What is Contemporary Dance?
“If I could tell you that, I wouldn’t have to dance it.”
Isadora Duncan, asked what one of her dances meant.
The name “Contemporary Dance” describes a range of techniques and styles used in classes, workshops and dance choreography. Contemporary dance was developed in the early 20th century as a reaction against the rigid techniques of ballet. Pioneers such as Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham searched for ease of movement using the body’s natural lines and energy, allowing a greater range and fluidity of movement than conventional dance techniques.
Contemporary dance is characterised by its versatility: contemporary can be danced to almost any style of music, or united with other dance forms to create new styles of movement. Contemporary seeks to work with the natural alignment of the body, and is therefore safe and accessible for beginners. At the same time, the ease of movement promoted by contemporary dance technique allows experienced dancers to push new boundaries of body movement.
Contemporary Dance techniques
The four main techniques used in contemporary dance are:
Cunningham (named after teacher and choreographer Merce Cunningham, focusing on the architecture of the body in space, rhythm and articulation.)
W Cunningham uses the idea of the body’s own “line of energy” to promote easy, natural movement. Richard Alston uses Cunningham technique in his graceful choreography.
Graham (named after Martha Graham) – focusing on the use of contraction, release, fall and recovery.
What does that mean? Graham technique is characterised by floorwork and the use of abdominal and pelvic contractions. The style is very grounded and the technique visibly contrary to the sylphlike, airborne ideals of ballet.
Limon (named after Jose Limon) – exploring use of energy in relation to gravity and working with weight in terms of fall, rebound, recovery and suspension.
What does that mean? Limon technique uses the feeling of weight and “heavy energy” in the body, and movement is instigated using breath to lift, and swings through the body to create and halt movement. It also feels very nice to perform!
Release – placing emphasis on minimising tension in the search for clarity and fluidity and efficient use of energy and breath.
What does that mean? A bit like it sounds – in Release technique, we release through the joints and muscles to create ease of movement, releasing the breath to aid the release of the body. A great relaxation technique as well as a dance style.
Two or more contemporary techniques may be combined in class or in a piece of choreography.
Improvisation focuses on the investigation of movement and its relation to performance. Development of individual movement material is facilitated through a variety of creative explorations.
Contact improvisation describes a duet dance form characterised by weight exchange, fluid movement and touch. Partners improvise using the natural movement of the body.
Choreography workshops are designed to encourage personal investigation into ideas suitable for choreography.
What Do You Know About Hip Hop Dance?
If you don’t know anything else, you probably already know that hip hop has the beat that makes you want to get up and dance. But what do you really know about hip hop dance?
Did you know that this energetic dancing evolved with hip hop music and street jazz? It’s true. Today, hip hop has taken its place alongside ballet, tap, jazz and ballroom dancing; to name a few.
The first mention of hip hop dance dates back to the 70’s when some new moves were introduced to the dance world to accompany the funky sounds of hip hop music that was also being discovered. Most popular among African Americans and Latin Americans at first, there are many races who now lay claim to defining this diverse dance phenomenon.
Across the United States from the ‘Boogie Down’ Bronx, New York to the ‘Beat Street’ corners of Compton, California, young people everywhere took to this new style of dancing that included such feats as breaking, popping, locking, gliding, ticking, vibrating and krumping. In the earlier days, some hip hop dance moves such as the Humpty Dance were made popular by hip hop artists who had created the songs from which these dances were derived.
Early on, dance competitions on sidewalks included beat boxing, a form of music-making that included raps and special sound effects made with the hands and mouth. Artists like The Fat Boys rose to fame and fortune with Buffy’s beat boxing talents.
After the outbreak of interest in hip hop dance, there were even several movies highlighting this new form of dancing that combined beats, sounds, and gravity-defying moves. Crush Groove and other movies saw their day in the spotlight as hip hop dance continued to expand to different cultures and races and locations around the globe.
From freestyle forms that were often the spotlight of informal battles both indoors and outdoors to formally trained dancers who began to incorporate hip hop dance as a means of dance and physical exercise, hip hop dance has continued to evolve. Today, hip hop dance has earned a recognized place in dance studios and is practiced as regularly as other styles.
Whether hip hop dance was the brain child of some who were simply looking for another form of expression or the intentional genius of creative souls who were looking to put another dance expression into the mix of music is not clear. What is clear is that hip hop music has survived challenge and change and fought its way into the dance scene around the world.
In 2005, the popular television show “So You Think You Can Dance” presented yet another platform for hip hop dance artists to display their talents while competing for fame and fortune against other recognized dance forms such as ballet, tap, jazz and ballroom.
History of Salsa Dance and Music
Salsa is not easily defined. Who invented salsa? The Cubans, Puerto Ricans? Salsa is a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances. Each played a large part in its evolution.
Salsa is similar to Mambo in that both have a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music. The dances share many of the same moves. In Salsa, turns have become an important feature, so the overall look and feel are quite different form those of Mambo. Mambo moves generally forward and backward, whereas, Salsa has more of a side to side feel.
A look at the origin of Salsa
It is not only Cuban; nevertheless we must give credit to Cuba for the origin and ancestry of creation. It is here where Contra-Danze (Country Dance) of England/France, later called Danzón, which was brought by the French who fled from Haiti, begins to mix itself with Rhumbas of African origin (Guaguanco, Colombia, Yambú). Add Són of the Cuban people, which was a mixture of the Spanish troubadour (sonero) and the African drumbeats and flavora and a partner dance flowered to the beat of the clave.
This syncretism also occurred in smaller degrees and with variations in other countries like the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Puerto Rico, among others. Bands of these countries took their music to Mexico City in the era of the famous films of that country (Perez Prado, most famous …). Shortly after, a similar movement to New York occurred. In these two cities, more promotion and syncretism occurred and more commercial music was generated because there was more investment.
New York created the term “Salsa”, but it did not create the dance. The term became popular as nickname to refer to a variety of different music, from several countries of Hispanic influence: Rhumba, Són Montuno, Guaracha, Mambo, Cha cha cha, Danzón, Són, Guguanco, Cubop, Guajira, Charanga, Cumbia, Plena, Bomba, Festejo, Merengue, among others. Many of these have maintained their individuality and many were mixed creating “Salsa”.
If you are listening to today’s Salsa, you are going to find the base of són, and you are going to hear Cumbia, and you are going to hear Guaracha. You will also hear some old Merengue, built-in the rhythm of different songs. You will hear many of the old styles somewhere within the modern beats. Salsa varies from site to site. In New York, for example, new instrumentalization and extra percussion were added to some Colombian songs so that New Yorkers – that dance mambo “on the two” – can feel comfortable dancing to the rhythm and beat of the song, because the original arrangement is not one they easily recognize.
This is called “finishing”, to enter the local market. This “finish” does not occur because the Colombian does not play Salsa, but it does not play to the rhythm of the Puerto Rican/Post-Cuban Salsa. I say Post-Cuban, because the music of Cuba has evolved towards another new and equally flavorful sound.
Then, as a tree, Salsa has many roots and many branches, but one trunk that unites us all. The important thing is that Salsa is played throughout the Hispanic world and has received influences of many places within it. It is of all of us and it is a sample of our flexibility and evolution. If you think that a single place can take the credit for the existence of Salsa, you are wrong. And if you think that one style of dance is better, imagine that the best dancer of a style, without his partner, goes to dance with whomever he can find, in a club where a different style predominates. He wouldn’t look as good as the locals. Each dancer is accustomed to dance his/her own style. None is better, only different. Viva la variedad, Viva la Salsa!
HISTORY OF Tap Dance
several websites relate to the history of Tap dancing:
Tap Dance, style of American theatrical dance, distinguished by percussive footwork, that marks out precise rhythmic patterns on the floor. Some descriptive step names are brush, flap, shuffle, ball change, and cramp roll.
The sources of tap dancing include the Irish solo step dance, the English clog dance, and African dance movements. Among the slaves in the southern United States, these merged by the early 19th century into folk styles, the modern descendants of which include buck-and-wing dancing and southern United States clogging (both done in leather-sole shoes). The slave dances were adapted theatrically in 1828 in the first blackface minstrel show, in the dancing of Thomas “Daddy” Rice. In late 19th-century minstrel shows and showboat routines, two techniques were popularized: a fast style in wooden-sole shoes, also called buck-and-wing, exemplified by the duo of Jimmy Doyle and Harland Dixon; and soft-shoe, a smooth, leather-sole style made famous by George Primrose. These styles gradually coalesced, and by the 1920s metal plates, or taps, had been added to leather-soled shoes. In the 1920s and 1930s black dancers contributed to the development of new styles of tap dance, and black dance teams became popular for their acrobatic, often satirical acts. John Bubbles popularized a slower, more syncopated style of tap dance. Prominent dance teams of the era included Slap and Happy (Harold Daniels and Leslie Irvin) and Stump and Stumpy (James Cross and Harold Cromer). Jazz provided further rhythmic complexity, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson became America’s most famous tap dancer. The style was further expanded in the 1930s and 1940s, when dancers such as Fred Astaire, Paul Draper, Ray Bolger, and, in the late 1950s, Gene Kelly added movements from ballet and modern dance. In the late 1970s and early 1980s interest in tap dance underwent a resurgence.