Key Figures in the Development of Modern Dance – Part 2

The second part of our blog to see who were the key figures in the development in modern dance continues where we left off in part one. In the first part of this blog we featured musicians, choreographers and theorists who all contributed in their own way to modern dance formation. We start this blog with the first really important dancer to be recognized as a modern dancer, Mary Wigman.

Mary Wigman

The first famous European modern dancer was Mary Wigman, and this German dancer was the first to be recorded in the annals of modern dance history. In part one we looked how the figures of Delsarte and Laban were important because of their theoretical views on modern dance, but Mary Wigman was first and foremost a dancer. Wigman was radical in her outlook, she was bitterly opposed to the teaching of classical dance and its values. In her new style of dancing she was searching for the way to express her very soul through the medium of dance. Her main concern was the relationship between movement and spirituality, and that invisible forces breathed life into movement. She formed a dance movement that was classed as German Expressionism, and most of her pieces were very dark indicating the passions that exist deep in our souls. She spread her idea of dance by opening modern dance schools that epitomized her ideals and were to provide her legacy.

Loie Fuller

It may seem strange that we have included Loie Fuller in our list of key figures of the development of modern dance as she was not a choreographer or dancer. She was at heart an artist that was passionate about modern dance and its theories. To this end she produced numerous art pieces that included scenes, lighting, costumes and anything that was remotely connected to modern dance. Her brilliance lay in scenic illusion, and what we perceive we are seeing without actually physically seeing it.

Loie Fuller


Isadora Duncan

One of the most famous names in the world of modern dance has to be Isadora Duncan, and by many modern dance enthusiasts she is an emblematic figure of freedom. Isadora Duncan did not only reject classical dance education, but she rallied against it. Her dancing came through the study of other artistic expression such as sculpture, poetry and philosophy. And she was actually quoted as saying that her dance instructors were, Nietche, J.J.Rousseau, and Walt Whitman! Isadora Duncan’s dancing was an expression of her own life. She loved nature and so she enveloped movements that were natural such as the clouds, waves, trees and the wind. It is surprising that she commonly used classical music to perform, such was her dislike of classical dance, but she did not see any direct correlation between the two apart from the time they were created. It is fitting that we end our blog with one of the most iconic modern dancers of all time. Isadora Duncan made modern dance acceptable and mainstream, she recognized radical performers such as Mary Wigman but developed a far more acceptable style of her own.