Exploring the genres of
Modern, Post-Modern, and
Chapter 6 from Learning About Dance textbook by Nora Ambrosio
noun; a form of contemporary theatrical and
concert dance employing a special technique for
developing the use of the entire body in
movements expressive of abstract ideas.
Modern dance started as a revolt against ballet.
It throws out the idea of turn out and rigorous
ballet technique. There are several different
modern dance techniques.
It began in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s.
It usually tells a story or has a theme.
It uses the elements of time, space, and energy
differently than ballet.
The movements are unique and innovative.
Isadora Duncan is credited
with being the “Mother of
Modern Dance,” but Loie
Fuller and Maude Allen
were also creating dances
that were new and different.
Loie Fuller used light and
colored fabric to create visual
Maude Allen was known for
her dramatic dances and
extensive knowledge of
All three women found fame
in Europe, not the U.S.,
during the early 20th century.
Loie Fuller’s Serpentine
Loie Fuller courtesy of missmeadowsvintagepearls.blogspot.com
Maude Allen courtesy of swedenburg.blogspot.com
Isadora Duncan courtesy of jadoreisadora.blogspot.com
She felt that pointe shoes,
ballet costumes, and the
ballet vocabulary were too
She decided to dance in a
way that more natural.
She based her movement off
of movement she observed
in nature – swaying,
hopping, running, skipping.
She believed the solar plexus
(the center of the body) is
where all movement should
She was inspired by Ancient
Greece. She wore tunics and
bare feet when she danced.
Isadora initially gained fame in
Europe. United States found her
movement to be too progressive.
Late in her career, in the 1920’s,
she finally found fame with
United States audiences. She
paved the way for future Modern
Dance choreographers.
She loved music by Beethoven,
Chopin, Schubert, and Wagner.
She opened several schools in
Europe. She spent a majority of
her time in Russia, Germany, and
She adopted six of her students.
They are referred to as the
After Duncan’s death, the
“Isadorables” continued to teach
the Duncan technique. They are
the reason her technique still
survives today.
Isadora Duncan surrounded by her Isadorables courtesy of dollhousebettie.com
Isadora Duncan courtesy of theworldbyus.com
Isadora Duncan courtesy of http://www.duncandancers.com/about.html
The dancer’s
body is simply
the luminous
of the soul.
~Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan courtesy of nndb.com
Isadora Duncan had 2
Her children died in an
automobile accident. Their
deaths inspired one of her
most famous pieces,
Mother. This piece showed
the sorrow and heartbreak
that she felt when her
children died.
Isadora died in 1927 when
her scarf became entwined
with the wheel of the car
in which she was riding.
Isadora Duncan
A Tribute to Ruth St.
Denis and Ted Shawn
Ted Shawn
Ted Shawn and Ruth St.
Denis married and formed
the Denishawn school.
The Denishawn school
educated the whole dancer –
mind, body, and spirit.
St. Denis and Shawn focused
on imitating dances different
cultures. They were
particularly inspired by
Asian cultures. Their dances
were not authentic.
The Pioneers of Modern
Dance were pupils of the
Denishawn school – Martha
Graham, Charles Weidman,
and Doris Humphrey.
Denishawn School courtesy of asecretforest.typepad.com Ted Shaw and Ruth St. Denis courtesy of he.wikipedia.org
Martha Graham was a
student of the Denishawn
Her technique is based on
the concepts of contraction
and release.
The Martha Graham Dance
Company is still in existence
today. Graham technique is
taught worldwide.
She was named one of Time
Magazines 100 most
influential people of the 20th
She was inspired by
psychology, Ancient Greece,
Native American Legends,
and American Pioneers.
A Tribute to Martha Graham
Martha Graham courtesy of reclusland.com, topics.nytimes.com, en.nkfu.com, louisvilleorchestra.org
Their technique is based off of
the concepts of fall and
Their dancers were very
proficient at balance and
working with and against
Humphrey choreographed
using the ideas of “musical
visualization,” where the dance
is a visual representation of the
patterns and rhythms in the
She focused on group dynamics
and using breath to guide
movement phrases.
Weidman’s dances were often
comical. He also choreographed
serious works about social
Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman courtesy of tumblr.com, wird.com.ua,
Sokolow was a former
Graham dancer.
She created dances that
reflected life during her time.
She was born of Russian
Jewish descent.
One of her most famous
dances, Dreams, was about
the survivors of the
Steps of Silence is an anti-war
Rooms is about the isolation
and depression that comes
from being “just another face
in the crowd” of a big city.
Anna Sokolow courtesy of forward.com, tonyaplank.com, annasokolow.org, nytimes.com
José Limon Bio
Limon was a student of
Humphrey and Weidman.
His technique is very close
to that of Humphrey –
focusing on fall and
recovery and weight.
Humphrey became artistic
director of his dance
company in the 1950’s.
Limon’s MexicanAmerican heritage
influenced a lot of his
His works are considered
Modern Dance Classics.
José Limon courtesy of en.wikipedia.org, kids.britannica.com, exploredance.com
Post-Modern Dance
In the 1950’s
choreographers felt
confined by the
rigorous technique of
Graham, Limon,
Humphrey, etc.
Their choreography
focused on the
movement rather than
the storyline.
Their movement came
to be known as
Post Modern Dance courtesy of carpedancem.wordpress.com
Merce Cunningham courtesy of mercecunningham.org, pbs.org, nytimes.com, tumblr.com
Cunningham was the first
choreographer to step out
of the traditional modern
dance box.
He believed in dances that
showed “movement for
movement’s sake.”
He often used chance or
indeterminacy as tools for
his choreography.
He collaborated with
avant-garde musicians
including John Cage.
Interview with Merce Cunningham
Chance Theory
Nikolais’ dancers
often appeared as
objects on stage rather
than people.
He was one of the first
to use the idea of
dance bags.
He was concerned
with “motion not
Alwin Nikolais’ Noumenon
Alwin Nikolais courtesy of bearnstowjournal.org, nypl.org, danceheritage.org, flickr.com
Taylor danced in Martha
Graham’s and Merce
Cunningham’s companies.
His early work included
very pedestrian
In 1957 he stood still for
the whole dance.
He is known for his very
athletic and dynamic
dance style.
He created works with
narratives as well as
works that were just
Promethean Fire
Paul Taylor courtesy of dancestlouis.org, ephemeralarchives.wordpress.com, ovationtv.com, thelodownny.com
About Paul Taylor
In the 1960’s and 1970’s a new
wave of choreographers
stripped dance down to its
simplest form.
They focused on basic
movements such as walking,
running, skipping, and hopping
– pedestrian movement. It was
movement without technique.
Many choreographers worked
only with untrained dancers.
Their dances were performed at
the Judson Church in New
York. Sometimes they were
performed at train stations, on
rooftops, or on the sidewalk.
The works had a strong basis in
Judson Dance Theatre courtesy of looseleafreport.com,
intermedia.vancouverartinthesixties.com, tumblr.com
Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A
Trisha Brown’s Man Walking
Down the Side of a Building
Alvin Ailey courtesy of students.cis.uab.edu,
myhero.com, theepochtimes.com
Ailey did not follow the
post-modern movement.
He focused on creating
dances that were accessible
to the general audience.
His dances included
technique and form.
His signature piece
“Revelations” is still
performed around the world.
It celebrated its 50th
anniversary in 2010.
“Revelations” is set to Negro
Spirituals and celebrates the
religious heritage of AfricanAmericans.
Revelations’ 50th anniversary
•Both presented dances that displayed
innovative movement.
•Some post-modern dances were plotless
and devoid of narrative; many traditional
modern dances had strong narrative lines.
•Both utilized themes that were social,
political, and global.
•Traditional modern dances employed
trained dancers; some post-modern
choreographers used untrained dancers.
•Both utilized the elements of space, time
•Traditional modern dances often utilized
and energy in a way that was different from costumes; post-modern dances were often
presented in everyday street clothes
•Traditional modern dance was often
presented in theatres. Post-modern dance
was presented in a number of different

modern dance history powerpoint