidman benefited from it. movie palaces appeared across the country. and Weidman were uninterested in conquering Europe or in the great reforms sweeping ballet. even a very popular one.”22 Later. The dancers who embarked on this exciting artistic journey could not know that within a few years of their first solo concerts. she had a knack for finding people who saw something special in her and were willing to lend her substantial assistance.40 MoDERN DANCE A tIMe for experIMentAtIon This general climate of curiosity about serious dance was new. It was a time of high confidence and experimentation. Adolf Hitler seized power in Germany. affluent 1920s disappeared into the fearful. Martha Graham did not immediately take to the stage and become the great lady of American modern dance. Graham. only to have .” Although Graham remained a loner all her life. “would stop the show. on my own body. and the automobile made Americans increasingly mobile. Doris Humphrey. “to create my own dances. jazz and nightclubs thrived. This happened when she had first applied at Denishawn and been turned away by Miss Ruth. the crash of the stock market precipitated a worldwide economic depression. this environment of high excitement and encouragement of the arts would disappear. and striking workers replaced the high-living flappers and their tuxedoed admirers. Humphrey. and civil war broke out in Spain. impoverished Depression era of the 1930s.” she exulted. The confident. she happily performed for two years in the Greenwich Village Follies. they sought to create movement that represented American energy. restless and unsatisfied with the life of a showgirl. “Brother. becoming something of a Broadway star where “each night one of my solos. hobos. Each dancer had come of age professionally in the exuberant post–World War I era. the change was reflected in the arts. Breadlines.

He recognized Graham’s sheer determination and decided to encourage her desire to become a better dancer. each acknowledged the role Shawn had played in Martha’s Denishawn career. Graham poses in a scene from the dance Salem Shore. There’d be no Martha Graham without me. Ted Shawn step in. however. Ruth didn’t and wouldn’t. “I trained her. circa 1943. Although the relationship between Shawn and Graham ended in disillusionment. had a .The Founding Modern-Dance Generation 41 In the mid-1920s. Martha Graham set out to create her own dances based on the principles of muscle contraction and release. Shawn went so far as to say.”23 Graham. Here.

even some of the titles of these first dances show that she was still locked into a Denishawn approach to movement and programming: Three Gopi Maidens. “is the foundation of the theater. saying. whose invention of the Kodak camera in 1888 had made him wealthy enough to turn to philanthropy. had brought in Mamoulian to direct his school of music. as most . Mamoulian surprised everyone by insisting on including a dance department. New York. focusing on a new way for the dancer to breathe that she called “a contraction and a release” (also known as contraction-release)—that is. how she danced. joined Graham at Eastman. Florentine Madonna. invited her to act as codirector of the newly established dance department at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Even today. George Eastman. Others would regard such artistic encouragement and collaboration as wonderful. not only to breathe involuntarily. Alas. “Dance. “I worshipped everything about Miss Ruth—how she walked. but also to exaggerate the sharp intake of breath and its explosive expulsion. when a Graham-trained dancer performs this torso-based movement. Graham gave her first independent dance concert in New York City at the Forty-Eighth Street Theater on April 18. and Clair de Lune. but I got stuck with Ted who really was something of a dud.”26 and Graham herself conceded her first dances were “influenced by Denishawn. Louis Horst. Miss Ruth was everything to me. Graham based her dances not on simple counts. who had spent time in Vienna after leaving Denishawn as its musical director.”25 Mamoulian had seen Graham perform on Broadway and thought her a gifted dancer with an unusual personality—and. the viewer can see the body pull back at its center and then expand outward—like being socked in the stomach. a Russian-born theatrical director. who did not have a spirit suited to working at institutions—with or without congenial colleagues—left after one year. The newspapers remarked that the work was merely “pretty” and “graceful. like himself.”27 Graham continued to experiment with movement.” he declared. but Graham. 1926—but it was not the debut that would have critics hailing her as a genius. Any of these would have been appropriate for one of Miss Ruth’s dance dramas or music visualizations.42 MoDERN DANCE different take on her Denishawn experience. Using three Eastman students.”24 Her Broadway exit came about when Rouben Mamoulian. a very idiosyncratic talent.

white jersey dress.” observed Graham. People either loved her boldness or hated it. as did ballet. she presented a solo dance called Revolt. It was definitely not a Denishawn or ballet topic. falling on it. on the other hand.The Founding Modern-Dance Generation 43 choreographers do. Used this way. “a wall of defiance that I could not break. Graham used these techniques without glamorous trappings. in her words. she danced flat-footed and with bare (and often flexed) feet. These innovations were not new—they had all been employed at Denishawn—but that company used them in the service of exoticism. challenging old conceptions of dance and facing similar opposition. . black dresses who became. and touching it. Explained Graham. When she kicked her leg in the air. She would not leap. In 1927. she presented Heretic.”31 A Breton song played and then stopped. instinctively breathing the same rhythm. Graham. and longer. She wanted technique to service her ideas rather than demonstrate dance virtuosity. but all the elements were in place by the late 1920s and early 1930s.” Graham had found her idiom. celebrated the floor and the earth—sitting on it. Graham confronted 12 women in identical long. at this moment of silence. the women in black reformed into another group. she pounced.28 Most stage-dance techniques before Graham elongated the body and moved it upward into space. fast breath quickly expelled for anger. her first concert dance for a company of dancers. “but I’d rather they disliked me than be apathetic. and from this point on. she experimented with movement that made a statement. which was about man’s injustice to man. Deliberately violating ballet’s classical technique of pointing the foot and creating a line of the leg from thigh to toe. It was not pretty. slower breath counts for quieter moods. “I was the heretic desperately trying to force myself free of the darkness of my oppressors. the audience saw a dirty foot. as Graham acknowledged: “In many ways I showed onstage what most people came to the theater to avoid.”32 She herself was a heretic in the world of dance. to be pulled emotionally into the performance as well. It was not that she deliberately wanted to antagonize audiences. she invited the audience. because that is the kiss of death.30 In 1929. Wearing a simple long. Reviewers called this work “stark” and even “ugly. but on breath counts: short.”29 It would take years for Martha Graham’s technique to mature. She did not disguise the effort that went into her movements—she sweated.

Graham’s company. Humphrey had come to Denishawn after teaching dance in Chicago. to indicate.”35 In the danger of the fall and the peace of recovery. . One of these. her glamour. delicate movements. BreAkIng AwAy froM the shAdow of denIshAwn Martha Graham was not the only former Denishawn dancer performing new work on the concert stage. nor her occasionally irritating high-handedness. . Humphrey was an exquisite dancer performing “like a nymph” in airy. their work was conceived primarily for a group to perform. would be at the forefront of the next modern-dance generation. their company. someone whose most celebrated dances made people laugh. . Doris Humphrey was much more interested in abstract questions about the nature of movement.34 Weidman was that rare performer in modern dance—a humorist and mime. light. was all-female for its first 15 years. she created and performed Lamentation. Humphrey . a solo performed seated while she stretched and moved inside a long tube of jersey material— “. Denis who saw her talent and urged her to perform. ”33 Martha Graham had found her genius. If Martha Graham wanted to explore her interior life. From the beginning. she was equally committed to developing a dance language that facilitated movement composition. “consists of the development of the process of falling away from and returning to equilibrium. “My entire technique. Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman left Denishawn far less dramatically than Graham. known as Humphrey-Weidman. to witness and test the perimeter and boundaries of grief. José Limón. the ability to stretch inside your own skin.” said Humphrey. To the end of her days. . Neither had the immense personality of Graham. and it was St.44 MoDERN DANCE The next year. “the tragedy that obsesses the body. was composed of both men and women. in contrast. leaving behind a legacy of talented dancers. She never was interested solely in creating new dances. Humphrey remained at heart a natural teacher. . in direct contrast to Graham’s earthbound fierceness. Although both Humphrey and Weidman were powerful soloists.” Graham said.

and graciously accepted awards from everyone from presidents of the United States to university presidents. She died in 1958.”36 She insisted that one did not “make up” dances. “She cared far less about production. in film.”37 One of the bylaws of dance—whether ballet or modern—is that movement should respond to music. fine-boned woman of real beauty and an unassuming nature. but rather that one composed them. choreographer. and fragile. a . written books. the most talented of the Humphrey-Weidman dancers. Martha Graham performed in one way or another until she died in 1991 at age 97. I believe. By sheer force of will. By 1944. By contrast. Agnes de Mille said of Humphrey. and in television. She had appeared on stage. pale-skinned. she was unique. She was not well known to the world at large and performed too early to be enveloped in the celebrity machine that caught up with some of the early surviving modern-dance pioneers later in the century. 1929’s Life of the Bee. an idea that is still considered very avant-garde. This is an old argument not dissimilar to the equally fierce and forgotten battles between supporters of modern dance and ballet. she had given up performing because of severe arthritis but continued working as an artistic director. she had turned herself into a beauty—a mesmerizing presence both onstage and off. An early Humphrey solo. This view influenced every serious dance artist who came in contact with her.The Founding Modern-Dance Generation 45 saw the quest for adventure and the desire for peace. given lectures. Doris Humphrey was considered Martha Graham’s equal. and even to this day. She had taught dancers. being compelled to create for the joy of the work to the very end of her life. little about recognition. In this. Doris Humphrey was a red-haired. She described the movement between the two actions as the “arc between two deaths. and nothing at all about remuneration. had her dancing to the sound of someone blowing on a tissue-covered comb mimicking the sound of a bee. some believe Humphrey was the greater artist of modern dance’s founding trio because of the methodology she set in place to compose dance. In 1931. revered by students and audiences alike. Boldly. Humphrey composed completely abstract dances to be performed in silence. Humphrey created what is still considered one of her major works: The Shakers. and teacher for José Limón.

was considered every bit as talented as her contemporary Martha Graham. opened her hands. dance for seven people that centered on Humphrey’s solo in which “with wide skirts swirling about her. Washington. Like Graham. Doris Humphrey lifted her arms. To the music of a drum. an . in 1925. Humphrey was a member of Denishawn but left the group in 1928 to form her own company with Charles Weidman. and raised a transfigured face.46 MoDERN DANCE Doris Humphrey. pictured during a performance in Seattle.

He liked to draw a movement from an everyday incident and then use it in a situation removed from the context in which it had occurred. He is the sport of the town and knows it.”39 Shawn gave him a couple months of instruction and then sent him on the road. These young experimenters set out not only to create new work. Denis came to the Orpheum Theatre in Lincoln. I just put two and two together.The Founding Modern-Dance Generation 47 accordion. Shawn capitalized on Weidman’s gifts as a mime. “Then.” he observed later. Weidman described how this dance was to be performed: “The character is a small mill-town dude. Egypt. Charles Weidman. “Ruth St. Teaching classes in their studios helped some but not much. and Greece. They were forced to consider the very problems that had plagued Denishawn: how to support themselves and their dancers while continuing to create and perform. had simply shown up at Denishawn one day after having seen the company perform in his native Nebraska. their artistic endeavors were simply marking time. No one wanted to go into Broadway revues again. with her pageant of India. and from then on I wanted to do that kind of dancing. There are no regular fixed steps: It is merely the interpretation of a story by gesture. but balanced out her cerebral and refined approach with his satirical gifts.”40 Weidman was as involved as Humphrey in creating the technique that came to be associated with the Humphrey-Weidman troupe. He had been an artistically inclined child and was headed toward a career in architecture. He is afraid of nothing on earth but the ‘skoits’! Remember to keep this spirit of bravado throughout the entire dance. Weidman survived his sinkor-swim introduction to performance and went on to create dances himself during the Denishawn years. If Humphrey was drawn to the logical. and a wordless soprano voice. Weidman was drawn to the illogical. but also to find an audience. nor did they want to tour. . In 1925. Until they could find a way to financially survive. creating amusing dances such as Danse Americaine for the Denishawn repertory. Humphrey and her dancers re-created a moment in the past for American theater. The costs of renting a theater or mounting a production were beyond most of their means.”38 Her partner. Much of his work was shaped by his own skill as a brilliant mime and comic and by his talent for finding the telling gesture. and there was my history of dancing before me.

In 1932. Humphrey. as she was always an intensely single-focused and independent personality.”41 For her part. Martha Hill originated its dance program and received permission to establish summer sessions that would bring in the great modern dance leaders. The idea was to find a way to ensure both financial support and an audience. This effort was doomed from the start. beginning first at New York University and then at Midwestern colleges. thereby addressing the most serious problems facing these dancer/choreographers’ futures. and even rent a theater for as long as a week.48 MoDERN DANCE In 1929. had not gone unnoticed.”42 The Dance Repertory Theater experiment only lasted two seasons. however. Their work. Not only would they teach. When José Limón stood in the wings watching her dance. Doris Humphrey. but they would also create their own dances and perform locally. primarily showcasing his Male Dancers troupe. Nearby. This left Graham. although the Bennington group looked down on Shawn’s work as reactionary and old-fashioned. Charles Weidman. share advertising costs. opened in 1933 as a summer festival. A young educator named Martha Hill had been “fairly hypnotized” by seeing Graham dance and even briefly became a Graham dancer before turning back to education. or Weidman—considered Tamiris to be an artist on their level. who had actually suggested this approach. Word spread throughout the nation. she asked the stage manager to tell him she “would not tolerate being watched from the wing. Graham hated collaboration of any kind. But it would be Bennington College that would become the place where modern dance would find a secure base. and Weidman right where they had been before: trying to create new dance and get it on stage while somehow supporting themselves financially. Jacob’s Pillow. None of the big three—Graham. The organizing group consisted of Martha Graham. When both Bennington College and the Jacob’s Pillow Festival were up and running. the area became the focus of avant-garde dance. . the Dance Repertory Theater was formed to pool resources and engage a single manager. Ted Shawn’s Massachusetts farm. Humphrey. And Humphrey thought Graham was “a snake. and Helen Tamiris. Humphrey and Weidman worried about being “organized to death” as they had been in Denishawn. Bennington College was founded in southern Vermont to establish an avant-garde educational program.43 Hill became a pioneer in advancing the cause of dance in colleges and universities.

Unlike Duncan. however.The Founding Modern-Dance Generation 49 German dancer and choreographer Mary Wigman was influenced by the same movement and emotion theories that served to inspire Isadora Duncan. . Wigman was not afraid to explore the ugliness that can be tied to human emotions and relationships in her dance.

Wigman gave Holm permission to change her school’s American curriculum to make it more suited to American temperament and skills. modern dance existed as a theater art. the burgeoning art form would experience a new generation of rebels. and newcomer Hanya Holm. the history of modern dance might have become a joint American and German story. students to teach. was actually German. It was the Great Depression. Germany was the only country other than the United States to develop modern dance early in the century. and production workshops. Wigman was an important innovator. Wigman was not afraid of being ugly or exploring unattractive subjects. theaters to perform in. She had come to the United States in 1931 to set up a dance studio teaching the technique of fellow German Mary Wigman. . They had freedom to work. unlike her contemporary Duncan. Humphrey. audiences to see the work—and prestige. Graham. Bringing these maverick experimental dancers into the college curriculum supported the artists in ways beyond their wildest dreams. Modern dance had come into its own by the 1940s. as well as contact with other dance genres. Her work has been associated with the emotional excesses and high drama of German Expressionist art. Soon. Instead. By the time Wigman began to perform and teach once more after World War II. and did not become an independent component of a worldwide explosion of new movement. studios. yet here they were with free theaters. Yet. Had Mary Wigman not been persecuted by the Nazis and forced to close all her dance schools.50 MoDERN DANCE The Bennington program got underway in 1934 with a faculty consisting of Graham. Hanya Holm. Humphrey. the new name among the experimenters. When Holm arrived in New York to set up a Mary Wigman school. with its distortion and heightened theatricality. Weidman. influenced by the same movement and theories on expressing emotion that had inspired Isadora Duncan. No longer a dancer’s solitary vision or a choreographer’s experiment. German Expressionist modern dance as taught by Holm at Bennington and at her studio was folded into the story of the first pioneers of American modern dance. and Weidman were celebrated artists. and Wigman. remained merely an important footnote to the main story. major innovator that she was. she found that her American students were not naturally suited to the German Expressionist approach.

—Merce Cunningham44 On the small stage of the Coolidge Theatre at the Library of Congress in Washington. 1944. and. dancing is a spiritual exercise in physical form. a phenomenally talented dancer who had portrayed the frontier preacher. she had just danced the lead role of a young bride in the premiere of her Appalachian Spring.C. It was October 30. . and . at age 50. The radiant Graham accepted the applause hand-in-hand with Erick Hawkins. what is seen is what it is. was on her other side. Merce Cunningham.. Copland’s 51 4 . It was Graham who—with funds from the Coolidge Foundation (headed by music patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge)—had commissioned composer Aaron Copeland to create the ballet’s original score. and the performance piece would become the most famous of all Graham’s dances. Her act marked the first time a major commission would be given to a modern-dance choreographer. . Martha Graham stood taking a bow. Furthermore. . .The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance . D. a 35-year-old dancer who had appeared in the stage role of her bridegroom—a role he would play later in real life.

52 MoDERN DANCE score. Appalachian Spring made it absolutely clear to the world at large that modern dance was no longer to be considered a vaudeville novelty. It had come of age as an art form. Shown here in 1944 at the age of 50. Martha Graham (left) played a featured role in the ballet Appalachian Spring. the 64-year-old Graham performs on designer Isamu Noguchi’s minimalist prairie set. The original ballet is preserved on film. produced for a 1958 public television performance. would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize. based on a Shaker hymn theme. . In it.

and ballet as a performing style that had been codified centuries earlier. The moderns could not see the way ballet had changed and how it too was in the process of a movement revolution—what the innovators saw was stagnation. but about the content of her mind and spirit. The disdain modern dancers shared for ballet was returned in full measure. these groundbreakers saw ballet dancers as trapped in an established movement system based on fixed positions of the body. and Charles Weidman) largely responsible for this remarkable theatrical accomplishment would find themselves considered out-of-date. Many of the earliest innovators of modern dance were women. they rejected movements they saw as tied to an aristocratic past. too. many of them students of these modern-dance pioneers. The “historic” first modern-dance generation wanted to establish itself as uniquely American. within a few years of the Appalachian Spring premiere. Ballet performers and audiences alike thought all the moderns’ grand. mythic statements and high-purposed intentions were simply smoke screens covering up the latters’ inability to dance. If modern-dance innovators shared any single view. it was that they were not doing ballet.The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance 53 A new generAtIon tAkes the stAge Yet. was about to change. these individuals wanted to be taken seriously and to erase lingering associations of experimental dance with vaudeville and show business. Every generation of ballet choreographers and dancers gave ballet a new look. No one had questioned whether or not . taking its subjects from the social and intellectual concerns of the era. but it was true that they did not change the basic steps and positions. Dancers from Isadora Duncan to Martha Graham had had the extra burden of proving that a woman could construct a dance that was not about the shape of her legs. From their vantage point. Young dancers. feet and arms. more democratic time. began to look for new subjects to draw upon as they explored ideas of how to artistically move bodies in different ways. the trio of dancer/choreographers (Martha Graham. Above all. Modern-dance choreographers wanted to create new ways of moving suited to their own. Doris Humphrey. but this. They wanted to move freely.

The modern-dance revolution did not happen immediately. Still. Although Graham. The José Limón Dance Company still exists. retired from performing in 1945. Limón ensured the continuation of Humphrey’s dance theories and dance works. however. Charles Weidman established a studio and a small company of his own at the time Humphrey-Weidman dissolved. Martha Graham did not retire from performing until 1969. as he incorporated Humphrey’s dances into the repertoire of his newly emerging troupe. José Limón. He was still living in a room off his rehearsal space and giving Sunday afternoon dance programs when he died in 1975. Humphrey. went on to found an experimental company of his own in 1946. One of Weidman’s most famous students was Bob Fosse. and Hanya Holm was an important instructor at the Bennington College Dance Festival. staging such works as Chicago and the movie version of Cabaret. as her hip pain became unbearable. Humphrey did not stop working with dance. and Weidman are the recognized pioneers responsible for founding modern dance. when she was 75 years old. By doing this. took the unique step of asking Doris Humphrey if she would act as an artistic director along with himself. The apparent sexism reflected as much as anything the lack of esteem that dance was given as a theater art. It still performs Doris Humphrey’s work along with Limón’s in an unbroken line that exists nowhere else in modern dance. they were not the only modern dancers working in the 1930s and into the 1940s. The troupe’s most talented dancer. she stayed on stage. usually sitting in a chair and wearing flowing garments as she introduced her company’s performance.54 MoDERN DANCE a woman should dance. the choreographer who took Weidman’s wit and humor and added the sharp edge of jazz dance to became one of America’s most important Broadway and Hollywood choreographers. among their contemporaries. Doris Humphrey. Both women created serious dances reflecting the social concerns of their . finally. Even then. although her retirement did bring to an end the Humphrey-Weidman Group. As previously discussed. was forced to stop performing. She had struggled for years with near-crippling arthritis and. although its founder died in 1972. The Mexican-born Limón. Helen Tamaris had organized the Dance Repertory Theatre experiment. a dancer/choreographer of great presence.

as well as Fosse. Tamaris is chiefly remembered today as a Tony award–winning choreographer for the musical Touch and Go and even more so for her work in Annie Get Your Gun. would find their lasting fame choreographing for Broadway. the José Limón Dance Company. however. times. funded Tamiris’s How Long Brethren? in 1937. would go on to form his own dance group. both Tamaris and Holm. Ironically. and her Negro Spirituals is still considered an innovation. Yet. Limón (left). pictured leaping in mid-air with Charles Weidman in 1939. Tamiris is particularly remembered as one of the first dancer/choreographers to turn to African-American material. in 1946. organized in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration as part of the effort to combat the devastating unemployment caused by the Great Depression. It was the first dance in the United States to be created with public funding. .The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance 55 One of the Humphrey-Weidman troupe’s most talented dancers was Mexican-born José Limón. who moved to New York City in 1928. The Federal Dance Project. This was not one dance but a series created through the years 1929 to 1942 using African-American themes and music.

(Horton’s most important student. centered and still. Japanese. made this style his own. Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus. and Camelot. while bent-elbowed arms moved in the air like wings. Black dance was more than an occasional theme for modern dance. and she typically presented exciting and glamorous movement and dazzling costumes representing black culture. These two women anthropologist-performers brought black movement out of the specialty revue or nightclub to the concert stage. and white dancers. Horton developed his own technique that centered on an unmoving torso with asymmetrical movements of the arms and legs. Ailey’s troupe drew together and leaned their torsos into space. was that his dance company was the first fully integrated company in the United States. depicted life on Martinique. which she composed while in charge of the workshop group at Bennington College. . however. were presenting the genuine article—based on field research they had undertaken in Africa and the Caribbean—to wildly enthusiastic audiences of every color. He established the first theater in the United States devoted solely to dance. had the very topical theme of a society being destroyed by false values. Alvin Ailey. including Alwin Nikolais. and 1937’s Trend. In 1941 she established a summer dance institute at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. whose work would relight the flame of German Expressionism in American modern dance. suggesting flight or escape. too. also supported by the Federal Dance Project. Primus did this as well. L’Ag’ya. Holm. drawing on African-American. found her greatest recognition on Broadway as choreographer for Kiss Me Kate (for which she received the New York Drama Critics Award). In Los Angeles. His most important legacy. two black women who both held doctorates in anthropology.) Through the years Horton had tried everything from designing outdoor pageants to choreographing nightclub acts and working on movie musicals. but also focused on grimmer visions of African-American life. and she left a legacy of many outstanding students. Lester Horton—a man with wide-ranging interests in dance experimentation and a particular fascination with Native American culture—formed a dance company in 1932. Alvin Ailey being foremost. Dunham’s first important work. My Fair Lady. however—it was a thriving dance category of its own.56 MoDERN DANCE Holm remained an important teacher as well as choreographer. Mexican-American. Horton dancers. In dance after dance.

The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance 57 carried more than good dancing into the next generation. Performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music. While still dancing with Graham. that he created simple dances. particularly for his role as the preacher in Appalachian Spring and for his fantastic high leaps as March in Graham’s ode to Emily Dickinson. His dances had no subject. he added that the effect of hearing Cage’s “odd timbres” with Cunningham’s “dancing has an effect of extreme elegance in isolation. The dance simply exists. or psychological meaning. Merce Cunningham was still throwing everything up in the air by making new dance compositions and leading company class. That does not mean. When not dancing character roles with Graham.”45 Born in 1919 and still working up until the time he died in July 2009. At age 90. The first joint performance by Cunningham and Cage was given at the Humphrey-Weidman Studio on 16th Street in 1944. In Martha Graham’s company. on April 16. Letter to the World. New York Herald Tribune critic Edwin Denby said of this performance. To celebrate the occasion of his 90th birthday. Since their order was undetermined until the actual performance. Cunningham never stopped devising movement that derived its value from what is done in the moment. whom he had met in Seattle during his dance student years. His interest in both chance and indeterminacy led to complex dance compositions. It was like creating a puzzle in which every piece must fit but which was never assembled in the same way. because each movement phrase had been set by the choreographer. such technical finish. this work was created in . such originality of dance material”. biographical. 2009. and no historical. at a particular performance. had been singled out repeatedly for praise. He used chance to decide. however. Cunningham began working in creative partnership with avant-garde composer John Cage. often by a flip of a coin or drawing a number. Merce Cunningham. It was not the same thing as improvisation. Cunningham premiered a full evening composition entitled Nearly Ninety. he was experimenting with movement that would be only about dancing. which movement sequence would follow which and who would dance it. The elements thus came together at the performance. an extremely talented male dancer. they had to be able to fit together once the cards were thrown into the air. “I have never seen a first recital that combined such taste. they brought a color-blind eye to what they did and who did it.

together with his more ingratiating qualities. Dance critic Joan Acocella wrote in The New Yorker about the event: For his anti-classicism and his anti-lyricism. former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. and mixed-media sound composer Takehisa Kosugi. Cunningham is pictured here at the premiere of Appalachian Spring in 1944. collaboration with the legendary indie rock group Sonic Youth. but he would go on to become one of the most influential choreographers in modern dance during a career that spanned more than 50 years.58 MoDERN DANCE Merce Cunningham won acclaim for his role as the preacher in Appalachian Spring. notably the cleanness and intensity of his .

and more than 50 years later. he will always be recognized as the foremost representative of high modernism—the Joyce-Pound-Beckett kind—in the history of modern dance. no corps. Seemingly. and no repeating movement patterns to guide the viewer’s eye. his are regarded as the most avant-garde work. This is as close to total abstraction as anyone has ever come in sustained movement. with Jackson Pollock painting by dribbling color onto a canvas. They exist as movement and tend to either fascinate or repel by that element alone. On opening night. Cunningham essentially did the same thing by mixing his dance elements somewhat by chance at the performance moment.” he corrected them. Cunningham’s contemporary Alwin Nikolais had been a Bennington dance student who had gone on to become Hanya Holm’s assistant . “Curve and tilt. and Cunningham came out onstage in a wheelchair.The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance 59 dances. Cunningham decided the best way to reach young dancers worldwide was to put his company class online. Ironically. there was a little ceremony after the show. Cunningham was still Cunningham. and as a creator of beauty and meaning on their level. as are the sets and costumes designed by important visual artists. Cunningham died only three months after his triumph with Nearly Ninety. In the 1950s at the height of Abstract Expressionism. and an embarrassed smile. “but not fast. this was how this great dance figure would have wanted to leave the world stage. The dances Cunningham created had no inherent dramatic value. wearing a black velvet jacket. John Cage’s music is created on its own without reference to anything the choreographer is doing. They could see his teaching technique and learn from his instruction. This was—and is—so radical and demanding that audiences routinely walk out of his performances. This gave anyone with access to a computer the opportunity to see and take class with one of the greatest of modern-dance masters. There is no one point of reference in a Cunningham dance—no central couple. Cunningham acknowledged his age by sitting down to give instruction but knew exactly what and how he wanted his company to move. black sneakers.46 Completely comfortable with twenty-first century technology. Even the center of the stage is not necessarily the focus of attention.” he instructed.

In his real job. But on his own.” although none of his dances had a plot. such as that of Hercules in Alcestis. Anonymous dancers stretched inside jersey tubes or between elastic tapes while colors changed and light shifted in focus and intensity. who had used masks and wigs to distort her appearance. . be imprinted with whirling patterns. creating what looked like kinetic sculpture pieces. “I wanted man to identify with things other than himself. Nikolais’s 1953 work Masks. costumes. he wanted to help both dancers and the audience look beyond the personal. he demonstrated his lineage through Holm to German Expressionist dance and its great figure Mary Wigman. Nikolais experimented with lights. He called what he did “dance theater. and Mobiles was not even considered by many critics to be a dance at all. who was still dancing in her sixties. saying. He danced in Merce Cunningham’s troupe before moving on to Martha Graham’s company. because all the performers wore costumes that disguised or hid their bodies. Taylor trained at Juilliard and the Martha Graham School in New York while assisting artist Robert Rauschenberg and decorating store windows at night. Props.60 MoDERN DANCE before devising his own dance abstractions. Nikolais. of which he was a member for seven years. Nikolais was not interested in developing dances exploring the human psyche. In one section. they were enclosed in cloth bags that they moved and manipulated from within.” critics often did not know quite what to make of what he was doing. color. had become interested in going into dance when he saw Mary Wigman perform in one of her three tours of the United States in the early 1930s. Everything on stage—the movements. disappear. in fact. .”47 Choreographer Paul Taylor is an important transitional figure between the modern-dance pioneers and the free-floating world of modern dance today. metamorphose. and music—all came out of Nikolais’s imagination. in her highly dramatic Clytemnestra or in roles that required a more imposing stature. In his high theatricality. His choreographic work was like a painting creating itself in front of the audience’s eyes. Taylor was making . Because Nikolais so often made what were called “dances of sorcery or carnival in which the dancers may be engulfed by an entranced landscape light . Taylor was partnering Graham herself. and costumes to transform the entire stage space into moving abstractions that engulfed the dancers.

Taylor—wearing a business suit Paul Taylor performed in the companies of Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham and went on to form his own dance group. He was interested in the way people walked. He expanded the idea and thought that if dance could be broadened to include everyday moves. Taylor is pictured with Bettie De Jong and Renee Kimball in 1964. Taylor used studio showcases to try out ideas. the Paul Taylor Dance Company. sat. in 1954. perhaps its accompaniment could. . as Graham sometimes did. too. Thus. the most ordinary movements of everyday life. Taylor was experimenting with movement that had absolutely nothing to do with Greek myths. he began exploring movement without using set dance steps. in which neither he nor his accompanist moved for the duration of John Cage’s Non Score. including Duet. In the same showcase. and ran—in other words.The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance 61 a name for himself as someone at the forefront of a very different kind of dance.

An escalating Vietnam War and universal draft provoked anti-war activities across the country. reviewed Taylor’s Seven New Dances (which included Duet and Epic) for Dance Observer with four inches of blank space and his initials “L. Taylor’s 1975 work Esplanade sent his company walking. and campaigns for voting rights. unlike the 1930s and 1940s. the United States lurched from one internal upheaval to another. They . the civil rights movement exploded under the leadership of Dr. jumping. Proto-Pop artist Robert Rauschenberg designed the set for this piece. When Dr. marches. he did not become frozen in the experiments of one era. Martin Luther King with sit-ins. although he did occasionally slip some of his earlier experimental ideas into his later work. when social upheaval inspired the arts and shaped the look of modern dance. but they went further than these men. beginning with the assassination of President John F. King Jr.H.” neatly printed at the bottom. At the same time. Taylor learned to trust his own instinctive love of movement. riots erupted. long Graham’s musical associate and an important composer in his own right. Martha Graham shook her finger at Taylor and called him a “naughty boy. going from anti-dance and avant-garde to creating plotless dances of great joyous—and even athletic—movement performed to classical and popular music. and repeatedly falling to Bach in a glorious burst of lyric dance where ordinary movement became balletic. running. and Nikolais. Twenty years after his Epic exploration. the post-Modern dAnCe generAtIon During the 1960s. sliding.62 MoDERN DANCE and carrying a briefcase—walked back and forth across the stage as the sound of a telephone’s recorded time announcement played in a piece called Epic. Kennedy. Louis Horst. No one walked out of that performance. Yet. was assassinated in 1968.”48 Eventually. and critics described the beauty of merging these unlikely movements with such sublime music. Taylor. the sheer violence and personal disaffection of the 1960s seemed to push artists away from examining these massive problems and further into abstraction. The new choreographers of the 1960s were inspired by Cunningham. As a dancer/choreographer.

and Twyla Tharp. no to glamour and transcendency of the star image. he fell off them. and to depersonalize their work without using masks or costumes. and eager to see if walking. and taking lessons in dance composition at the Cunningham studio. they dismissed ballet. in which dancers stationed on rooftops relayed movements that were passed along from rooftop to rooftop while observers stood on sidewalks far below.The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance 63 wanted to be as abstract as Cunningham without his complex organization. These young experimenters were uninterested in historic modern dance with its allusions to myth and psychology. no to the anti-heroic. and no organization. no to seductions of spectator by the wiles of the performer. it included Trisha Brown. talented. Meredith Monk. At one time or another during that decade. stated: No to spectacle. Audiences regularly walked out on Judson Church performances. using the studio space at the church. no to involvement of performer or spectator. . David Gordon dropped his trousers and spat during his 1966 solo work Walks and Digressions and was roundly booed. Judson Dance was never a self-conscious movement. no to trash imagery. Gordon explored chairs—he sat on them. They tested the very notion of theatrical dance with pieces such as Trisha Brown’s 1971 Roof Piece. Laura Dean. no to moving or being moved. created by dancer Yvonne Rainer. to push Taylor’s experiments with ordinary movement as far as they could go. People came and went throughout the 1960s. no to eccentricity. watching each other’s work. Did a dance have to happen on a stage? What if a musician danced? The Judson manifesto. no to camp. Simone Forti. no to style. no to transformations and magic and make-believe. or even falling might be dance. running. Equally. no to virtuosity. but others took their place. but there was a manifesto. no to the heroic. considering its classical technique to be constraining. no rules. Lucinda Childs. There were no dues. These dancers were all young. as this loose collection of dancers was known—got its name almost 15 years after they had been presenting individual movement experimentation at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square in Greenwich Village. The Judson Dance Theatre—or Judson Group. In a continuing series of work.

but he challenged and ignited their imaginations as well. At a recent gallery performance entitled So the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing. “Dancers think like this. whose creations resonated with her own abstract movement experimentation. “I don’t think people do. she seems content to direct her dancers while continuing her own personal exploration of the visual arts. Trisha Brown.” In her seventies. Brown began to pull back from the rigorous physical activity. Brown positioned live dancers on the gallery walls . had a major opening in New York City.64 MoDERN DANCE he tipped them over.” she told The New York Times. This time the opening was a show of her visual art at the Chelsea gallery Sikkema Jenkins & Co. As a choreographer. This. one of the key figures of the Judson Dance Theater movement. She remains committed to choreography based on ordinary movement and the element of surprise. Occasionally. Brown preferred to get on her hands and knees and sketch the lines and placement of the dancers. although she did not stop working. she often collaborated with avant-garde artist Robert Rauschenberg. 2009. As a working method for her choreography. Through the years this major modern-dance figure had often shown drawings and sketches in group exhibitions. and tried just about anything imaginable with a chair. she performs with her nine-member dance troupe. however. tRIsha bRown: the lonGevIty oF JuDson Dance theateR On May 9. Increasingly. was her first major solo show. He maddened people.

many of the early experimenters had created and asked visitors to lie on the gallery floor and contemplate the ceiling. This enormous hit used Billy Joel’s music and is still being presented across the country. 1. . David Gordon is a member of Actor’s Studio and has worked as a theatrical director at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. 1. the solo was typical of Brown’s innovative ways of transforming dance. Worse. and mountain climbing gear for support. and other regional companies. 1. including 2002’s Movin’ Out. Massachusetts. This is the same experimenter who in the 1970s designed a series she called “equipment pieces. these dance artists changed the way we think about stage movement. Other Judson dancers have remained active in a variety of ways.The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance 65 These dancers became the first of the Post-Modern dance generation. Tharp and Brown have also choreographed and staged operas. choreographed in 1972.3. Primary Accumulation. Historic modern dance no longer looked new—its movement solutions were dated. In her ability to keep creatively active. yet constructed to be safe. Brown also created a solo called Man Walking Down the Side of a Building. pulleys.4 and on to the full count. consists of 30 movements accumulated thus: 1. In their youth.2.3. She constructed a series of dances based on mathematical systems of accumulation. Twyla Tharp choreographed two Broadway musicals.2. Belgium. For example. and they are still finding new ways to push the artistic envelope.” Walking on the Wall presented dancers literally walking down vertical walls using ropes. Brown reflects the astounding endurance of the Judson School.2. Terrifying to watch. Lucinda Childs directed the opera Zaide at the opera house in Brussels. the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge.

He wanted to reveal and celebrate the black experience in America. Here.66 MoDERN DANCE techniques full of rules and requirements almost as severe as those of ballet. Alvin Ailey had formed an African-American modern dance troupe in the early 1950s after the death of his mentor. wear whatever they prefer. move with or without music. Because of what happened at Judson Church. Lester Horton. While the Post-Modern movement was underway. and collaborate with anyone— from painters to videographers. members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater rehearse a scene in Revelations. Alvin Ailey formed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. The high theatricality of Alwin Nikolais merged into the intense and intellectually demanding experiments of Merce Cunningham. The group opened up opportunities for African-American dancers to perform modern dance but also served to promote the black experience in America. Ailey not only sought to showcase his own choreography but also to provide creative employment for African-American dancers and choreographers. This was not anthropological re-creation of traditional In 1958. . and were then transformed by the ordinary moves Paul Taylor explored into dance of unlimited possibility. another dance revolution was taking place. Ailey’s most famous work. Post-Modern dancers today feel free to move in any way they choose.

” they permanently took their place in the history of dance. Revelations. Throughout the 1960s. black and white alike. audiences stood with tears in their eyes. historic sense of using movement to portray ideas and social viewpoints on the concert stage. It was the right dance for the right time. As his proud dancers. The battle to establish modern dance as an American art form was over. Merce Cunningham was awarded a National Medal of Arts. Modern dance was acknowledged. Ailey premiered what would become his company’s bestknown work. went “Wading in the Water.The Reformers and Post-Modern Dance 67 black dance or even theatrical versions of them. In 1960. Martha Graham. . received a Presidential Medal of Freedom. this would be modern dance in the purest. in which dancers performed to black spirituals. for one. There really was only one last wall to be brought down—that between modern dance and ballet. and France gave him the Legion d’Honneur. Ailey’s masterpiece manages to be both a statement about oppression and yet an explosion of joy. to applaud this pure expression of the hunger of the era to face down and destroy the evils of segregation and bigotry. parasols lifted over their heads. and its choreographers became cultural heroes. Instead.

the work could be. artistic director and founding genius of New York City Ballet. a moment of respect. and ballet’s great twentieth-century innovator. reached a hand across the divide between classical ballet and modern dance. George Balanchine. and how these results would look danced one after the other. but an opportunity for the choreographers. It was not a contest or even a challenge.” —Twyla Tharp49 It was the first time that ballet and modern dance were presented on the same stage. and the audience to see just how profoundly different. He invited Martha Graham to cochoreograph a two-part work called Episodes with him. 68 . The two dances would give the audience a glimpse of how two artists working in different dance traditions used the same music.5 Fusion How do you make a dance? My answer is simple. It was a symbolic white flag. The year was 1959. “Put yourself in motion. Using the same music. their dancers. in the ongoing war between the modern and classical camps. or alike. they would each choreograph a dance.

Fusion 69

the endurIng MArthA grAhAM
Balanchine picked the music of Anton von Webern, a composer whose music was experimental and somewhat atonal. The composer used a broken melodic line and odd combinations of instruments, and made extremely brief compositions. A Webern symphony movement was often less than two minutes long. Balanchine’s particular genius was for choreographing to the internal structure of music. He liked turning the mathematics of modern music into figures on stage. Graham also used modern music, but the composers she worked with most successfully, such as Aaron Copland in Appalachian Spring, gave her enough melodic line to use music as a way to shape characters and establish mood. She was not interested in making dances that looked like a geometry equation. She wanted emotion and high drama. Having risen to the challenge of performing back-to-back and face-to-face with New York City Ballet at City Center, Graham accepted Balanchine’s music choice. At 65 years of age, Graham was theoretically long past her dancing days. However, she could not give it up. Nothing in Graham’s life mattered more to her than performing. Famously she had said, “The center of the stage is where I am.”50 Her highly dramatic approach to movement, with spectacular twisting falls to the ground and deep body contractions expressing yearning, were synonymous in most people’s minds with modern dance. Balanchine’s great contribution to classical ballet was to transform it into a sleek, abstract movement form we now call neoclassical ballet. He sometimes used stories and traditional sets and costumes, but only occasionally. The pure Balanchine style, with its high leg extensions, intricate footwork, and speed performed by dancers wearing black practice leotards, was as foreign to nineteenth-century classical ballet in its way as the Graham style. Graham decided to base her dance on the historic standoff between Queen Elizabeth I of England and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. She staged it as a tennis match between the two, wherein Graham danced the role of Mary. She selected New York City Ballet dancer Sallie Wilson to perform the part of Queen Elizabeth, and two other male ballet dancers to hold up banners. Similarly, Balanchine asked that Paul Taylor—then

70 MoDERN DANCE dancing in the Graham company to great acclaim—perform a variation in his section. This was the extent of actual performance interaction between the modern camp and the ballet citadel. The opening performance, on May 14, 1959, was a personal triumph for Graham. The audience spontaneously rose as soon as she appeared onstage. No one who saw Graham dance in her last years forgot the sheer force of personality on stage. She dominated stage space, obscuring both her age and limited physical abilities. Sixty-five years old or not, Graham’s Mary was a commanding presence, and, at least in this danced version, Wilson’s Elizabeth—a slight, much younger woman—was at a severe disadvantage. Although Graham’s feet were crippled with arthritis and she could barely stand or walk, she danced magnificently. George Balanchine wisely stayed backstage and let Martha take the bows. The critics weighed in with reviews that tended to favor whichever of the two geniuses they most admired. Those who disliked Balanchine saw his section as “inhuman” and “perverse.” Graham’s critics saw her section as “melodramatic” and “the same old steps.”51 Episodes was just that—an episode—and not the beginning of any true relationship between the two figures who as much as any were making the United States the world capital of dance. Within a short time, Episodes would appear a quaint event. The 1960s were unfolding, and Balanchine was headed into his years of acknowledged greatness, when his work would come to dominate ballet. More important for modern dance, though, the Judson choreographers were beginning the experiments that would lead to yet another refocusing of modern dance. The emerging Post-Modernists would superficially appear the least likely candidates to bridge the gap between modern and ballet. What could be less balletic than dancing in sneakers or climbing a fire escape and calling it a dance?

the versAtILe twyLA thArp
Yet, once again, modern dance was about to be jolted by someone trained from within. A Judson Dance Theater member from California named Twyla Tharp would introduce the first real artistic interchange between modern dance and ballet.

Fusion 71 When Twyla Tharp arrived in New York City in 1961 as a midyear transfer student at Barnard College, her major was art history, but her real interest was dance. As a child, she had studied ballet, tap, violin, and baton twirling with a self-imposed schedule of school, lessons, and practice that began at 6 a.m. with “Put practice clothes on” and ended more than 15 hours later at 9:30 p.m. with “Eat supper, get ready for bed.”52 As a young adult in New York City, Tharp’s willpower remained as ferocious as ever. She combined lessons in ballet and every form of modern dance, offering classes with her college studies. She fell in love with Balanchine’s work and would have studied at his School of American Ballet, but, as she wrote, “Fortunately his school was closed to the general public; had I been allowed access to

After arriving in New York City in 1961, Twyla Tharp immersed herself in dance. Tharp, who is pictured in 1975 rehearsing with an American Ballet Theatre dancer, has choreographed dances for many other dance troupes, including the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Royal Ballet, and the Joffrey Ballet.

Her 1966 Re-Moves was a four-section work performed in silence. magic. transformations. that there would be no audience. rapid changes of direction. “I was worried.”57 Her choreography compacted “innumerable slivers of movement. and then. It involved the dancers moving around a large plywood box. an innovative ballet director whose small troupe survived on an eclectic repertoire of twentieth-century ballets and newly commissioned dances.” She resisted the Judson manifesto.”55 She finished her Barnard degree but skipped graduation in order to go on tour with Taylor’s company. . I probably would have signed up for life and never developed my own idiom. that even if there was one. they emerged. Tharp focused on Paul Taylor and simply kept hanging around his studio until he put her in his company. virtuosity. they would hate what we did. This was Robert Joffrey. and second. and continued for five years instructing the dancers in her performances not to bow because. working in the Judson Church gym. philosophically it was different. Tharp was accumulating an encyclopedic knowledge of different dance techniques and found the possibility of making out of “this swirling kaleidoscope of choices .”58 In 1973. and make-believe—“would become my yeses. working . Her first works were presented at Judson as well.”56 Tharp herself saw Re-Moves as representing the bleakness of the Vietnam War era during which it was constructed. innovator Tharp happily accepted a commission from Robert Joffrey to create a new work for his Joffrey Ballet. with ballet and modern greats performing cautiously and separately on the same stage space. . she explained.”53 Her classes ranged from ballet to Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham and even the Broadway jazz style of Bob Fosse. saying that all the Judson no’s—to spectacle. but not to take a bow. Tharp was polishing an inclusive dance style that called for “trigger-quick shifts of weight from toe-toheel. in the final section.”54 Still an undergraduate at Barnard. a kind of a dance no one else could do. This would be no Episodes. Even in works as challenging as this. It was not long before Tharp began working on her own experimental dances. the dancers sat inside the box. Tharp had declared that the audience was superfluous.72 MoDERN DANCE Balanchine. first. After a long period of silence. Taylor described her as “a little person with enormous magnetism and push—a brash but lovable Munchkin. but although her work looked like other products at Judson.

but they were making it happen for the Joffrey Ballet. Tharp would use some members of her own company (Twyla Tharp Dance). and modern steps. . The backdrop was long paper rolls of original graffiti art. The troupe survived by touring. Working with the Joffrey had its drawbacks though. Deuce Coupe. ballet. challenging and developing techniques and traditions . In a very interesting moment in dance and theater history. and eight months later in 1974. she presented As Time Goes By. more established ballet companies. Deuce Coupe was such a phenomenal success that Robert Joffrey quickly signed up Tharp to create another dance for his company. The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) had recently hired Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. While the main body of the dance spilled across the stage with both Tharp and Joffrey dancers doing Tharp’s quick changes between boogaloo.Fusion 73 with Twyla Tharp. loud music.”60 The Joffrey successes were not ignored by the larger. The result. imaginative choreographer who had made her name as a revolutionary who was well-grounded in ballet. but my collaboration with the Joffrey marked the first time ever that a modern company performed in a ballet. These dancers were magnificent talents. Baryshnikov was the latest in a series of spectacular ballet dancers who had fled from the Soviet’s superb but highly institutionalized and confining ballet tradition. and they became cultural heroes in the Cold War-era standoff between the democracies of the . Tharp thought she had made “well crafted dance(s). who had defected from the Soviet Union the summer of 1974. methodically assuming many of the traditional positions of ballet. and novelty is what brought audiences to see it. The Tharp pieces were huge novelties to audiences not used to ballet companies dancing to popular music or performing modern dance steps. ballet visually intersected the modern dance realm. danced to Haydn. . .”59 It was a critical and box-office hit. Tharp herself noted: “In 1959. and “sexy people. a very flexible. . Balanchine and Graham had shared a program . jazz. Rudolf Nureyev’s defection to the West in 1961 had been the first. and he had electrified the ballet world and inspired a stream of other Soviet trained dancers to flee as well. a solitary ballerina moved across the stage. was set to the Beach Boys’ pop songs that Tharp had grown up with in California. ” but found the audiences were responding to bright lights.

perhaps the greatest. to ever perform. He was in love with American culture.74 MoDERN DANCE Mikhail Baryshnikov rehearses the Twyla Tharp ballet Push Comes to Shove at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles in 1979. however. Here was a dancer being called one of the greatest. had not defected so that he could perform the same dances as those in the Russian repertory. and experimentation of all kind. West and the totalitarian Communist system of the East. When American Ballet Theatre approached Tharp about making a dance for Baryshnikov. but also to applaud their personal courage as well. modern dance. “Are you going to do a ballet for Baryshnikov? You’ve got to be nuts. The . They drew people to dance not simply to see their extraordinary abilities. she was initially hesitant. Alvin Ailey said to her. You’ll be eaten alive.”61 Baryshnikov.

tap.”62 One of the most intriguing partnerships in dance was born in that instant. but also jazz and ragtime and pure Tharp nonsense. ballet. . the West of Me . was Aleksandr Pushkin. stringing jazz. He suddenly interrupted what he was doing to turn a cartwheel and do a somersault. Push Comes to Shove. It was Baryshnikov himself who had suggested the Tharp commission after seeing what she had done for the Joffrey Ballet. 1976. Dancing to ragtime and Haydn. . He settled the question once and for all when Tharp came to watch him during an ABT rehearsal.” he said. Denis had been familiar with ballet technique and freely used ballet poses or turns in their work. then too I knew it would please Misha: the name of the great Kirov instructor. “Take me. What Tharp did differently was to blend steps together. Essentially Twyla Tharp threw all the cards up in the air.”63 The dance premiered on January 9. Push really had come to shove in the dance world. Ballet dancers often danced in less formal classical works. She was not the first choreographer to shuffle steps from different dance techniques into one dance. A rolling modern Tharp torso shifted up into an airborne ballet jeté (leap in ballet in which one leg is extended forward and the other backward) and landed with the turned-in bent knees of jazz. “I promise I’ll never be boring or predictable.” It was an astonishing success and established a partnership between Baryshnikov and Tharp that would be both personal and professional. . . the East of Misha [Baryshnikov’s nickname]. She picked the name because it suggested the “juxtapositions in the ballet: the old classical forms of ballet versus jazz and its own classicism. There was no signal she was changing from modern to ballet. She was not simply a modern choreographer who worked in ballet—she was a choreographer who . is only one of many examples. The dance Tharp made for Baryshnikov. womanizing rogue.Fusion 75 dancer he most admired was Fred Astaire. jazzy ballet of three sailors on leave in New York City. catching and using those that suited her. Jerome Robbins’s 1944 Fancy Free. landing literally at Tharp’s feet. and modern in one movement phrase. one of the greatest male dancers of all time was transformed into a “bowler-hatted. responsible for Misha’s development . a breezy. Modern choreographers as early as Ruth St. was a mingling of everything imaginable—not just ballet and modern.

Yet. whether it understood the fine points of dance technique or a choreographer’s philosophy. Audiences found that watching David Parsons appear to fly through the air as he danced in flickering strobe lights was thrilling enough. By the late 1970s. American modern dance spread overseas. Ballet commentators worried that ballet was not producing enough of its own new choreographers and was relying too much on the modernists. including the Netherlands Dance Theater in The Hague and the . An audience for dance was developing. Push Comes to Shove was a defining moment in dance. Endless discussions have continued as to whether modern dancers or classical ballet dancers are better trained. Modern-dance purists scolded Tharp for abandoning her earlier experiments to work in “mainstream” ballet and theater. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) established a dance touring program that sent smaller modern companies touring across the United States to perform in theaters and at universities. one that was able to enjoy it as theater art. jazz. This was not vaudeville or a sequestered college summer session. and its effects are felt even now. so that it did not matter whether they knew Parsons had danced with Paul Taylor’s troupe and represented a line of modern dance tracing right back to Martha Graham. experIMentAtIon In Modern dAnCe This late 1970s experimentation was the beginning of what has come to be called the dance boom or dance explosion. having established audiences for their work across the country. and ballroom seamlessly. the sharp divide between modern dance and ballet began to disappear. modern. companies continued to tour. more than 30 years later. Even when the dance touring program was cut back in the 1980s. where important companies. this did not mean that everyone was happy.76 MoDERN DANCE threaded together steps from tap. ballet. Whether the audience started to come to dance performances to see a “novelty” dance or see a famous Russian or even out of simple curiosity turned out not to matter.

. which specialized in contorting themselves into odd body sculptures onstage. commissioned Gordon to do a work for the company. Students at Dartmouth College put together a funny. and Manelich Minniefee perform as part of the troupe. Crowsnest. then the American Ballet Theatre’s artistic director. an imaginative and athletic professional dance troupe. colleges and universities across the country included dance programs in their curriculum. In 1985—almost 25 years after David Gordon was making bizarre dances falling off chairs at Judson Church—Baryshnikov.Fusion 77 Frankfurt Ballet in Germany. Pilobolus is still prominent today. Jeffrey Huang. and BodyVox. Andrew Herro. ISO. and Mountain. In Gordon’s dance Field. Dance companies sprang up in the wake of the coursework and with the chance to see the professionals on tour. it is not necessary or even intended. Named for a genus of fungi. Chair. athletic. students at Dartmouth College founded Pilobolus. Four more dance companies can claim descent from Pilobolus: Momix. have flourished with American dancers as artistic directors and choreographers. Meanwhile. and professional troupe called Pilobolus. In 1971. If it is possible to see the Nikolais multimedia dance theater tradition in their work. Here.

living in Seattle did not prevent him from becoming familiar with companies such as Paul Taylor’s. Judson dancer Steve Paxton experimented with a system of contact improvisation. resides in the trust the dancers must have in each other and how quickly they must respond. and. Because Morris was growing up in the era of the NEA dance touring program.78 MoDERN DANCE the ballet dancers carried around folding chairs that they opened and then arranged in ballet corps patterns. his flamenco teacher directed him to ballet. twisting to follow the current of movement and play with the tug of gravity. needing to be caught or braced by the partner. added a stint with the Koleda Folk Ensemble. hypercurious young man busy. it is more like an art sport. Then he became infatuated with Balkan folk dances and music.”64 Probably no dancer/choreographer gives a better picture of the state of modern dance in the early twenty-first century than Mark Morris. he had trained and was interested in performing everything. Morris was just a little boy in Seattle. This child loved to dance. He absorbed movement like a sponge. and for anyone watching. Morris was born in 1956. The partners constantly touch as “the inevitable result of leaning. That is exactly what he did. a semiprofessional Balkan folk-dance company. By the time he was 14 years old. he insisted on taking flamenco lessons. By the time Morris began dancing professionally. He . Because the dancers slide and fall. while the Judson dancers were beginning their experiments. “Contact improv” started in dance studios and has entered into dance curriculum and is even performed as concert dance. and when he saw José Greco’s Spanish dance troupe. and a Post-Modern ensemble (Laura Dean). or Martha Graham’s. where partners reacted to each other as the other moved. In the 1960s. sliding. a modern dance company (Lar Lubovitch). The dancers clambered up on the chairs and danced on them. which visited regularly. Totally abstract and experimental choreography continues as well. especially loving the funky Deuce Coupe by Tharp. as a teenager. In order to keep this hypertalented. Morris himself was teaching Spanish dance. The Joffrey Ballet spent long weeks every summer in residence in the Seattle area. The tension for the dancers. and his life mirrors the dance explosion. It is almost like a game. and Morris haunted their performances. Washington. He performed in a ballet troupe (Eliot Feld).

Gregarious. Morris fit in anywhere. he quickly became noted as a choreographer who also was a music connoisseur. it was held in Merce Cunningham’s studio. It was created and first presented at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. making him a very unlikely candidate for a dancer. and phenomenally talented. he physically managed to be a uniquely Post-Modern dancer as well. When the mysterious family friend Drosselmeier arrives.I. The traditional mock battle between the mice and the toy soldiers becomes a contest between big. which is his version of ballet’s Christmas classic The Nutcracker. When Morris came onstage.” both men and women—wearing fluffy white tutus and hats that look like the swirled tops of Dairy Queen ice cream cones—dance. and sunglasses. Morris set the Christmas party not in a lovely nineteenth-century European mansion but in an ordinary 1960s American living room with white vinyl couches and a white plastic Christmas tree. Twyla Tharp. Then he would move and viewers saw that he was—in his own way—as elegant as Baryshnikov. . Instead. In other words. Belgium. he brings robots and a life-sized Barbie. Since he openly relished everything from Romanian folk songs to Schubert. and they all toss snowflakes merrily in the air. ankle bells. which is a part of his stage persona. when Morris was its dance artistic director. funny. As a performer. The generous resources of Belgium’s national opera house were put at his disposal to create a sumptuous anti-Nutcracker. He is large—in fact. He plays with spoofs on cross-dressing. Morris is openly gay in a very flamboyant way. he is a huge. barrel-chested man.Fusion 79 even worked with the outsized talent who started this whole wide-open dance scene. Morris was the living exemplar of the almost unlimited possibilities of Post-Modern dance. The partygoers wear bell-bottomed pants and hot-colored minidresses. even costuming some of his male dancers in fluffy ballerina tutus but always in the context of the dance. In 1991. In the “Waltz of the Snowflakes. he does not present the heroine with toy soldiers and a dancing doll to entertain her. Morris choreographed The Hard Nut. when she choreographed the film Hair in 1979. it was like seeing a preposterous hippo in dance shoes. hairy rats that fight G. Joes. wearing slinky veils. Morris himself danced the Arabian variation at the opening. When his own company (the Mark Morris Dance Group) had its first performance in 1980. He was not a modern dancer who wanted to dance in silence or pick his music by chance.

Some have the high drama of Martha Graham. or see how it would work to add in hip-hop or Balinese moves. hip-hop. funny. and bluegrass. Others seek the high plateau of Merce Cunningham’s cerebral experimentation. modern dance reflects the American spirit. Known for his flamboyance and humor. in Berkeley. and it shows no sign of going away. which debuted in 1991. in 2007. Here. Like jazz. There will be more of these original choreographers in the twentyfirst century—stubborn yet talented people who will insist on working in their own unique ways.80 MoDERN DANCE One of the most prominent choreographers on the modern-dance scene today is Mark Morris. The Hard Nut is outrageous. and extravagantly inventive. It is a history of individual artists. much of it was born here. and innovation. each an intriguing personality. Still others want to soar across stage like Paul Taylor. ingenuity. the Snowflakes dance during a performance of The Hard Nut at Zellerbach Hall. Modern dance’s story is one of expanding inclusion and equality. Morris’s first big hit was The Hard Nut. There undoubtedly will be a manifesto issued now and then. . This is how modern dance works—it is always personal art. It now plays annually in New York as an alternative to the better known traditional versions. In its exuberance. California.

If you notice. He wasn’t just interested in moving. While modern and ballet choreographers were adding in vernacular moves to their choreography. a lot of rap. and Juliet remaining offstage. he wanted to change things. they started companies of their own and began staging full evening performances using their own idiosyncratic movement vocabulary. which includes a little Shakespeare. These loose-jointed and athletic moves to propulsive sound. What started as the fusion of different dance forms into mainstream modern and ballet companies transformed seamlessly into a profusion of new dance companies. No longer content to provide intriguing accents to someone else’s main stage work. Harris founded his company. No one personifies the way contemporary dance has expanded its boundaries more than Rennie Harris. He wanted respect for the hip-hop movement and musical forms that shaped his own talent. Harris explains: We did a modernization of the text utilizing the language of hiphop—the rapper’s poetry. using their natural or ethnic dance styles—began constructing dances they intended to be performed on stage as well as in the neighborhood or community center. calling it Rome and Jewels. In 1992. who grew up in North Philadelphia learning street dance moves and listening to the boom boom beat of the music. That’s called signifying. rappers speak in rhythm. whether instrumental or vocal. He staged his own version of Romeo and Juliet. They speak indirectly and behind things.Fusion 81 Beyond fusIon: pop CuLture goes MAInstreAM Fusion brought one more significant change to what we call main stage contemporary dance. Puremovement. They switch words around or change their inflection. which changes the meanings of the words. which performs full evening stage events across the United States and Europe with all movement and sound being hip-hop. Slaves created a way of talking to each other so that white people wouldn’t understand what they were . vernacular performers—ordinary people. working in totally different ways than the main stage dance troupes. They take English language that stems from slave culture. came to be called hip-hop.

Riverdance announced it was sending three troupes into the world to perform in every theater where they have performed in their 15-year history. and hoedown in the musical . and seeing a dancer’s legs go one way while his torso flips off in an opposite direction. Riverdance has spawned a host of smaller traditional dance troupes. This is not unlike the nineteenth-century ballet era. It had the same grammatical structure as many traditional African languages. But because America is a big melting pot. Agnes de Mille used American folk dance.65 Audiences now are used to dreadlock hair styles. square dance.82 MoDERN DANCE saying. dancers spinning around stage on one hand. It was announced that at the tour’s completion the company disbanded permanently. The happy peasants dancing in Giselle or Swan Lake were a similar innovation in their own era. important choreographers were turning to lower class. and amusing. Even ballet choreographers look to hip-hop for movement inspiration. pretty. Professors and scholars have written about this. a sweet obedient child brought up in the theater and the court. We’ve carried our language rhythms with us over time. until recently. and had their vulgarities removed so that kings and courtiers might find them acceptable for both performing and viewing. Trey McIntyre and Matthew Neenan are just two ballet choreographers who seamlessly twine hiphop moves with ballet. no one wants to accept the fact that people hold on to their original language or aspects of it. and told to be young. Since its beginnings in 1994. when folk dances were included in ballet productions staged in European opera houses for a mostly upper-class audience. as inspiration in creating mainstage theater.”66 In the 1940s and 1950s. “The dance has been. The Irish dance troupe Riverdance is an example of the happy villagers taking their tradition of Irish step dancing (rapidly moving feet. entirely ingénue. an erect upper body) and turning it into a full evening performance for their own cultural benefit. Steps and whole dances were borrowed for this infant from the lower classes (who were really inventive). Doris Humphrey wrote in 1959. although none of them have achieved the worldwide success of the original. In 2009. even criminal class movement. tap (which began as a street performance form).

Oklahoma and her ballet Rodeo. has toured a version of Swan Lake entitled Amjad. La La Human Steps. Here. When Jerome Robbins choreographed the 1957 musical West Side Story. a Montreal-based troupe. Riverdance has become one of the most popular dance shows in the world. Like Harris’s work. Edward Lock’s choreography has both men and women dancing en pointe as swans. There are no longer any obedient children in dance. dancers perform in Berlin in September 2007. and Tchaikovsky’s famous score is transformed and “punked up” by one of the most inventive music composers of the day. David Lang. . drew its inspiration from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—the story involved two opposing gangs in New York City. Twenty-firstcentury choreographers and dance companies revere its founders while constantly seeking new and inventive ways to stretch its skills and confound the audience. like Harris’s Rome and Jewels. an Arabic word that means either a male or a female. which. This is not strictly modern dance because the company dances en pointe. Robbins was using the movement of dance to convey the menace and violence of big-city gangs.Fusion 83 Having first performed in 1994. but it clearly isn’t classical ballet either.

but he owes a good deal to Ted Shawn. Rennie Harris follows in Agnes de Mille’s footsteps. choreographers have created work that is based on personal experience. . as well as to an all-male dance troupe called Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo. while dressed in tutus and performing en pointe.84 MoDERN DANCE Are all dance innovators either modern-dance choreographers or ballet choreographers? At this point in time. opinionated de Mille. the most innovative of them are a bit of both. This won’t stop—it will simply become more and more diverse. and no one would be more interested in Harris’s work than the feisty. This is what makes contemporary dance so exhilarating. In this way. The most contemporary work being done today in any of the so-called disciplines involves rethinking what can and cannot be done on stage by dancers. which has spent years putting on full-length parody performances of classics such as Swan Lake. Edward Lock follows the tradition of Twyla Tharp when he tweaks our notions of dance partnering. This is where fusion has taken dance. For more than 100 years. utilizing emerging technologies and ethnic traditions.

legs. tap terms. if you can. You will stand up straighter and walk prouder the rest of your life. or jazz-dance moves.choosing a Modern Dance class Girl or boy. Unlike ballet—where one enters a beginning class and is instructed in the basic positions of the body. learn then. and feet in order to develop the movement vocabulary that a student ballet dancer will build on indefinitely—there is no standard introduction to modern dance. And you will be kinder and more polite in all physical matters. all modern-dance techniques use ballet terms. Rather. and even jazz-dance terms to describe movements that may or may not be identical to the actual ballet. —Agnes de Mille67 There is nothing neat and tidy about studying modern dance. to dance. No fixed modern-dance terminology exists either. arms. This does not mean that there is no actual discipline of modern dance. it means that every modern dancer gets to experience something of the great exhilaration of the pioneering modern dancers as each finds his or her own way to dance. gifted or clumsy. 85 6 . and confusingly enough. and less afraid. tap.

and Mary Wigman. or jazz class. Look for a . Lester Horton. the costume will be a leotard that enables the student to move freely and the instructor to easily see whether the student’s movements are correct. Being prompt to every class is important. Every class will begin with some warm-up movements and then proceed to the increasingly more difficult and strenuous exercises. often called Creative Dance or Expressive Movement. Limón-Humphrey. a modern-dance class will be exactly like a ballet. but they usually emphasize work that centers the body through breathing and teaches how to move freely and comfortably on bare feet. The quality of these courses ranges widely. The dance teacher instructs by demonstrating and explaining the movement. Modern-dAnCe CLAsses To make matters even more complicated. These particular techniques are studied in part not only because the people were great dancers. It will have a certain etiquette that is required of all students. Any of these and countless other techniques can offer fine introductions to modern dance. A general creative dance class is often not very different from the kinds of freestyle. It is not possible to come in late and catch up. and then the class will repeat this movement. The student will wear appropriate clothing for the class. Some focus on the technique of one major modern-dance figure. if any. tap. but because they made movement systems that could be taught. Merce Cunningham. In most cases. and this includes footwear.86 MoDERN DANCE Hundreds of modern dance styles are taught across the United States. Some of these are almost as formal and codified as ballet. In one way. which is also rude to the instructor and the other students. self-exploratory movement that Isadora Duncan and the early-twentieth-century adherents of eurythmics advocated. the beginning modern dancer usually can find the option of taking a general introductory course on modern movement. Then there are brilliant instructors who have been influenced by Paul Taylor or Twyla Tharp or some other currently working modern choreographer who offer slightly different and still emerging approaches to modern dance. Most serious modern dancers have taken classes at one time or another in the techniques of Martha Graham.

Good dancers are able to assess their own movements and make adjustments and corrections as they watch themselves. class where the instructor is actively engaged in the students’ work and is walking around. Here. doing corrections both by talking and by actually physically moving a student’s foot or shoulder into the correct place. but it is not unusual for a moderndance class to be accompanied by someone on piano and often with drums. so corrections are essential. the class takes place in a studio with a wall of mirrors. Live accompaniment allows the instructor to stop and start the exercise as well as to change the tempo as the class moves along. members of a modern-dance class at the University of California at Los Angeles prepare for an upcoming performance.Choosing a Modern Dance Class 87 There are hundreds of modern dance styles taught throughout the United States. There really is only one way to learn dance. many of which blend ballet. The studio will have a long barre along the wall for balance while students perform exercises on one side of the body. and even jazz dance. tap dance. . The barre is used primarily for ballet exercises and rarely with modern steps. In most cases. and that is from another dancer. This allows the student as well as the instructor to focus on details of the movement. Class will be held to taped music.

These include breathing exercises of inhaling and exhaling coordinated with contractions of the pelvic muscles.88 MoDERN DANCE Modern-dance classes have been held to the sound of people reading poetry. which are Graham’s central movement device. laugh. They begin with floor work. To select a modern-dance class. Since virtually every modern-dance instructor is different and usually a disciple of one particular technique. and that those who wish to run. interrupt. and in professional high schools for those in large metropolitan areas. or bow. it would be possible to take classes with his company. followed by the students applauding the instructor. which involves actually lying. In fact. as well as sitting. where class traditionally ends with a reverence. it is appropriate to give the instructor a round of applause before leaving the floor. The . When the class is finished. Not every beginner feels ready to tackle a Martha Graham contraction. There is nothing pedestrian about Graham movements. If the student is near a city where touring companies perform. Martha Graham Classes Martha Graham classes have four parts and are done on the center of the floor. one must visit modern-dance classes offered in his or her local area. there will be chances to take master classes with the professionals just as Mark Morris did. play. on the part of the students. it is a good idea to visit before enrolling. The structure of the dance lesson is a reminder to the student that the work is serious. on the ground to do exercises intended to stretch and strengthen the torso. if Morris’s company is on tour. A professional dancer is one of the most disciplined people in the world. including public performances and seminars. Sitting in on classes gives a prospective student an opportunity to get a feel for different techniques and to gauge his or her own reactions. This dance tradition comes from ballet. even the floor exercises are dramatic. The major techniques a prospective student is likely to find available include the following. There are many university and college dance departments. Starting in one technique does not mean it is impossible to learn others in the future. Classes are available in private studio classes. and do whatever they want may do so only on their own time. and these may offer opportunities.

but the Graham dancer does not seek ballet’s extreme turnout of the hip and feet. Like Graham’s and Cuttingham’s. Here the class does back stretches and pliés. and twists. Merce Cunningham Classes Merce Cunningham classes begin in the center of the floor as well. Cunningham’s studio launched the Post-Modern Judson movement. though the students are standing in the studio instead of working at an attached ballet barre. Paul Taylor. Lester Horton Classes Lester Horton movement is very well known. with attention given to strengthening the torso. Graham technique is full of falls. even if his name may sound less familiar than Graham’s or Cunningham’s.Choosing a Modern Dance Class 89 class proceeds to exercises standing in one place. and she herself was famous for a spiral fall to the ground as treacherous to perform as it looked. Through his famous students (Alvin Ailey especially). and only occasionally on the floor. Attention will be given to exercises that increase feet articulation (the ability to use any part of your foot) and speed of footwork. . There will be work on back curves. Normally a Cunningham class does not do floor work. His technique shares honors with Graham for being among the most influential in modern dance and is as abstract as Graham’s is dramatic. and finally with falling to the ground. The ballet terminology is used. the flat back projected forward into space with arms extending laterally is a movement image everyone recognizes. Merce Cunningham. Horton classes usually stay in the center of the floor. The movements have no inherent drama like Graham’s but may be sped up or slowed down over and over to train the dancer to have the quickest possible response to movement. but standing. and it often looks like a ballet class. It is a very exhilarating as well as demanding way to move. tilts. which include pliés (knee bends) and battement (beats of the feet and legs). The class moves on to work with elevation (leaping). and even the classes can look like a performance. and Alwin Nikolais are only a handful of the important students of Graham technique.

like the Horton students. Sometimes it is helpful to do this before beginning modern-dance classes. José Limón. . Here. There are many important students of Limón-Humphrey (and Weidman) who.90 MoDERN DANCE Limón-Humphrey Classes Limón-Humphrey is the distillation of Doris Humphrey’s fall-andrecovery movement theories. a six-hour improvisational dance. A serious modern-dance student usually studies ballet and tap. In addition to Humphrey’s most famous student. dancers from Rudner’s troupe perform Dancing-on-View. Doris Humphrey’s philosophy remains at the core of the technique. Tharp’s varied instruction played a major role in influencing Rudner’s dance style. have kept this more lyric modern-dance methodology alive. The reason for this is simple: Ballet supplies a useful terminology Choreographer Sara Rudner learned under Twyla Tharp and became the principal dancer for Tharp’s dance company in 1966. stressing that emotion comes before movement. in New York City in 2007. Sybil Shearer and Anna Halprin have passed on this way of moving to succeeding generations. All of the great modern dancers know the basic ballet steps and positions.

For a modern dancer. Just as routinely. A “ball and chain” is a tap sound that moves from the ball of one foot to the ball of another. This is different from dancing to music or even to drumming. Since the dancers are creating the beat and the sound. Even if modern dancers never attempt to have a fully turned-out leg. as well as anyone interested in a dancer’s world. ballet is dance’s universal language. Routinely. the student can search these periodicals and write to information offices of modern-dance camps or short-term programs nearby to inquire about eligibility. They have college issues and special sections on performing arts high schools.Choosing a Modern Dance Class 91 for all dancers. sur le cou-de-pied on the left. If a modern dancer has any interest at all in going into jazz dance. In other words. which is the same thing as a battement. this means a comfortable turnout and not the extreme ballet position. Sometimes the instructor will ask for a battement and just as casually ask the dancers to lift their legs to the side. and other training opportunities. can be done online. Both magazines regularly list schools. as well as listings for the professional giving auditions and job listings. If there are no modern-dance classes where the would-be student lives. or even do a tendu. summer sessions. and then place your right foot on the ankle of your left leg. and it helps in any dance form one might study. Dance Magazine is aimed at dance professionals and the general dance audience. Tap is very useful for a modern dancer as well. they mix ballet with simple commands to move up or go down. Learning to create beats with the feet teaches the dancer about rhythm using his or her own body. and Dance Spirit is aimed at the student and young dance professional. including checking the magazines. . Translated from tap and ballet. which is only achieved even by ballet dancers after years of rigorous practice. they will take classes and study choreography where they are asked to do something in a turned-out position. they experience sound and rhythm as a total body experience. Much of this. It can be Twyla Tharp instructing: right ball change. There are two magazines about dance that will help any modern-dance student. they ask a class to put their feet in second position. camps. All modern-dance instructors scatter ballet terminology in their classes. he or she will find that the tap terms are jazz’s basic vocabulary. that means: shift your weight from the ball of the left foot to the right.

Maybe they are doing it in front of the mirror in their bedroom or twirling around and watching their reflection in the glass of a sliding door. or even sooner. There are people right now experimenting with new ideas for a dance. Fifty years from now. whether in the classroom or on the stage. These are people who think about movement. .92 MoDERN DANCE Modern dance is still about finding a personal way of moving. They are movers. Sometimes they jump off a bus and add an extra hop just for the pleasure of doing it. dedicated. hardworking future dancer/choreographers will be added to yet another chapter of the history of modern dance. some of these preoccupied.

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The name Denishawn is used for their dance troupe as well. American experimenters Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis selects Ted Shawn as dance partner. opens in Los Angeles. Martha Graham. Java. India. performs her first independent solo dance concert. Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. form their own troupe composed of other former Denishawn dancers 93 1914 1915 1921 1925–1926 1926 1927 1928 . former Denishawn dancers. Denis and Ted Shawn. Denis are in the audience. Burma. Denishawn. the first important school teaching new dance methods. Isadora Duncan dies. Isadora Duncan establishes dance institute in Soviet Union after period of fame in France. Malaya (Malaysia). China.Chrono ogy ChronoLogy 1900 American experimental dancer Loie Fuller dances in her own pavilion at the Paris Exposition. a former Denishawn dancer. and the Philippines. with the name created out of the names of founders Ruth St. Denishawn tours Japan. Ceylon (Sri Lanka). the two dancers subsequently marry in August of that year. Ruth St.

continuing Horton’s emphasis on inclusion. the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Lester Horton establishes a dance company in Los Angeles. Merce Cunningham establishes his own dance company. a member of the Martha Graham troupe. Paul Taylor establishes his own modern dance troupe. with John Cage as musical director. Paul Taylor. with John Cage providing musical accompaniment. Merce Cunningham. a Lester Horton dancer. begins with instructors Martha Graham. presents Seven New Dances. and many other moderndance pioneers on the faculty. her rst concert dance for a group of dancers. the rst important college program in modern dance. which becomes the rst fully racially integrated dance company in the United States.94 MODERN DANCE and hold the rst dance concert by a modern dance ensemble.” Alvin Ailey. Lester Horton establishes the rst theater in the United States dedicated solely to presenting dance. Ruth Humphrey. 1929 1932 Martha Graham premieres e Heretic. a member of the Martha Graham troupe. e Bennington College School of Dance summer program. performs his rst solo dance concert. particularly in creating opportunities for African-American dancers and choreographers. Charles Weidman. which includes not moving to “non-music. 1934 1944 1948 1953 1954 1957 1958 . establishes the Alvin Ailey American Dance eater.

on April 16. Merce Cunningham premieres a full evening composition entitled Almost Ninety. a freeowing and changing group of avant-garde dance experimenters working at a Greenwich Village church. Twyla arp choreographs Movin’ Out for Broadway. a professional dance troupe devoted completely to hip-hop movement. Rennie Harris establishes Puremovement. is period is the Post-Modern dance explosion. To celebrate the occasion of his 90th birthday. ey reject traditional technique and explore ordinary movement as dance. Twyla arp. at one time a Judson eater experimenter. performed to hip-hop music. it is announced that the company of Riverdance will perform its nal shows in 2010. Shortly a er this nal composition. 1965 1976 1980s–present 1992 2002 2009 . Creative fusion of dance techniques leads to wide acceptance of experimental dance. ragtime-era popular dance. although it is tapering o in recent years. leaves the Paul Taylor Dance Company to form her own modern-dance company. Twyla arp choreographs Push Comes to Shove for Mikhail Baryshnikov at American Ballet eatre in a successful blend of modern. A er a successful decade-and-a-half run. it signals the beginning of a trend to assimilate a wide range of dance styles in one work.Chronology 95 1960s Beginning of Judson Dance eater. in 2003. and ballet. Cunningham dies in July. she wins two Tony Awards— for best choreography and direction.

68. cit. 12 Jane Sherman. 14. Denis. op. 4 Duncan. 3. An Unfinished Life (New York and London: Harper & Bros. 1992). 1980). 191. 9 Walter Sorell. 127... 6 Duncan. 1977)..P. 11 Agnes de Mille. 17. 1975). op... op. 1951). 18 Sherman.. 1939). Dance: A Short History of Classical Theatrical Dancing (New York: G. 3. 63... 189. 1913). Fifteen Years of a Dancer’s Life (Boston: Small. 268. 54. Chapter 2 10 Ibid. 14 de Mille.. 15 de Mille. 3 Loie Fuller. 19 de Mille. 1983). 96 .. 1935.. The Dance has Many Faces (Cleveland and New York: World Publishing. Putnam’s Sons. eds. cit. 5 Lincoln Kirstein. 46. cit. op. 2 Peter Selz and Mildred Constantine.. 11. Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham (New York: Vintage Books. 8 Agnes de Mille. 52. 16 Ruth St. Denishawn: the Enduring Influence (Boston: Twayne Publishers. cit. 1927. op. 13 Ibid. New York: Liveright.. (New York: Boni & Liveright. cit. 21. New York: Dance Horizons. Maynard & Co. 62. America Dances (New York: Macmillan. 1955 ). cit. 17 Ibid. 95. 41. Art Nouveau. 15.notes Chapter 1 1 Isadora Duncan. My Life. op. 7 Ibid. Art and Design at the Turn of the Century (New York: Museum of Modern Art.

American Modern Dance. 91. 127.Notes 97 20 Martha Graham. cit.. 1991). 40. Ibid. Elinor Rogisin. NJ: A Cappella Books. op..... 48 Paul Taylor. 1980). 130. 59–60.. Ibid. op. . 106.” Looking at the Dance (New York: Popular Library.. 102. op. 80. The Dance in Mind (Boston: David Godine. op. 143. “Elegance in Isolation.. 1988). cit. cit. ed. 131. op. 30 Ibid. 47 Deborah Jowitt. Maynard. 49.. 117. Sherman. 114. 46 Joan Acocella. 22 Ibid. 1969)... 32.” The New Yorker... 26 Terry. op.. Frontiers of Dance: The Life of Martha Graham (New York: Thomas Crowell. 45 Edwin Denby. 28 Terry. op. de Mille. cit. 103. cit. 77. 29 Graham. José Limón. op. 33 Graham. Chapter 3 21 Graham.. 62. 68.. (May 4. Blood Memory: An Autobiography (New York and London: Doubleday. 16.. 1968). 73. Private Domain (San Francisco: North Point Press. 24 Graham. 23 Walter Terry. 1975). cit. op. 27 Graham. Terry. CT: Wesleyan University Press. 41. The Pioneers 35 36 37 38 39 (Boston: Little Brown & Co. 32 Ibid. 25 Ibid. cit. 39. 31 Ibid. Conversations with American Choreographers (New York: Walker & Co. op. 1985). 1992). 1998). 110. cit.. 40 41 42 43 Chapter 4 44 Richard Kostelantz. 2009). cit. “Twos and Threes. An Unfinished Memoir (Middletown. 34 Olga Maynard. 199. Terry. The Dance Makers. op. 303–304. Merce Cunningham: Dancing in Space and Time (Pennington. cit. cit. 6. op. cit...

2004). 177–178. 54.. op. 89. 47–48. D. 51 Taylor.: Smithsonian Books.. cit. op. 158. 1970).. The Rise and Fall of Modern Dance (New York: Mentor Book. 218. 94.. 205. 185–186. 54 Ibid. Princeton. 3. 59 Ibid. Rose Eichenbaum.. 1962). cit. 1987). Push Comes to Shove (New York: Bantam Books).. 109. (Washington. cit. cit.. op. 58 Tharp. 1959. Masters of Movement: Portraits of America’s Great Choreographers. Ibid. 15.C. The Art of Making Dances (New York: Rinehart. Ibid. 69. op. cit.98 MoDERN DANCE Chapter 5 49 Twyla Tharp.. 66 Doris Humphrey. 52 Ibid. 56 Tharp. .. Chapter 6 66 Agnes de Mille. op.. 50 Graham. 30. NJ: Princeton Book Co. Jowitt. op. Ibid. 12.. cit. 336. 60 61 62 63 64 65 Ibid. 57 Don McDonagh. 88–89.. To A Young Dancer: A Handbook (Boston: Little Brown & Co. 53 Ibid.. 55 Taylor.. 161.

battement A beating movement of an extended leg or foot.” Steve Paxton. Often called “art sport. This is a ballet term but is widely used in all forms of dance. contraction-release The fundamental movement of the Martha Graham technique. but principally in classical ballet classes. it is an art form based on a specific technique involving a fixed set of steps and positions developed over hundreds of years.” It is the steps and patterns of a particular dance. dancers must react very quickly to protect themselves from falling or slipping if not instantaneously supported. the term is used by all choreographers to describe a concert dance.gLossAry ballet From the Italian ballare. barre A horizontal wooden handrail used by dancers to maintain balance while doing studio exercises. Thus. A ballet dancer places one hand lightly on the barre while doing exercises that require balance. The term is used in other dance forms as well. It refers to movement in the torso as the dancer inhales (contracts) and exhales completely (releases). 99 . cou-de-pied A ballet position that puts the working foot on the ankle of the supporting leg. It is used by both modern and ballet dancers. For example. a Judson Theater experimenter. although it actually is modern dance. As theatrical dance. contact improvisation A playful improvisation between two or more dancers in which they respond to each other’s movement as it occurs in the moment. literally meaning “dance-writing. choreography From Greek. Nonspecifically. The person who designs the steps and patterns is called the choreographer. is credited with creating the movement form. it would not be incorrect to call Alvin Ailey’s dance Revelations a ballet.

german expressionism In the early twentieth century. She did not resume teaching and performing until 1949. which began in the 1970s. . Wigman was one of the most important pioneers of modern dance. leotard A tight garment covering the torso. He called the system “rhythmic gymnastics. delsarte François Delsarte (1811–1871) was a French music teacher in the early nineteenth century who developed a system known as the Delsarte method. has now been around long enough to have more than one style. It was a very influential methodology for all the early modern-dance pioneers. who taught and performed a technique emphasizing dramatic intensity and distortion of body shapes. It is the basic practice costume for any dance study. among others. Hip-hop originated in African American communities on the East and West Coasts. In dance. which is accompanied by heavy beats. strong beats. He placed his movements into three categories (eccentric. and fearless physical movement often performed on sidewalks. Expressionism dominated the arts in Germany and Central Europe. in which performers were taught to develop the expressiveness of their bodies. eurythmics Rhythmic gymnastics created by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze. The artist stressed the emotional content of experience and symbolic meaning in objects. It could be. these ideas were explored by Mary Wigman (1886–1973). but her career was interrupted when she was condemned by the Nazis and forced to shut down her schools. Each version is slightly different from the other. See Dalcroze. and was. but both emphasize rhyming. hip-hop A music genre that uses a rhythmic vocal style called rap. There actually was a man named Jules Léotard. applied to dance as well and influenced many early modern dancers. usually worn over tights. torso. He furthered the Desarte method by designing a system of training music students to understand rhythm by translating sounds into physical movements.” and it became known as eurythmics. sometimes called the Dalcroze system. concentric. Hip-hop. as well as for several generations of gymnasts and students of calisthenics.100 MoDERN DANCE dalcroze Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865–1950) was a student of Francois Delsarte. and limbs). and normal) and three zones (head. a French gymnast who is credited with creating the costume.

largely out of common usage. it separates the post-Cunningham experimenters from the so-called historic modern dancers. post-Modern A catch-all phrase covering experimental dance from Merce Cunningham to the present. It can.” It can refer to everything from architecture (houses made with local materials in functional styles suited to ordinary people) to spoken language and word choices (English as opposed to Latin. include any and all of the above as well. when even Martha Graham called her company Martha Graham Contemporary Dance. often in preparation for jumps or turns. It is derived from a French slang term meaning “backside. which is no longer a vernacular language but one of liturgy and literature). however. Generally. plié A bend of the knee. tutu A ballerina’s traditional costume consisting of a projecting skirt made of many layers of net or tulle. . turnout The outward rotation of the legs from the hips at a 90-degree angle. used widely in other dance forms. Turnout enables a dancer to move quickly to either side of the body as well as forward and backward without breaking the line of the leg. This is a ballet term. it favors abstraction of content. Essentially. the cerebral over the highly emotional.Glossary 101 modern dance An unsatisfactory term usually used to describe any experimental concert dance that is not classical ballet or ethnic/folk dance. It was considered an old-fashioned term by the 1940s. with the working toes on the floor and the legs straight and stretched. A ballet position widely used in all forms of dance. tendu Short for battement tendu. The term still continues. widely used in all forms of dance. and movement representing many techniques. a ballet term for any move by the working foot.” vernacular A term meaning “native” or “of the people.

Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.. Debra. 1997. Susan. 1992. pp. 4 (Summer. 1979. ed. 1987. Current. To a Young Dancer: A Handbook. ———. 102 . Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham. Boston: Northeastern University Press. 1949. Cohen. ———. 1927. Anderson. Post Modern Dance. “Art Nouveau: Art and Design at the Turn of the Century. Chujoy. Richard Nelson. Isadora. Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays. 1955.. Jack. 2000. and Marcia Ewing Nelson. The Dance Encyclopedia. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. New York: Harper & Row.” Art Journal. Reprint. 1961). Edwin. and Judith MacKrell. Terpsichore in Sneakers. and People in the Street. Dancers. Au. 1968. Boston: Little Brown & Co. Selma Jeanne. Bird. Duncan. Mildred. 1997.BIBLIogrAphy Acocella. Sally. America Dances. Oxford. vol. UK: Oxford University Press. New York: Barnes & Co. 256–258 New York: Museum of Modern Art. Anatole. Choreography Observed. New York: Popular Library. 1980. 1988. Dorothy. Loie Fuller: Goddess of Light. New York: Popular Library. Crain. Joan. and Peter Selz. eds. and Joyce Greenberg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Banes. Constantine. Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Denby. Dance as a Theater Art: Source Readings in Dance History from 1581 to the Present. New York: Vintage Books. 2007. Ballet and Modern Dance. no. ———. New York: MacMillan. de Mille. New York: Boni & Liveright. Agnes. 20. Buildings. New York: Vintage Books. New York: Liveright. 1980. My Life. 1974. 1962. London: Thames and Hudson. Looking at the Dance. Bird’s Eye View: Dancing with Martha Graham and on Broadway.

Reynolds. Unfinished Memoir. Boston: David Godine. Masters of Movement: Portraits of America’s Great Choreographers.: Wesleyan University Press. 1959. CA: Mayfield Publishers. Kraus. The Rise and Fall and Rise of Modern Dance. New York: Harmony Books. 1935. Martin. Ruth. Boston: Small. 1988. Princeton.Bibliography 103 Eichenbaum. and Janice Gudde Plastino. The Dance in Mind. and Susan Reimer-Torn. 1992. Lincoln. Nancy. Mass. Putnam’s Sons. New York: William Morrow. History of the Dance. New York and London: Doubleday.. NJ: Princeton Book Co. DC: Smithsonian Books. José. ed. 1991. Fifteen Years of a Dancer’s Life. 1970. Deborah. American Modern Dancers: The Pioneers.J. Reprint. The Art of Making Dances. Kirstein. Modern Bodies: Dance and American Modernism from Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey. Maynard & Co. New York: G. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. Rose. Humphrey. Palo Alto. The Dancer Prepares: Modern Dance for Beginners. Reprint. Reprint.P. NJ: Prentice Hall. 1977. 1913. CA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. 2002. 1933. 2004. Dance Classics: A Viewer’s Guide to the Best-Loved Ballets and Modern Dances. 1977. Maynard. Limón. 1965. Olga. Jowitt. Penrod. Blood Memory: An Autobiography. McDonagh. New York: Dance Horizons. 1988. ———. ———. Washington. New York: Popular Library. Kozodoy. Reading.. Graham. 1980. 1992. Middletown. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press. New York: Mentor Book. Don. The Modern Dance.. Dance: A Short History of Classical Theatrical Dancing. New York: Rinehart. and Menlo Park. Ellen. Doris. Pennington. Richard. Englewood Cliffs. 1981. Isadora Duncan. Martha. Dancing: A Guide for the Dancer. 1969. Reprint. Time and the Dancing Image. Kostelanetz. Boston: Little Brown & Co. Complete Guide to Modern Dance. 1998. Merce Cunningham: Dancing in Space and Time. Fuller. Jacob. 4th ed. Foulkes.: A Cappella Books. 1987. Chicago: A Cappella Books. Julia. 1969.. . Richard. John. 1991. James. 1985. N. New York: Dance Horizons. Loie. Conn.

Tharp.. St. 2001. and Donald Hutera. The Dance Handbook. Walter. Suzanne. 1981. 1971. New York: Doubleday. The Dance Has Many Faces. Jane. 1988. Victor. 1980. Allen. K. Push Comes to Shove. 1983. Dance Masters: Interviews with Legends of Dance. New York: Bantam Books. Frontiers of Dance: The Life of Martha Graham. Roseman. Boston: Twayne Publishers. Paul. New York & London: Harper and Bros. 1992. Cleveland and New York: World Publishing Co. . The Real Isadora. Sherman. Denis. Rogosin. Seroff. Crowell. Boston: G. New York: Routledge. 1975. 1939.. Taylor. Walter. Terry. Elinor. New York: The Dial Press. Shelton. Ruth. Janet Lynn. 1951. The Dance Makers: Conversations with American Choreographers. New York: Walker & Co. San Francisco: North Point Press. Hall.104 MoDERN DANCE Robertson. Denishawn: The Enduring Influence. Divine Dancer: A Biography of Ruth St. Twyla. New York: Thomas Y. 1988. Denis. An Unfinished Life. Sorell. Private Domain.

Taylor. Graham. Includes footage of Weidman performing with Humphrey. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. 1998. 1991. Twyla. 1981. New York: Bantam Books. New York and London: Doubleday. and then on through his partnership with Doris Humphrey and his own work. Kozodoy. New York: Vintage Books. Narrated by Alwin Nikolais. Push Comes to Shove. Shelton. 1988. Martha: e Life and Times of Martha Graham. 1990. Middletown. Limón. Private Domain. 1988. 1988. de Mille. 105 . Ballet and Modern Dance. Suzanne. Blood Memory: An Autobiography. New York: Doubleday. Ruth. V Modern Dance: The Founders and the Historic Generation Charles Weidman: On His Own. 60 minutes. Martha. arp. San Francisco: North Point Press. A lovingly cra ed documentary that takes Weidman from Nebraska to Denishawn. Duncan. 1992. as well as Weidman talking about his work and teaching. An Un nished Memoir. Susan. 1955. Divine Dancer: A Biography of Ruth St.FURTHER RESOURCES B Au. Isadora. CT: Wesleyan University Press. Paul. Dance Horizons Video. José. Agnes. London: ames and Hudson. 1992. Denis. My Life. New York: Liveright. Isadora Duncan.

100 minutes. Part II: Ritmo Jondo and Day On Earth. 1998. With twentythree dances performed by Denishawn Repertory Dancers. 60 minutes. including Heretic. Mary Wigman. 90 minutes. 40 minutes. Dancers include Janet Eilber. biographer and fellow dance innovator Agnes de Mille.” 41 min. Yuriko Kimura. 1999. and Jane Sherman. Martha Graham: The Dancer Revealed. not as historic relics but as living dance. and Appalachian Spring. member of Denishawn in its last year. Martha Graham Dance Company. Pulled together by Barton Mumaw. a dance troupe dedicated to the preservation of Denishawn material. 60 minutes. . Contains historic film as well as recent reconstructions. 40 minutes. Dance Horizons Video. Part I: With My Red Fires and New Dance. Kultur Video. Denishawn Dances On!. including Night Journey with Graham as Jocasta and Paul Taylor as Tiresius. Film includes rare footage of Wigman’s last performance. these two dances from the mid-1930s deal. 1886–1973: “When Fire Dances between Two Poles. 1994. Kultur Video. which was in 1942. This 1976 television broadcast was choreographed by and produced under Martha Graham herself. 93 minutes. Famous German Expressionist dance innovator Wigman discusses her work (English voiceover). it includes historic footage of her most famous work. which performs Humphrey’s choreography to this day. 1988. Considered the definitive video record of Graham’s work. and conflict between the individual and the group.106 MoDERN DANCE The Dance Works of Doris Humphrey. Dance Horizons Video. WNET/Dance in America Production. Graham’s former husband Erick Hawkins.. last living member of the original company. a two-part video documenting work of this important dance pioneer. Performed by Center City Collective. Martha Graham in Performance. this is the largest re-creation of Denishawn material in existence. with conflict between the sexes. Kultur Video. Dance Horizons Video. These works are danced by the José Limón Dance Company. 1988. Kultur Video. 1990. and several Graham dancers are interviewed. Performed by the American Dance Festival Company. respectively. Denishawn: Birth of Modern Dance. 2002. as well as clips of Graham talking about her work. Lamentations. and others from one of Graham’s finest group of dancers. 1989. Graham narrates and introduces her company performing three important works.

1986.Further Resources 107 Modern Dance: Reformers Cage/Cunningham. and they can be purchased separately or as a set. Modern Dance: Fusion Baryshnikov Dances Sinatra and More. 98 minute. Kultur Video. 59 minutes. 140 minutes. Tharp. 1998. as well as performance. candid. including the epoch-making Push Comes to Shove. Four By Ailey. behind-the-scenes footage. Kultur Video. 58 minutes. . and American Ballet Theatre dancers perform. 2000. 1986. Four dances by this influential small troupe that began at Dartmouth College. The World of Alwin Nikolais. Dancer Rudolf Nureyev and artist Robert Rauschenberg are among fellow artists included. Baryshnikov. Part of the PBS “Dance in America” series. 1998. Interviews. Nominated for an Academy Award in 1999 for Short Subject. Kultur Video. Dancemaker follows Taylor’s entire career. 1991. Performed by Murray Louis and dancers. biographical. 55 minutes. Pilobolus Dance Theatre. An important record of Ailey’s masterpiece Revelations. Winstar Home Entertainment. 1996. The World of Alwin Nikolais is a five-part series that re-creates Nikolais’s original stage presentations. A coproduction of Thirteen/WNET New York and BBC. Points in Space. 95 minutes. Paul Taylor Dance Company: Esplanade/Runes. and inspiring. 1998. Performed by Paul Taylor and company and recorded in 1977. 60 minutes. A collage of interviews and excerpts from the work of the important partnership of choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage. A Lifetime of Dance with Merce Cunningham and His Dance Company. WNET/Dance in America. as well as The Little Ballet and Sinatra Suite. Kultur Video. Artistic License. videocassette. Paul Taylor: Dancemaker. Featuring Cunningham Dance Company. Directed and narrated by Murray Louis. Originally part of the PBS “Dance in America” series. 90 minutes. Performed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Pro Arts International. part of the PBS “Dance in America” series. Each part is approximately 40 minutes long. New and archival performances. 1985. as well as other major dances. One of the best dance documentaries ever made and certainly an unusually good dance video. WNET/Dance in America.

Jacob’s Pillow www. school.dancespirit. including workshops and upcoming performances of her works. 1989.org Find information about the famous summer dance festival founded by Ted Shawn.com The renowned dance magazine’s Web site includes back issues. who has choreographed more than 70 works for the group. who succeeded Ailey as artistic director of the troupe after Ailey’s death in 1989. archives. which is the premier dance company for African American modern dance. can be found here. and blogs.org This is the site for the dance trouped headed by David Parsons. Dance www. David Parsons www. Kultur Video. videos.org This is the official Web site of the Alvin Ailey’s dance troupe. 120 minutes. foundation.com The Web site for Dance Spirit magazine includes a directory of dance schools and a chat room. Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation www.dancemagazine. and classes and workshops. Dance Spirit www.parsonsdance.jacobspillow. . Web sites Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater www.dorishumphrey. Dance special featuring the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre honoring its founder and introduced by dancer Judith Jamison. and community programs.isadoraduncan. reviews.org Information about famed modern dancer Doris Humphrey.108 MoDERN DANCE A Tribute to Alvin Ailey.org This site provides information on the Isadora Duncan dance company. forums. The Doris Humphrey Society www.alvinailey.

org Information about renowned Mexican modern dancer/choreographer José Limón.mmdg.marthagrahamdance. . founded at Dartmouth College in 1971. Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance www.ptdc.Further Resources 109 Jerome Robbins Dance Division.pilobolus. José Limón Dance Foundation www. as well as information on daily classes and summer intensive programs. New York Public Library for the Performing Arts http://www.html The New York Public Library’s collection of modern-dance documents and photos is the largest and most comprehensive archive of its kind in the world. the company.org The official Web site of renowned modern-dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham includes video of dance classes taught by Cunningham. dance center.org This site offers information about the Brooklyn-based school.org The official Web site of the Paul Taylor Dance Company features biographical information on Taylor and the dancers. and the school.com This is the official site for the modern-dance group. can be found here. and company of one of the most successful choreographers of today.org The site for the oldest and most celebrated modern dance company in the world provides information about Martha Graham. including classes and videos.org/research/lpa/dan/dan. Merce Cunningham Dance www. Paul Taylor Dance Company www.limon. Pilobolus www.nypl. Mark Morris Dance Group www.merce.

Riverdance www.rhpm.riverdance. biographies. and a message board. dance residencies. lecture-demonstrations. mentoring programs.org The official Web site of the Tony Award–winning choreographer Twyla Tharp includes photos and biographical information about her. . classes.org This Philadelphia dance troupe preserves and disseminates hip-hop culture through workshops.110 MoDERN DANCE Rennie Harris Puremovement www. tour dates. Twyla Tharp Dance www. and public performances.com The official Web site of the ultra-successful Irish step-dance group features photos.twylatharp.

O.PICTURE CREDITS P 15: © INTERFOTO/Alamy 20: Archives Charmet/ e Bridgeman Art Library 24: © Bettmann/Corbis 29: E. Hoppe/Mansell/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images 34: © Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy 41: © Corbis 46: © Bettmann/Corbis 49: © Interphoto/Alamy 52: © Time & Life Pictures/ Getty Images 55: © Time & Life Pictures/ Getty Images 56: © Time & Life Pictures/ Getty Images 61: © Bettmann/Corbis 66: © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis 71: © Time & Life Pictures/ Getty Images 74: © Time & Life Pictures/ Getty Images 77: © AFP/Getty Images 80: © Katy Raddatz/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis 83: © Getty Images 87: © Phil Schermeister/Corbis 90: © Getty Images 111 .

overview of. 59 ABT. 74. 19. 19. 51–52. 32–33 Beyer. 64–65 audiences. 71–72 barre. 18–19 chance. 63. 61 Camelot. John. 77 Bolshevik revolution. University of California at. 73–76. 45. Alvin. 42–43. 34. 54 Cage. 60 Danse Americaine. 25 B back-lighting. 54 articulation. 82 C Cabaret. Louise. 87. 88 Brice. 78 contraction-release breathing. 63. 68–76. 60 American Ballet Theatre (ABT). 73 Bennington College. 57. 88 Coolidge Foundation. Merce. 54 Berkeley. 51 Copeland. Fred. 56 car accidents. 77–78 battement.Index A Abstract Expressionism. 64–65 Caught (Parsons). 86–91 Clytemnestra. 89. 83 Annie Get Your Gun. 57 Art Nouveau. Trisha. 55 Ailey. 65 Clair de Lune (Graham). Fanny. 51. 47 Dartmouth College. 60 Colorado College. Mary Washington. Agnes. 45. 34 Brown. 54 Dance Spirit. 59. Lucinda. 23 contact improvisation. 66. 65 Amjad. 55 Appalachian Spring. 56 Communism. 39. 77 Cunningham. George. 67. 73–75. 86–88 Crowsnest. 84 Barnard College. 35 Brooks. 89 Alcestis. 57 Chicago. Irene and Vernon. 14. See American Ballet Theatre African-American themes. 57–59. 54 Childs. 34 black dance. 19 Balanchine. 22 Dance Magazine. 75 So the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing (Brown). 22–23 Castle. 89 Baryshnikov. 51–52 Creative Dance classes. 23 breathing. 51 Coolidge Theatre. 77 de Mille. 42–43. Hilda. 48–50. 68–70. 16. 90–91 Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo. 72 Balkan folk dances. 28 The Birth of a Nation. Mikhail. 77–78 American Repertory Theater. 56–57. 66–67. 37 ballet. 91 Beach Boys. 48. 89 D Dalcroze. Aaron. 39. 39. 71 112 . 8. 89 Astaire. 91 Dance Repertory Theater. 16–17 arthritis. 78 Ball. Émile. 56 BodyVox. 91 dance theater. 53. 42 classes.

31. 16. 73. Anna. 32 German Expressionism. 54 Taylor and. 36–37. 48 hip-hop. 56. Douglas. 42 Folies Bergère. 42 Egypta (St. 30 Gordon. 77–78 Graham. 42. 35. 78 Diaghilev. 55 La La La Human Steps. 65 gymnastics. 14. 50. Loie. 38 Limón-Humphrey classes and. 68–70 equilibrium. 69–70 emotions. 37. 56 Field. 50 dance classes and. 34 Dean. 62 Episodes. 40 Holm. 51–52. 44–47 retirement of. 22 The Event of the Year. 55. 35–38 fabric and. 9–10 Expressive Movement classes. Chair. Louis. Serge. 54–55. 45 Denishawn and. Denis). 39 Dolin. 30 Fairbanks. 40–44 Appalachian Spring and. 63 debt. 19 origins of. 82 Hitler. 67 retirement of. See St. 34 Guthrie Theater. 16 foot position. 86–88 E fabric. 31. 36–38 Episodes and. 44. 21–22 Epic (Taylor). Simone. George. 32–35 Weidman and. D. 16 H Hair. 50 Dance Repertory Theater and.W. José. 62 eurythmics. 31. 48 death of. 79–80 Harris. 25–26 spread of.. Katherine. 51 Heretic (Graham). Adolf. 48 Denishawn and. 63 Forty-Eighth Street Theater. 56–57. Cecil B. 62 Horton. 56 homosexuality. 19 Presidential Medal of Freedom and. 21–23. Ruth Deuce Coupe (Tharp). 33 Delsarte method. 54 Frankfurt Ballet. 89 How Long Brethren? (Tamiris). Erick. 77–78 Florentine Madonna (Graham). 31–32 success of. 54 Humphrey-Weidman Group. 78 Greek Theatre. 19. 17. Ruth. Doris Bennington College and. illusion and. 84 Hawkins. 68–70 fabric and. 13–18. 44–45 Esplanade (Taylor). 50. 79 Horst. 83 humor. 32. 22 Greco. 60 Great Depression. Hanya. Rennie.Index 113 de Mille. 18–19 facial expressions. 28–31 overview of. 77 Fuller. 36. 63–64. 65. 66. 22 gestures. 56 Fancy Free (Robbins). 8–9. 60 Germany. Bob. 39 Dunham. 54 Eastman. David. 40. 38. 57 Bennington College and. 43 Hill. 36. 81–82. 90–91 overview of. 61 Duncan. 40 Griffith. Isadora. 88–89 Dance Repertory Theater and. Lester. Anton. 37. Denis. and Mountain (Gordon). Laura. 34 F The Garden of Kama (Denishawn). 47 Denishawn School. 37 Duet. 50. 30 Elizabeth I (Queen of England).. 30 Denishawn end of. 44. 32–33 Greenwich Village Follies. 28–31 Dennis. 47 Humphrey. 79 Halprin. Martha. 42 Eastman School of Music. 42 Fosse. 21 emotive dance. Martha after Denishawn. 55 G . 43 Forti. 90 The Hard Nut (Morris). 75 Federal Dance Project.

78 N pageants. 44 Lang. 38. Vaslav. 56 Lamentation (Graham). Benito. 48 Jacques-Dalcroze. 45–46 musical visualizations. 23 Mark Morris Dance Group. See Dalcroze. 44. David. 63 Morris. 60 McIntyre. 77 Monk. 55 Netherlands Dance Theater. 67 Letter to the World. John F. 19. 73 The Nutcracker. 48. Steve. Queen of Scots. 91 Male Dancers. Loie J Jacob’s Pillow. dance as. Loie L’Ag’ya (Dunham). 83 La Loie.114 MoDERN DANCE I illusion. 33–34 Movin’ Out (Tharp). 57–59 Neenan. 30 movie industry. Takehisa. 76 Pavlova. 84 Parsons. Rudolf. Billy. 65 O National Dance Institute. Julianne. See Fuller. 78–80. Martin Luther Jr. 88 movement theory. 79 Oklahoma.. 34 Isadora. 78 Picasso. 36 online dance companies. 72–73 Johnston. 76. 75 Joel. 82 Negro Spirituals (Tamiris). 62 Kiss Me Kate. 69–70 Masks. 76 New York Palace.. 45. Meredith. Rouben. 62 King. 39 Paxton. 19. See Duncan. 25 ISO. 65 March Slav (Duncan). and Mobiles (Nikolais). 82 Michael (student). José. 42 Man Walking Down the Side of a Building (Brown). 35 Nijinsky. Jackson. 17 Lock. 33 Pantages vaudeville circuit. 59 Intolerance. See Fuller. 77 Life of the Bee (Humphrey). 36–37. Pablo. 34 Paris Exposition of 1900. 37 Martinique. Alwin. 63–66 K Kennedy. David. 89 Pollack. Mark. 44. 59–60. 83 Legion d’Honneur. 78 Kosugi. 72–73 Joffrey Ballet. 45 Limón. Émile. John Paul. 25 M National Medals of Arts. 56 Mary. 38. 79 Markova. 58 L La La La Human Steps. 18–19. 9–11 mime. 54 Judson Dance Theater. 54 Limón-Humphrey classes. 82 One Thousand and One Night Stands (Shawn). 78 internet. Alicia. 90–91 lithographs. 32 Mussolini. 59 opera. 58 José Limón Dance Company. 61 Nureyev. 32–33 Panama California Exposition. See National Endowment for the Arts Nearly Ninety. 83. 91 jeté. Edward. 34 Jones. Props. 57 magazines. 19. Anna. 56 mysticism. 65 Joffrey. Isadora Isis. 13 parody. 84 La Loie. 56. 56 Koleda Folk Ensemble. Émile jazz. 18–19 improvisation. 48 Mamoulian. Matthew. 66 Non Score (Taylor). Trey. 65 music. 39 Pillow Talks. 67 Native American culture. 36–37. 40 My Fair Lady. Robert. 59 P . 56 NEA. 77 pliés. 9 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). 37 Pilobolus. 47 Momix. 39 Nikolais.

79 Presidential Medals of Freedom. 55 Touch and Go. 34 T Wade in the Waters. 38 Denishawn school and. Jane. See Denishawn School R University of California at Berkeley. 69 Weidman. 60. 14 Shawn and. 32 ragtime. 25. 72 satire. 17 Rodeo. 72 Revelations (Ailey). 33 Tony Awards. 64 silence. 21 Rome and Jewels (Harris). 16 So the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing (Brown). Charles. See also HumphreyWeidman Group Bennington College and. 19 Walking on the Wall (Brown). 60–62. 34–35 vernacular moves. 81 Vietnam War. 63 “the runs”. 72 technology. 32–33 U V vaudeville. 48.Index 115 Post-Modern dance. 70–76. See also Denishawn death of. 82 Robbins. 91 Taylor. 47 Seven New Dances (Taylor). 48 Shearer. 19 Fuller and. 56 Pulitzer Prizes. 79 e ief of Baghdad. 42 As Time Goes By ( arp). 91 tennis. Denis). Helen. 67 Primary Accumulation (Brown). 62 e Shakers (Humphrey). 62. See also Denishawn. Igor. 17 Trend. 41 St. Robert. 62. 58 Spanish dance. 55 Toulouse-Lautrec. 25 St. 75 Rainer. 65–66. 25. 27 Weidman and. 73 Toilers of the Soil (Denishawn). 39 tendu. 41–42 overview of. Paul.. 27. 81–82 Roof Piece (Brown). 65. 78 spirituality. 38. 17 Graham and. 16 stock market crash. 35 stage dancing. 75. Denis and. 31–32. 34–37 death of. 75–76 Pushkin. 52 Puremovement. Ruth. Aleksandr. 81 Push Comes to Shove ( arp). 70. Ted. 30. 17. Pierre. 45–46 skirt dancing. 43 Riverdance. 34 ree Gopi Maidens (Graham). 66. 38 fabric and. 69–70. 79 Webern. 23 Ruth St. Twyla. 36–37. Yvonne. 30 Graham and. Pearl. Denis School of Dancing. Jerome. 56 turnout. 50 Dance Repertory eater and. 63 Rauschenberg. 63. 69–70 arp. 28 Sikkema Jenkins & Co. 75 as choreographer. 67 Revolt (Graham). 64 Re-Moves ( arp). 82–83 Roche. 48 death of. 10–11 Russia. 33. Denis. Anton von. 23–26 as precursor to modern dance. 64–65 Sonic Youth. 65 Primus. 63 “Waltz of the Snow akes”. Jacob’s Pillow S Tamiris. 54–55 tap. 19 e Ten Commandments. 89 Radha (St. 19. 45–47 Shawn. Sybil. 40 Stravinsky. 47 Shawn and His Men Dancers. 82 Rodin. 90 Sherman. 65 Walks and Digressions (Gordon). 54 W . Henri.

17 Yesenin. 34 World War II. Sergey. 37 Worth’s Family Theater and Museum. 23 . 47–48 West Side Story. William Butler. 35 X Y Yeats. 35 Z Xochitl. Mary. 36. 55 World War I. 31. 60 Wilson.116 MoDERN DANCE Denishawn and. 38 overview of. 65 Ziegfeld Follies. 32 Zaide. 83 Wigman. 50. Sallie. 69 Works Project Administration.

where she taught such courses as modern dance. square and contra dance. Anderson’s art/dance history dissertation is on Degas and his ballet images. she was dance reviewer for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Santa Monica Evening Outlook and Long Beach Press-Telegram. Her Ph.ABout the Author And ConsuLtIng edItor Author Janet Anderson is a dance critic at Philadelphia’s City Paper and was previously dance critic at the Philadelphia Daily News.A. international folk dance. Ms. She has written about dance for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Seven Arts Magazine. degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. She spent a year as special assistant to the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. in Olympia. Prior to moving to Philadelphia. She holds a BS in physical education from the University of Maryland and an MS in physical education from Penn State. Consulting editor elizabeth A. She conducted and wrote Pew Charitable Trust’s study on improving the quantity and quality of arts journalism.D. and PBS’s show Applause. Anderson has an M. is in process at the University of Texas Austin. Greece. 117 . hanley is associate professor emerita of Kinesiology at the Pennsylvania State University. She is the founder and former director of the Penn State International Dance Ensemble and has served as the coordinator of the dance workshop at the International Olympic Academy. and ballroom dance. figure skating.

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