Contemporary dance is an important genre of dance performed in societies around the world, celebrated by people both young and old. Developed during the 20th century, contemporary dance involves incorporating aspects of movement from several other genres such as jazz, modern and ballet. While contemporary is a popular type of dance worldwide, it is most common amongst the U.S and European countries.
Unlike traditional forms of dance, contemporary is considered to be somewhat unbound by much rigidity and rules. The dancers of this genre have the ability to transform a performance based on their own interpretations. This is achieved through honing in on certain techniques, such as focusing on strong ballet-influenced leg movements, fall and recovery, floor work and further improvisational elements. More frequently than not, contemporary dance is performed barefoot to allow for more fluidity in movement and connection to the dance surface.
Modern and contemporary dance has many elements in common. They are, in a way, branches stemming from the same roots. During the 19th century, theatrical dance performances were synonymous with ballet. Ballet is a formal technique that developed from court dance during the Italian Renaissance and became popular as a result of the support of Catherine de' Medici.
Around the end of the 19th century, several dancers began to break the ballet mold. Some of these individuals included Francois Delsarte, Loïe Fuller, and Isadora Duncan, all of whom developed unique styles of movement based on theories of their own. All focused less on formal techniques, and more on emotional and physical expression.
Between about 1900 and 1950, a new dance form emerged which was dubbed "modern dance." Unlike ballet, modern dance is a formalised dance technique with a specific aesthetic.
Alvin Ailey was the person who was the first to introduce African American aesthetics and ideas into contemporary dance.
On the other side Cunningham introduced the concept that dance movements could be random, and that each performance could be unique. Cunningham, because of his complete break with formal dance techniques, is often referred to as the father of contemporary dance.
Today's contemporary dance is an eclectic mix of styles, with choreographers drawing from ballet, modern, and "post-modern" (structureless) forms of dance. While some contemporary dancers create characters, theatrical events, or stories, others perform entirely new creations as they improvise in their own unique style.
If you’re looking to learn contemporary dance at home, there is a huge amount of online content to help, including walkthroughs, tutorials and video guides.
However, in order to learn proper form and technique, you may want to join a reputable local dance class, online lessons or dance studio that teaches contemporary dance. That way you can be sure you are receiving proper training and feedback on your dancing from a professional. Having a trained instructor will also help open you to other opportunities depending on your ability, such as qualifications, certifications and competition and performance opportunities.
Whether you are learning contemporary dance at home or receiving more formal training it is important that you warm up properly and have the right equipment.