What Is the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Dance?

What Is the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Dance


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Although many people think that Modern and Contemporary dance are the same thing, they are actually two different styles.

The primary difference is that Modern dance is codified, which means that it has common movements that are set in a particular style, and they have specific names and expectations.

Contemporary dance is not codified, and it encompasses different styles.

It is expressive and can include moves from other genres. It is more vague.

Continue reading to answer the question, “What is the difference between modern and contemporary dance?”

What Is Modern Dance?

Modern dance is thought to have started in the early 20th century.

The dancers who led this movement were Isadora Duncanm Loie Fuller, Ruth St. Dennis, and her husband Ted Shawn, who was also her partner.

Each of them made contributions to Modern dance that helped it to become a genre of its own.

This style of dance challenged the art and philosophy of the times, and it was inclusive of other cultures.

They wanted to move away from the structure and conformity of ballet, and they encouraged others to do the same.

Another group came after them, and they are considered the founders of Modern dance.

The new group created moves based on their own experiences.

They wanted to express their own inner feelings on stage.

This group included Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Lester Horton, and others.

They each created techniques that they taught in their dance classes.

The third generation came along and further refined the moves, and it became more minimalistic. 

People who practice Modern dance are dedicated to codified styles of Graham, Humphrey, and Morton, as well as some less structured systems.

If you want to learn Modern dance, the best thing to do is to take some classes from a variety of teachers, watch the choreography, and experiment with it.

Modern dance incorporates techniques while encouraging you to experiment with some moves of your own.

What Is Contemporary Dance?

The primary difference with Contemporary dance is that it is not at all codified.

It combines elements across different genres, including classical ballet, jazz, lyrical, and modern dance.

The goal is to connect the body with the mind through fluid movements.

Although it is called Contemporary, it was started in the 20th century and has continued through today.

Contemporary dance has a lot in common with Modern dance, and they have their roots in the same foundations.

It started with dancers such as Francois Delsarte, Loui Fuller, and Isadora Duncan, who broke away from classical ballet and developed unique styles of movement that were based on their own theories about dance. 

As they developed their style of dance, they focused more on expression and emotions than on formal techniques.

Today, Contemporary dance is a mixture of different styles, and choreographers take moves from all different genres.

Some dancers base the dance on a character, a theme, or a story, and they often add their own unique style to their dance. 

The Differences Between Modern and Contemporary Dance

Differences Between Modern and Contemporary Dance

Although these two styles of dance are rooted in a similar break from Classical Ballet.

They are often thought of as synonymous, but in fact, they are different.

The primary difference is that Modern dance is codified, and Contemporary dance is not.

Modern dance has different techniques, just as ballet does. 

The techniques in Modern dance are named for some of the founders of Modern dance, including Graham, Taylor, Cunningham, Limon, Dunham, Duncan, and Horton.

Each of these techniques has rules that specifically outline where the body should be placed, the quality of the movements, and the choreography. 

Contemporary dance, on the other hand, is not codified.

As a result, it is more vague and relies on individual expression of emotions.

It includes different elements from a number of other genres, including ballet, jazz, modern, and lyrical. 

Contemporary dance is defined as something that is happening at the same time, and it refers to dance styles that are happening now or in the recent past.

However, most choreographers strive to break from the rules of other styles of dance to experiment with new ideas. 

The largest difference between these two styles is that there are more rules with Modern dance, whereas Contemporary dance explores the unknown.

It is less organized, and you have less idea of what to expect. This makes it more vague and individualistic.

When you take contemporary dance classes, you will learn dances that are based on what is currently influencing art and philosophy.

They might fuse two styles together, such as classical ballet and jazz, and set it to a completely different style of music.

This is how they push themselves beyond what is expected when they dance. 

Another interesting distinction is that Modern dance is free form, and it stems from the core of the body.

It includes elements, such as fall and recovery, floor work, and improvisation.

Contemporary dance includes elements of all different dances, and it is more about the expression of emotions.

What Is the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Dance: Final Words

People often want to know the differences between Modern dance and Contemporary dance.

In fact, many people use the two terms interchangeably.

While they are rooted in similar beginnings, there is one primary difference.

Modern dance is codified, while contemporary dance is not codified and combines a number of different styles. 

Codified dance has specific techniques, and dancers need to be precise in these movements.

Contemporary dance combines other dance styles, and the goal is for the dancer to express emotion and push the dance to another level.

They might dance to express feelings or characters or stories.

Choreographers develop their own styles, and it is based on what is happening in the art and philosophy world in the present or recent past. 

The best way to learn about contemporary dance is to watch different teachers and choreographers because each style will be unique.

Modern dance will use specific techniques, but with Contemporary, the dancers try to reach for new levels of expression. 

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