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Modern dance?

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I hope someone out there can explain the mystery of modern dance to me! I just don't seem to get the point! I tend to think that they lay on the floor all the time doing strange movements! I can enjoy some modern coreographers as Mats Ek. But most of the modern dance is really a huge mystery to me! It is not even beautiful!!! Could somebody please explain to me how to enjoy modern dance!!!! (I don't want to almost fall asleep every time I watch modern dance)

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Look at what they ARE doing instead of what they're not doing (a good rule for watching any type of dance, I think). So instead of seeing the movement as "ugly" -- i.e., bad line or twisted, or flexed feet, look for at the shapes the bodies are making. Think "raw and powerful" instead of "light and celestial." After a time, you will find the beauty in the "ugliness" in the same way our eye has been trained by modern painting to see an old tree, burnt by lightning, as beautiful in a stark, meaningful way.

There are a lot of different styles within modern dance, too. You might hate (or love) Paul Taylor but love (or hate) Stephen Petronio, or Susan Marshall. And there's good modern dance, bad modern dance, and absolutely awful modern dance, just as there is in ballet. Reading about it -- reading reviews -- can help steer your own aesthetic.

What's important to you about dance? If it's the music, look for choreographers that use music you like. Many ballet fans find Paul Taylor and Mark Morris a good introduction to modern dance because they use steps, and their response to the music is similar to the way many ballet choreographers respond to music. Then, if you like these, you could branch out.

Two books I'd recommend are Joseph Mazo's "Prime Movers" (an introduction to the major choreographers) and, harder to find, but in libraries, "The Borzoi Book of Modern Dance" which is so passionate that it will make you want to hijack a time machine and go back to 1940s New York and starve in a garret for Martha! And then there's Sally Banes's "Terpsichore in Sneakers." The second edition's introduction is a wonderful introduction to postmodern dance, to the revolutions in movement that came about in the 1970s.

I have a historical approach to everything, I know :P And what young choreographers are doing today doesn't bear much resemblance to the Founding Mothers -- Isadora, Miss Ruth, Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham -- but the way they looked at dancing and the possibilities of dancing paved the way for everything that follows, and I think it helps to have an understanding of that thinking.

Finally, don't just stick to the big names. Some of the most enjoyable modern dance performances I've seen have been by local choreographers.

Anyone else have any comments, or tips, or experiences with modern dance.

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Susanne, apologies -- I hadn't noticed, when I wrote, that you were in Sweden. So you're going to see a lot more Ek than Paul Taylor or Petronio! European modern dance has a different history and I don't know of any reading to recommend. But I think the general guidelines could still apply.

One difference in American modern dance history and European is, generally speaking, that the American moderns were trying to reinvent dancing. It was an article of faith, for at least four generations of dancers, to construct one's own vocabulary out of one's own body, a la Isadora. So you had manifestos -- "Movement is fall and recovery" (Humphrey) "Movement is contraction and release (Graham)" In the 1970s, I can remember when there was a headline in the Village Voice that Lucinda Childs had added a third step to her minimalist vocabulary, having exhausted all the possibilities for constructing a dance from the first two steps she had used.

It may be too coy to say, but I'll say it anyway. American modern dance tried to discover truth in movement, European modern dance tried to discover truth THROUGH movement. Modern dance, sometimes blended with ballet, although usually not for the sake of virtuosity, as it is in the States, was expressive. It must express something, some idea. It's often used for dramatic purposes. (Hence tanztheater.) There are pure movement European moderns, too, of course. There are exceptions to everything.

Anyway, watch it, try to figure out what you like and what you don't like, and then why. If you write these impressions down, you may well find they change in a few years.

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Is modern dance the same as contemporary dance. My daughter has contemporary classes as well as her ballet classes. So is it like Americans say diaper and Aussies say nappy, footpath/ sidewalk, faucet/ tap etc. Or are they different dance styles?

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I have just been looking into contemporary dance classes for myself here in the UK, and they describe them as being "Cunningham" or "Graham" based - i.e. they are the same as what Americans would call modern. In the UK, modern (syllabus-wise) refers to "modern theatre dance" i.e. jazz or lyrical dance. I expect the Australian system has bits of both the US and the UK in it.

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i tried to watch the tape of a dance competition (the swedish part of the comptetition European Young Dancers) once again. What they call modern is really not Mats Ek nor Birgit Cullberg, because the students who have attended to the classical school dances Mats Ek. Most of the "modern" students have made their own coreographies to strange music. (strange crawling movements to strange music).

I find Mats Ek really fun and the movements are meaningful. What I really don't understand is why the modern students had to crawl on the floor all the time?

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Guest ducklingdance

i'm currently doing comteporary class. actually it's pretty interesting and exciting. i'm involved in afew pieces of work wiht local(singapore) cherographers. other than the basic fall recovery, contraction and release, i learn to explore my inner self. i get to develop my own movement according to how i feel. it's self-exploration. it's more free form unlike ballet where once ur feet is off the ground u have to pointe or u have standard movement for ballet.ballet and comtemp have their own beauty. learn to feel and see what the dancers r trying to express with differnt kind of 'strange' movement. i hope i helped...

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