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BIll asked in Arts & HumanitiesDancing · 5 years ago

What practical things separate contemporary from modern?

It took a while to grasp Graham-like modern techniques; i.e. catch and release, floor, problem solving, efficiency... (feel free to insult me and say I know nothing about nothing therefore should never ask a question).

But what does a contemporary technique add to that?

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  • 5 years ago
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    To begin with, there is really no such thing as "contemporary technique" as the only thing that makes a dance contemporary is the choreography. I assume you mean real concert contemporary dance as you are talking about real codified modern dance when you mention Graham. (In spite of the fact that Martha Graham referred to it as contemporary dance when she was alive, it Is still considered a codified modern dance method as the definition of contemporary dance has changed with the advent of post modern dance in the 1970s.) I am also not referring the lyrical/contemporary you see in recital schools and competition dance. While that too has no technique of it's own it uses ballet with a smattering of acro, jazz and modern thrown into the mix. Here too it is only the choreography that makes this type of dance what it is. It tends to confine itself to over emotional acting out of the music to the lyrics of a song and always has a theme or story. While concert contemporary dance can also have emotion, often it can be just pure line and movement and devoid of all emotion.

    If you don't mind I would like to touch lightly on the differences between modern and concert contemporary dance as it may help you understand it better.

    Three signature moves define Graham technique: the contraction, the release and the spiral. The Graham contraction is a C-curve of the spine. The release is the response to the contraction, which returns the spine to a neutral position or opens the breastbone to the sky. The spiral is a twisting of the torso that starts at the pelvis and then moves up the body. Combinations of these three movements allow the dancer to project out into space.

    A Limón modern class emphasizes breathing through the body and expanding your range of motion. You work on bouncing, swinging and percussive movement. Timing, shape and energy are all important factors.

    Horton technique classes include flat backs, lateral stretches, leg swings, deep lunges and falls. This is all done through the "17 Fortifications." Alvin Ailey is based off of Horton Technique.

    Of course there are other methods like Dunham and Cunningham etc. but you get the idea. Modern dance has rules.

    Modern dance is danced barefoot and is danced to either drums ( like Dunham modern) or some type of rhythmic music.

    Concert contemporary dance can be danced barefoot, in socks, pointe shoes, or anything else (no matter how weird ) the chorographers dreams up to use. I have seen dancers on stilts, a pointe shoe in one hand and a pointe shoe on one foot. It can also be danced to any kind of music, noise, random sounds, the spoken word or complete silence. The movements can range from totally pedestrian to balletic. It can be absolutely anything at all. It has no rules. That is not true with a codified modern dance method like Graham. That has very specific rules.

    Dancers who dance concert contemporary dance train in both codified modern dance ( often several methods) and ballet. That is where all their dance technique comes from. They also take workshops from contemporary choreographers to learn their specific dance vocabulary.

    Source(s): My daughter is a professional concert contemporary dancer & choreographer. Ballet academy trained. Dance grad of LaGuardia Arts high school (the FAME school.) Graham & Horton modern trained. Juilliard SI. BFA in dance from NYU Tisch. Currently choreographing and performing in a world renown concert contemporary company. I worked for NYCB (New York City Ballet.)
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