Modern Dance for Dummies

Have you heard? The Dance Barre is now offering a modern dance class. What’s modern dance, you ask?


Modern dance was a rejection of the formality, coquetry, and unnatural movements long perfected in ballet dance. It began to embrace nature’s influence and emphasized the natural flow of energy through the body in relationship to gravity and space.

Isadora Duncan, the great grandma of modern dance, if you will, kicked off a revolution in the dance world when she kicked off her ballet slippers and opted for free dance or free expression.


Martha Graham continued the bare foot tradition and grew an entire new dance discipline out of the idea that the unique must be fulfilled. She developed a dance aesthetic, or look, that was decidedly not coquettish. Many of her movements became the foundations of the modern dance canon and derived from how the breath and energy direct the movement.


Others of her generation and those to follow on include Merce Cunningham, Lester Horton (a la Alvin Alley style), and Paul Taylor. All pushed the dance language and forced new traditions and new theories about form, function and how dace art should comment on life. You could say modern dance is the alt-dance or punk rock dance approach to the craft. These artists advanced the typical agenda of the day; down the bourgeois and up with the dance proletariat. Many of their performance reflected their ethos.

Here’s some other interesting things about modern dance you might not know:

  • It feels good! In ways ballet and other dance forms can’t replicate
  • It’s spiritual
  • It’s intellectual
  • It’s socially conscious high art
  • It has a meditative effect
  • It is challenging but attainable

Modern dance has withstood the test of time and maintained a strong foothold in the academic dance world as well as permeating other disciplines such as ballet (sacre bleu!), jazz (the sillier sister dance form), as well as interpretive and performance art.