Key Figures in the Development of Modern Dance – Part 1

To talk about the key figures in the development of Modern Dance we first have to understand what modern dance is all about, and where and when it started. Basically, modern dance is everything that is not classical dance. This does sounds rudimentary, but it is a fair description.

Key Figures in the Development of Modern Dance – Part 1

According to the academics of music and dance, modern dance originated in America and Germany. This early form of modern dance had no connections with formal classical ballet companies, and it emerged by itself almost as a form. The names in this blog are the main developers of modern dance, from its first beginnings.

Francois Delsarte

Delsarte was one of the first academics of modern dance, he was a theorist and would develop a thesis on the relationship of body movement human dependent on emotional feelings. Delsarte researched deeply the power of emotions and concluded that each emotion created an image in the mind that corresponded to a particular movement of the body. This encapsulated the basis of all modern dance, and Francois Delsarte published his theory by stating feelings and their intensity are the cause of movement and quality. Translated this basically means that the essence of modern dance lies within, and not outside such as classical dance. He also elaborated on a new code of gestures and movements, that had nothing to do with the classic teachings of classical dance. This included the importance of the upper body in modern dance, and the face, arms and trunk were the main expression points of modern dance.

Emile Jaques-Dalcroze

The next important figure in the creation of modern dance is a musician named Emile Jacues-Dalcroze, whose main contribution was the formation of movements that he called Eurhythmics or Rhythmics. His work was mainly concerned with the direct correlation between music and movements of the body. Bizarrely, his work was directed at musicians and not dancers, although great dance luminaries at the time took notice of his work, including: Nijinsky, Rudolf Laban and Mary Wigman. Jaques-Dalcroze developed a notion of the relationship between rhythm and movement, and that relaxation and breathing were essential and fundamental to modern dance.

Emile Jaques-Dalcroze

Rudolph Laban

Rudolph Laban is widely regarded as one of the most prominent figures in the development of modern dance. Laban was a dance teacher, choreographer and dancer whose ideas were accepted first in Europe then in the United States of America. Laban has written many books about his research into modern dance, the most important ones are: Education Modern Dance, Choreutics and The Mastery of Movement. He was also responsible for developing a system to analyze and to write about movement which was called labanotation. His theories are based on the premise that all body movement expresses human emotion and social state of being, and therefore dance was a form of communication. He took this theory further by extrapolating if people were educated in a manner that included movement this could correct society. We look at even more legendary figures in the world of modern dance in part two of this blog.