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What Is Contemporary Dance? – Part 2

Expression in Dance

Much of the new dance forms and styles began to become even more expressive than their predecessors. With exaggerated physical stances and body language amplified by full body gestures, the artists at work turned up the emotional volume as they strayed from the norm. This also allowed room for more narrative to be included, telling stories with a cast of bodies and zero dialogue became fantastic ways to show off new styles in previously unseen contexts. Though depending on the production, some choreographers preferred to purposefully make their work as abstract as possible as the art world was becoming harder and harder to interpret so was the world of dance. With movements and poses that seemed alien to untrained onlookers, the end results meant that the layman rarely understood (or even cared to understand) what is was they were seeing. This is exactly the reaction that the avant-garde wanted, in leaving the conventions of ballet and popular theatre behind their new pieces were incapable of being categorised, which is no doubt why they remain under such an umbrella terms like modern and contemporary.

Music Is Mood

Of course, it wasn’t just dance and fine art that was changing at this time, music was hurtling in its innovations and genres. From a time when most listened to whatever the radio pumped out to the bustle of big city’s and small jazz clubs, the audio scene was becoming diverse. This of course influenced dancers with their ear to the ground as few dance numbers are executed without the backing of a song. With the improvisation and unpredictability that comes with jazz, it made for a perfect accompaniment to the emerging styles of bodily expression the dance world was working towards. Jazz dance became more and more popular and its freestyle ‘off the cuff’ execution meant that expert performers could create original pieces even with the same backing. As music styles continued to evolve from jazz to rock and roll, hip hop to electronica, all of these became drastic new environments for dancers to explore. The classical piano numbers that dancers of the past would work to are now on the polar opposite side of the scale to the trip-hop tracks that accompany dancers of today.

Back to Today

The seeds of contemporary dance were of course planted in modern dance years ago, but today the classification includes much more recent developments. Sure, elements of ballet have worked their way back into it, as have the new additions of interpretive, yoga, native and more. Contemporary dancers have a lush palette of different styles with different origins at their disposal and its up to them to choose which ones they wish to use for their dance number. Now accompanied by cutting edge music and technology the stages, backdrops and music can all come together to create a fusion of art that uses dance as the focal point. Contemporary dance it seems is not one thing at all but a colossal mix of generations of collected movements, gestures and workings of the body, but no matter what it is today, tomorrow it can be something completely different.

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