1. What elements of Modern dance do you think were appealing to the African American dancer? Support


1. What elements of Modern dance do you think were appealing to the African American dancer? Support your assumptions.2. Identify the changes in the attire of the modern dance performers and that of ballet dancers.3. How did the movements of the Late/Contemporary period differ from those of the Middle period? And how do you think those differences affected the African American choreographer?4. Choose one artist in each of the above periods and detail their contribution to the characteristics of that period.


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[ Music ]
>> Hey, welcome back. Today we’re going to talk about modern dance. I have
written a lot of things on slides because I know that with dance sometimes the
terminology or what I really mean you might not understand so I have put things on
slides and I’ll read the slides and then I’ll explain to you what the words are
about. Okay, so let’s go to our first slide. Modern dance is a rebellion or was a
rebellion still is against ballet. Dancers move by understanding the technique as
opposed to recognizing terms and there’s a philosophy behind the movement. What
happened? We talked about ballet. We said that it was pretty strict in terms of
the body types, the setup, even the uniformity of the ballet. Well modern
basically was a form that basically the choreographers wanted a new style. They
wanted a new idiom and instead of going with the ballet they actually went almost
totally opposite the ballet and it was American dance form so therefore Americans
were excited about it because it wasn’t like a European dance form that ballet was
and is, so with the rebellion of the ballet, rebellion from the ballet and the
stiffness and even the terms, the terms remember we talked about were French terms.
Well in modern there’s not terminology as such so there was more freedom in the
movement so when we talk about the philosophy what we did or what they did was they
would focus on why do you move? They were dealing more with natural movements
rather than movements that were just put together to be beautiful. I don’t know if
you’ve ever heard of that song from “Chorus Line” “Everything is Beautiful at the
Ballet.” Well they weren’t looking so much for aesthetic look but they wanted to
move more naturally, so these are the seeds of the thinking that was involved in
your modern dance. Moving on let’s look at our slides again. Modern dance was
performed with bare feet. The movements were natural. They had the use of the
parallel and turned out positions. Age, race and body types were less important.
With your modern dance instead of wearing shoes, in ballet we talked about the
shoes. We talked about the point shoes and you saw an example on The Dance Theater
of Harlem. Well, with modern it was absolutely bare feet. They wanted to feel the
earth. They also utilized, remember in ballet we were talking about the turned out
position and the turned out position was such that basically you had to start at a
very early age in order to acquire and maintain this turn out you know to mold your
body for it. Basically what modern dance used was they use today parallel position
and they used turned out. Now their thinking, remember with modern dance it was a
lot of philosophy and thought behind it reasoning, motivation for why you are
moving and with modern they were thinking in terms of just the birth of a child.
In the mother’s womb they’re in the fetal position and the feet are not turned out.
Trust me, it’s hard enough to give birth to a baby without it having to come out
with the feet turned out but the feet are parallel. Okay, and so therefore they
made use of the parallel feet and the turned out feet. Also they made use of the
flexed foot. Remember we were talking about going up on the point. We even saw
with the ancient Egyptians where they went up, they pointed their feet when they
jumped. Well in ballet you have that and in modern you also point your feet but
they also worked with flexed feet and even flexed hands so that if your arms are
like this they could be like that. Okay, so there was a lot of trying to find new
ways of movement. And also they used the natural movements like running and
jumping and skipping and hopping and they did those in different ways. So it was
more of let’s do this with some kind of focus and some kind of understanding of how
the body functions itself rather than forcing it to do something that it’s not used
to doing. All right, now as far as the age, the body types and the race that
wasn’t as important in modern dance because they were trying to find different ways
of moving they were more open to different kinds of body types. They did not want
like the cookie cutter dancers that you had in ballet. They wanted dancers that
were more unique and more individualistic in their movement and so they were more
open to different colors, different races, different body types. If you had
stronger thighs then that was okay as long as you could perform. So this of course
because of these particular qualifications for your modern dance, of course this
opened the door for African-Americans to come in so you find more African Americans
in your modern dance than you do of course in your ballet. Okay, let’s move on.
Audiences have to think to understand the work in most cases an expression, the
choreography was an expression of the contemporary scene. Okay, let’s move on.
When we talk about the choreography basically the choreography reflected, not all
the time but a lot of times it opened the door to reflect what was going on in the
society at that point. For example, if there’s an issue of say homeless people
then you might find somebody who choreographs about homeless people. You know with
African-Americans you’ll find that in the beginning when they started to get
involved in the modern dance a lot of the themes had to do with the struggle of the
African American and it had themes about the life of the African American. So this
opened up a new kind of arena. You didn’t find these kinds of things in ballet but
you were finding now new material to use in your modern dance. So let’s talk a
little bit about the modern dance periods because I’m going to be dividing up the
choreographers according to the period so let’s talk a little bit about the periods
and let’s look at our slides. We have the early modern period is from 1900 to 1945
and these are where the seeds for new exploration. Basically, they were the
choreographers were trying to find new movement to use, movement that was different
from ballet and again that had a motivation. There was a reason why they were
moving. Okay, and back to our slide again. You had the middle modern 1945 to 1970
and this is when basically especially and around the ’45s and ’50s is when the
technique, the choreographers have now decided what their techniques would be and
they created their own techniques dealing with their philosophies. For example,
there is a woman who’s a European-American named Martha Graham and she’s basically
recognized for being the mother of modern dance. I don’t have her name but it’s
easy to spell. Martha and then Graham like the Graham Cracker and she’s considered
to be the mother of modern dance. Now her philosophy of moving is that she felt
like all life came from the womb because we are birthed from the womb of the mother
and so she felt like all movement should be initiated from the area of the pelvis
and so she adopted and created all her technique around that particular philosophy,
so at this point philosophies, this is in the middle period your philosophies are
being established and so therefore you have different people like the Katherine
Dunham we’ll talk about who had the Dunham technique. We were just talking about
Martha Graham who is a European-American who had the Graham technique and then
different people. So these techniques start to evolve and to emerge. Let’s go on.
Our next slide we have the late or contemporary period 1970 to the present and we
have your traditionalists and you’re experimentalists. Your traditionalist are now
considered those people that were in the middle period. In the middle period we
were talking about those techniques were being established well, in your late or
contemporary period those techniques still exist because you have people like with
the Katherine Dunham technique there are people that still do the Dunham technique
even today but they’re considered traditionalists. These are the techniques that
were established in the middle period. But then you had these experimentalists and
these experimentalists that were basically started around in the ’60s, they put a
whole other slant on your modern dance and then some changes, big changes from your
late contemporary period that were different from your middle period. And so let’s
look at some of those changes, back to the slide. We have the music, silence,
minimalism, sounds, words and your costumes, pedestrian look, nudity and unisex.
Okay, now with the music usually you had music that is related to the theme.
Sometimes the choreography didn’t have a certain theme and they might just be
working with other concepts. So basically what happens is that with your middle
period the music could be anything just like we heard the telephone ring actually
we can dance to telephone ringing. We could have the ring and ring and ring and
ring and actually do a dance to that. I know it sounds strange but these are the
different things that were happening because they were feeling, these modern
dancers were feeling like music everything was music. All sound was music. So
they would use sounds like the telephone ringing or breathing or sometimes they
didn’t use any sound at all. A choreographer, I mean a dancer would come out on
stage and move without the any sounds. Sometimes they would use words like okay,
I’m going to show you a little bit. Okay, and I can’t do it live because of course
I can’t get up but the other day I went to the store. Okay, do you like that?
Okay so the other day I went to the store but I used words and then I used
movement, okay. So those are some of the things that were going on. Now with your
costumes you had basically pedestrian look, nudity, unisex. A lot of the costumes
you couldn’t tell if they were male or female also the pedestrian look like what I
have on right now which
I need to shift over like that, okay. What I have on right now I could actually
do a dance in because it’s I can move in it, okay. So anything that I could move
in I basically could do a dance in so it wasn’t so much glitter and feathers and
things like that. It did not have to be a costume so much. Okay? And sometimes
there was nudity and that meant that you had nothing on and that was another change
that was done. Okay, let’s go, moving on. You have your venues parks, lofts, art
museums, etcetera and choreographic philosophy did not strive to entertain with
your venues. Of course they still would dance on the stage but you could dance out
in parks. You could rent a big loft and have people standing around in the loft
and watching you dance. You could go to an art museum and dance around the
structures. You could, I even went to Singapore and I saw this wonderful
performance where it was sort of called “The Happening” and they were dancing in
these windows of the apartment buildings and the windows were glass and you could
see them moving and they had mirrors on their bodies so it was reflecting the
light. It was very, quite interesting and it was a whole building that you could
see the stairwell. You could see through it and they had dancers there. So these
things were beginning to happen. Let’s go on. Okay, company names, oh let me tell
you also with the philosophy with the choreographers they didn’t care whether you
liked it or not. They wanted to do what they wanted to do and if you liked it
that’s fine and if you didn’t like it oh well. They were artists and they didn’t
feel like they needed to entertain you. They wanted to do what was in their heart.
Okay, now let’s look at our slide. You have your company names and the names
Harry, Asylum, The Farm, The House, Pilobolus a lot of names like that. Movement
was you had the pedestrian movement. You had no movement. You could have
improvisation, aerobic, gymnastic and sometimes repetitious. Now, as far as the
names were concern instead of it always being like The Alvin Ailey Dance Company or
The Katherine Dunham Dance Company they did not always name their companies by the
founder but whatever they wanted to like the Asylum, Harry, The Farm. Now the
movement could be very aerobic, it could very aerobic so that you keep moving. You
keep moving, in fact the artist might even get tired just watching and just keep
moving, keep moving or it could be very gymnastic or there could be no movement at
all. I could come out just like I’m doing right now and sit down and that will be
the dance. I know. It’s strange huh? But people go to see it and it’s getting
very popular especially in Europe and it’s coming over as well. You have the
repetitious kind of movement. Now when we talk about sound you’ll see a word under
sound that says minimalistic or minimalism and minimalism is the sound that is
repetitious. So with this sound that is being repetitious like say if I’m doing a
melody that says yada yada yada, yada yada yada, yada yada yada, yada yada yada,
yada yada yada and it keeps going on and on and on and on you might have movement
just like I did with my fingers they keep going on and on and on. Sometimes it
gets monotonous and sometimes it gets a little bit hypnotic, okay, so you had those
kinds of movements that would go on. Okay, so let’s move on. Want to talk about
some of, I’m going to talk about the pioneers of your modern dance and this is in
your very early period which was from 1900 to 1945. This is Katherine Dunham and
Pearl Primus. We talked about them a little bit before but we’re going to get
deeper into their contributions but this is [inaudible] Katherine Dunham. Her
focus was in Haitian dance and Pearl Primus’ focus was in African dance. Both of
these ladies now they didn’t know each other well, I shouldn’t say they did not
know each other. Actually when they started studying they studied separately.
They were in different places in the United States actually when they started
studying but there’s similarities with these two ladies and so let’s go to some of
these similarities. Let’s go to our slides. You have both of them received
grants. They were grant recipients. Both of them were anthropologists. Both of
them founded companies, well-known companies. Both of them were dancers,
choreographers, writers and they were highly respected by their culture, which ever
culture they researched and they were civil rights activists. So we’re going to
get deeper into these artists in our next lecture and we will concentrate a little
bit more on Catherine and Pearl, so that was just like a little introduction and
now understand a little bit about modern and how it differed from ballet so until
next time I will see you. So have a nice day.
[ Music ]
>> If you are interested in any other UNLV Distance Education Course please call us
at 702-895-0334.
[ Music ]
[ Silence ]
[ Music ]
>> OK. You see my face? If there any creases, more creases than usual, it’s
because we record this very early in the morning, and I wake up with creases from
the pillow. And there’s somebody I know who dared me to say this, and so that’s
why I’m saying this to you. OK. So don’t dare me to do anything. Well, within
reason. OK. Hi. Welcome back. Now we were talking about modern dance, and we
finished with Dunham and Pearl Primus. So let’s go on and elaborate on those two,
OK. OK. Let’s go to our slide. This is a picture of Katherine Dunham. Now this
is what I have to tell you. The person who puts these pictures on the slide, his
name is Mark Curry, and he’s going to kill me for saying this, but he does an
excellent job with these pictures. And so these pictures are very dramatic. So I
just want to give him, what do you, the kids say? His props, OK. OK. Now let’s
look at our picture. We have Katherine Dunham, and let’s talk about Katherine.
Passionate love for the Haitian people. Voodoo priestess. Signature, Shango.
L’Ag’Ya, which is Haitian martial arts, and she’s a civil rights activist. Let me
go to the next slide, show a picture of her there. OK. Now, let’s go back to
Katherine. Katherine Dunham went to Haiti. That was her focus. When she went to
Haiti, she fell in love with the people there. She loved them so much that she
actually had bought sort of like a plantation where she was having medical supplies
sent in to help the people. She really loved the Haitian people, and in fact, the
“People” magazine back in the 90’s had her on the cover because when the Haitians
weren’t allowed, refugees were not allowed into the United States, she went on a
fast, and she almost died except for the president of Haiti called her and asked
her to please, to eat. And so as she started eating, but she’s on the cover of
“People” magazine back in the 90’s if you want to go back and look that up, but she
loved the Haitian people, and they loved her. She got so involved in the dance,
and remember we were talking about back with the sacred dances that she was a
Voodoo priestess. She came back from Haiti, and she wrote a lot about what she
found. L’Ag’Ya was a dance that was, that she choreographed that had to do with
martial arts. A lot of times in different places, and this wasn’t in the United
States. I think this was in Africa. I’m not sure, but a lot of places when the
slaves, you know, the slaves weren’t supposed to learn about fighting because the
owners didn’t want them to. And so what they did was they would practice their
fighting skills, but they would incorporate them into dance. Think it was
Martinique that this happened, and, anyway, that’s what she did. She started to
take those movements, and she put it into choreography. Katherine Dunham also had
a dance company, and the work that she did was highly respected, and a lot of
people didn’t know. She was responsible for body isolations, which we will talk
about when we get to jazz dance, but we’ll move on to Pearl Primus. This, go back
to just this picture of Katherine Dunham again. Very beautiful young lady. Moving
onto Pearl Primus. Pearl Primus studied Africa, but she also went to the South,
and she lived in the South, and she studied Black Southern field workers. When she
went to Africa, Omowale was the name they gave her, which means child returned
home. She was a civil rights activist. “African Ceremonial” is the piece that she
choreographed, and she also wrote her dissertation about her research in Africa.
She was a powerful dancer. Her signature piece is “Negro Speaks of Rivers” and
“Strange Fruit” about lynchings. Now, when I say signature pieces, what happens
with a lot of the dancers that I am going to be introducing to you, you have, they
have choreography that they have done that has been so popular that when you think
about them, you relate this piece of choreography for it, to them. And so that’s
why it’s called a signature piece. Pearl Primus was so excited about learning
about her culture that she went to Africa. A lot of the research about the
similarities between the African dance in the church and African dance in Africa,
the correlation came from her studies, and she did the “African Ceremonial” which
ended up to be a dance, and it was also a dissertation that she did. Both, the
both of them, Dunham and Primus, would write a lot about their findings, and
because they both were civil right activists, they would write about those issues
as well. The African people loved her so much, they gave her that nickname. She
went to the South. She actually lived on the fields with the workers, and she
started to find different movements that she started to use in her choreography.
Her signature piece is “Negro Speaks of Rivers”, and she did another piece that was
very popular. It was called “Strange Fruit”, and I don’t know whether you know
about this particular piece, Billie Holliday also sang it. It’s about the
lynchings and about the tree having strange fruit, which would be bodies that were
hanging from the trees. So it was quite an interesting piece. This is a picture
here, let’s go to our slide, of Dunham, and you can se …
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