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Who Were/Are The Big Jumpers In Modern Dance?


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There was a dancer with Cunningham's company that I saw (ca.) the early nineties--Frederic Gaffner--who had a terrific jump. I am pretty sure he had classical ballet training and, indeed, though I thought he was wonderful with the Cunningham company, I remember first noticing him because I thought he looked like a ballet dancer.

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Were Paul Taylor And Merce Cunningham big jumpers? And who else in the Modern Dance Universe?????????
Paul Taylor wasn't bad for jumping when in his prime, but it was Carolyn Adams, a "principal" with his company for many years, who was a high, light jumper, incredibly strong and technically perfect. She was a beauty, and smart, with a career plan for when she would finish dancing.

Merce's choreography was an on-the-ground, not in-the-air style. His dancers could jump (one of his main dancers, Viola Farber, was my modern teacher for years and an amazing dancer) because of the enormous strength his technique developed. His jumping, however, required you to jump low but as wide and far as possible -- not easy!

Modern dance, as a whole, is not about jumping at all, in direct contrast to ballet. Modern is of the earth and ballet of the air.

Within modern there are many codified techniques: Graham, Cunningham, Limon, etc., which are worked out as specifically as Agrippina Vaganova's Russian ballet technique. Modern dance allows itself to evolve over time, which is part of its mandate, while in classical ballet, the preservation of the age-old tradition is paramount. We return to it to find its essence if we stray too far.

Modern is based on inwardness, on finding the seat of the spirit, the nub from which it emanates. It is philosophical, usually fraught with thought, and experimental, requiring meditative forays into your inner self and really feeling your physical reactions and letting them initiate your movement.

Ballet is outward, demanding we suppress inner search, in order to, paradoxically, free the soul to express itself. Indeed, Balanchine admonished his dancers "Don't think, dear, just do" (and "don't talk, just do" and "don't act, just do").

So, just because we have a thread on best jumpers in ballet, I don't think a parallel thread for modern is quite the ticket. Ballet and modern really can't be measured with the same ruler.

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Merce himself was a famous jumper -- an astonishing jumper, by many accounts ("he could jump halfway across the stage with one grand jete"). There are many phoographs of him in mid-air in dazzling positions. He also had an equally astonishing ability to change direction with no preparation.

One of the great jumpers in his company in hte 70's was Ellen Cornfield, who's shown in the air in 2 photos in Herbert Migdoll's "Dancers Dancing" (amidst Andy Warhol's inflated silver pillows in "Rainforest', and beside a Rauschenberg set in "travelogue").

Foofwah d'Immobilite may have named himself after a piece of music by Eric Satie, who holds a high place in the esthetic of Cunningham and Cage. "Les Immobilites" I think it's called. In any case, Gafner was a fabulous jumper, and in his era Cunningham started using fifth position quite frequently, and Gafner did beats and all kinds of petite allegro in those works. A glorious dancer.

Paul Taylor uses jumps a GREAT deal in his choreography. "Mercuric Tidings" is non-stop jumping, aside from the adagio. he uses a lot of folk-steps -- the turned in cabriole, or cracovienne, he uses a LOT (I love them).

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Thanks for the info everyone.  I do realize that jumping is not nearly as integral a part of modern,  as it is in Ballet.  But I heard stories over the years about Taylor and  (especially) Cunningham. Just curious.........

In a talk to an audience at the Paramount Theatre in Austin Texas quite some time ago, when asked to comment on Merce Cunningham, Martha Grahm said,"Merce was made for the air."

A current Cunningham dancer with a fantastic jump is Daniel Squire. Former Cunningham dancer Kimerly Bartosik took to the air like a bird. Et.al.....

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Modern dancers do roll around on hte floor a lot -- but they actually jump from crouching positions, even lying down positions, and also will do jumps that end up lying down --

I just saw Pau Taylor's Company B" at SF Ballet, and in Tico Tico the guy does 2 coupe jetes in a rw, the second of which turns into a log roll -- he lands through his fot and somehow gets his whole body onto the floor and rolls over and over liek three times -- at TOP SPEED....... It's incredibly exciting......

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