Listen to part of a lecture in a dance history class.
As we’ve been studying, ballet, classical ballet, is based on formalized movements: specific positioning of the arms, of the feet, and the body.
So, now let’s move on to modern dance, also known as “theatrical dance.”
Modern dance evolved in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century, and in most cases, audiences were very receptive to this radical new type of performing art.
Um, what made modern dance so radical?
Well, for example, I think the best analogy to modern dance is modern art or modern music.
Compared to their classical predecessors, these newer art forms are freer, more experimental, more improvisational.
Modern dance seeks to show how deep emotions…and the music itself… how these intangible attributes can affect and inspire physical movement and how movement can convey emotions to the audience.
As-as I said, in classical ballet, emotions are conveyed through a set of strictly formalized movements.
Now, a pioneer of modern dance was Isadora Duncan, who was born in 1878… Isadora Duncan did study ballet briefly as a child, but she quickly developed her own unique style, which she called “free dance.”
And, by age fourteen, she was teaching her free dance to young children and giving recitals.
Her early dance technique was loosely based on the natural movements of children: running, skipping, acting out stories; also on motions from nature: uh, waves crashing onto shore, trees swaying in the wind.
Her expressive gestures were motivated from within rather than being dictated by strict technique.
Duncan also wore her hair down; ballerinas typically wear their hair in a tight bun behind the head.
And instead of the short stiff skirts and rigid toe shoes worn by ballerinas, Duncan wore loose, flowing tunics, and she danced barefoot.
Now, that was something her audiences had never seen before!
Duncan performed in Paris and other European cities, dancing to the music of classical composers but avoiding set movements and steps. No two performances were alike, and audiences, for the most part, adored her.
In 1904, she opened a school of modern dance in Berlin. And the next year, she performed in Russia.
[elongate]But…the Russian critics were not very kind.
Some said Duncan’s art form was closer to pantomime than to dance.
But, her style was a clear rebellion against ballet, and ballet is extremely important in Russia.
A question, Julie?
Yeah, what did Duncan have against ballet? I mean, she studied it as a child …
As a youngster, she may have found it too restrictive, uh, not creative enough.
I think that feeling is exemplified by something that happened …early in her career… in Russia.
Duncan attended a ballet, and the lead dancer was the renowned Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
The following day, Pavlova invited Duncan to watch her practice.
Duncan accepted but was appalled by what she saw.
To her, the exercises that Pavlova and the other ballerinas were doing seemed painful, even harmful— standing on tiptoe for hours, moving their bodies in unnatural ways.
After seeing this, Duncan publicly denounced ballet as a form of acrobatics— a “complicated and excruciating mechanism,” she called it.
This critique generated, I think, some undue rivalry between ballet and modern dance.
And it would take a long time, many years in fact, for that rivalry to calm down.