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Who's the Most Influential 20th century choreographer


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Poll: Who's the Most Influential 20th century choreographer (1 member(s) have cast votes)

Who's the Most Influential 20th century choreographer

  1. Isadora Duncan (1 votes [4.35%])

    Percentage of vote: 4.35%

  2. Martha Graham (19 votes [82.61%])

    Percentage of vote: 82.61%

  3. Merce Cunningham (2 votes [8.70%])

    Percentage of vote: 8.70%

  4. Paul Taylor (1 votes [4.35%])

    Percentage of vote: 4.35%

  5. Mary Wigman (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  6. Other (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 12 June 2003 - 06:43 AM

This is suggested, vaguely, by something sandik wrote on another thread. Looking back over the 20th century, who do you think is THE most influential modern dance choreographer? Define that any way you will, and discourse below.

#2 carbro

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Posted 12 June 2003 - 07:37 AM

I voted for Graham, although I don't really enjoy watching her works, because of her many progeny and theirs. Of course, one wonders what Graham would have been without Wigman and Duncan and -- although not listed in this poll -- Ruth St. Denis. Still, it seems that most of the techniques we see today are direct outgrowths of Graham's.

Plus, she was so productive for so long!

#3 Calliope

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Posted 12 June 2003 - 10:40 AM

I voted Graham, because hers was the name I've known for the longest. It's a rather lame excuse, but if Robin Williams can bring her into a comedy routine, then she must be influential.

#4 grace

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 04:28 AM

i'm sorry to nitpick - and i don't want to start a controversy - but how come
"Who's the Most Influential 20th century choreographer"
equates to
"who do you think is THE most influential modern dance choreographer?"
~ or did i miss something?

given the options, it appears to me that the question is ONLY the second one - not the first.

is that fair comment? :confused:

#5 grace

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 05:42 AM

ah! NOW i see. when i accessed this thread VIA 'Recent Posts', i failed to notice that it is in the NON-ballet section of the board. so: now i understand. :)

#6 grace

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Posted 15 June 2003 - 04:10 AM

i voted for graham. i'd be intrigued to hear the people who voted for cunningham or taylor explain what their 'great influence' was/ is - i.e. WHO have they influenced, and in what WAYS that make them *MORE* influential than graham or duncan have been?

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 15 June 2003 - 07:04 AM

I voted for Graham, too, as Prima, but I could defend a Cunningham vote. Nearly everything you see in modern dance today has its roots in Cunningham; he won. There's nothing that Graham and the other early moderns stood for. The expressionism of the early 20th century has been replaced by the "dance is itself only" aesthetic of the later, Cunningham years. Also, nearly everyone working in modern dance today either studied with Cunningham, or studied with someone who studied with Cunningham.

#8 grace

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Posted 15 June 2003 - 08:04 AM

sure. but WHO influenced cunningham? :)

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 15 June 2003 - 06:15 PM

He studied and danced with Graham, as I'm sure you know :) But one might say it was a negative influence -- he's certainly not a follower. I think he was very influenced by Cage, of course, and other musicians and painters of his time. I hope Nanatchka sees this. I'd like her take on it.

#10 GWTW

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Posted 15 June 2003 - 09:47 PM

I haven't voted yet - the more I think about it, the less sure I am. In terms of name recognition, Duncan and Graham are more well known than Cunningham, but I think that at this point in time (and from where I'm writing) Cunningham's legacy (he's not dead so that's not really the right word:) ) is stronger. But probably the most influential choreographers at the momentwould be Jiri Kylian and Pina Bausch.

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 16 June 2003 - 06:15 AM

Love someone posting that Kylian is a modern dance choreographer (I agree :) ) I think his influence has waned, as Tetley's did before him. Very influential in a generation, though. But Bausch -- now, that will be a legacy. I thought of putting her up, but some would argue that she's not modern dance but tanzteater, a new genre.

I think it's hard for Americans to evaluate Wigman. She didn't influence US, ergo she doesn't count. But she influenced a lot of people (including Balanchine).

#12 Hans

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Posted 16 June 2003 - 07:35 PM

I voted for Graham as well. I know Duncan worked before Graham did, but Graham has had such a wide-ranging, direct influence over so many choreographers and dancers today. She built a complete, complex dance technique from the ground up (something no other person--arguably--has done), and it became a springboard for many, many artists.

#13 Nanatchka

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Posted 17 June 2003 - 05:32 AM

Keeping in mind that the question was not "Who is your favorite choreographer," I answered "Graham." She links back to the early days of modern dance, having studied with Ruth St. Denis. She extends to the current days through two others on the list, Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor, both of whom danced in her company. You might say that Cunningham's work is in reaction to Graham, and that Taylor's work continues Graham. In terms of today's field--Cunningham is indeed a potent influence, though one cannot attribute the vogue for "non narrative" dance to him alone. Ashton and Balanchine made non-narrative dance as well, to speak of only two of his older contemporaries. His influence also lies in the realm of structure and in spatial orientation--for instance, a 360 degree front, and in the introduction of complexities of various kinds. The pure dance aspect--dance apart from music-- is important, but perhaps the one in which Cunningham is least sucessfully followed. (There are also choreographers who say they have been influenced by Cunningham, but whose work displays no particular evidence of this.) In terms of influence--whether Graham, Cunningham, or Taylor, it is also interesting to think , as I started to above, about what we might call "negative" influence-- about those who danced in the companies, and then went off and made work in reaction to it. As for the personal--In terms of making dances that offers one a lifetime of interest;a way of seeing, or several ways; a way of being, intuited through the work, and the choreographer's persistence in it; not to mention offering a complex and rich experience in the theater, and of the theater, I do find, and have found for a long time, that Merce Cunningham is the choreographer who has the most influence on me.

#14 grace

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Posted 17 June 2003 - 05:08 PM

like nanatchka, i first had to focus on the actual QUESTION, and not be sidetracked. i really appreciate your answer, nanatchka.

i agree with GWTW that duncan's name is far better known by the public - and associated in the public mind with any type of dancing that's 'free-er' than ballet. graham's name, IMO, is really not much known by the GENERAL public (which is quite unfair.)

my first reaction was that graham's influence on dance was not so much "as a choreographer", but more via her development of a technique which could be taken seriously in theatrical dance, as training, and then as a performance language. and THEN as an influence on balletic vocabulary. and lastly, in her actual stage choreographies, which have dated very quickly. (i am of the unpopular opinion that cunningham's have, too.)

i am afraid that i am not a fan of cunningham (sorry nanatchka) - but i live in a place where it seems 'everyone' else IS.

many of these people have been trained at THE local tertiary dance institution, where the head of dance is an ex-cunningham company member. (cunningham has visited here twice recently, accepted an honorary doctorate from that university, and set up a foundation for a local student to travel to NY each year, to study/work/research in areas related to HIS work - i.e. either his dance, or cage-related music studies.)

so, living in an isolated small town as i do, with THIS the prevailing 'atmosphere', there really isn't any room for a visible/prominent critic to even admit to this point of view, let alone discuss it seriously! (i can call myself 'prominent' and 'visible' because it's such a small town, and there are so few critics, that one can't help but be.)

therefore i appreciate being informed by articulate cunningham enthusiasts, about his work. because HERE, his genius is SO taken-for-granted, that it would be seen as terribly gauche to even discuss the basics, about the value of his work.

i still hold my opinion, as i voted. i have been questioning myself, as to how far one takes the question 'WHO influenced who?'...but i see graham as SUCH a breakaway from anything that had come before. SUCH a revolution in theatrical dance.

to me, cunningham is just ballet in parallel! :eek:

oh god, now i've said it. :o

i hope no-one local is reading. (it's pretty safe that they won't be!) :D


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