Postmodern Dance To Contemporary Dance Cultural Studies Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.


The artistic movement that really caught my attention was Post-modernism. "Postmodernism was a late 20th century movement that opposed the Modernist preoccupation with purity of form and technique, and aimed to eradicate the divisions between art, popular culture, and the media. Postmodern artists employed influences from an array of past movements, applying them to modern forms. Postmodernists embraced diversity and rejected the distinction between "high" and "low" art. Ignoring genre boundaries, the movement encourages the mix of ideas, medias, and forms to promote parody, humor, and irony".(Wikipedia)

I chose this particular art movement because I feel that during this period of time more artists start to be more experimental; they took more risks in pushing the boundaries. Postmodernism represents a movement that contradicts aspects of modernism it aims to break away from the classical and traditional forms, which postmodern involves a wide variety of disciplines. I would like to examine postmodern dance and music and how it affects our current dance style. Mainly, I will be talking more about pioneers of postmodern dance and music.

Kurshiah 2 Postmodern dance started 1960s in a Judson Memorial Church at America, "Where the dancers move rigid out of the traditional genre like Ballet and modernism and created their own new style. The pioneers of this art movement were Anna Halprin who based her choreography on real experiences, not classical works. Her group, the Dancers Workshop, usually avoided traditional technique and often performed outdoors instead of on a conventional stage. Another modern dance pioneer, Robert Dunn, believed that the process of art was more significant than the end product. Merce Cunningham experimented with the relationship between dance and music and created choreography that was unrelated to the music it was accompanied by."(Alton,Gorgia) This shows that dances created were original, they weren't afraid of pushing the boundaries of typical dance styles or setting. The audience became more involved in dances. Robert Ellis Dunn was not only a choreographer but also a musician. Dunn was the one who introduced dance composition in the element of choreographing.

"Dunn appreciated John Cage's non-judgmental approach to teaching, and analyzed structure, form, method, and materials over praise or criticism of a work. Dunn pushed students to experiment with phrasing, technique, musicality, and logic in order to develop a new style of dance. Movements were created out of improvisation, and many variables could change the movement. Timing was sometimes cued by the changing signal of a traffic light outside the studio window. Dunn's experiments with music, movement, and surrounding elements greatly influenced many post-modern dancers including Steve Paxton, father of contact improvisation. Later in life, Dunn became interested in video dance, which he felt exposed dance to those who do not seek it out and gave the choreographer the ability to draw attention to certain details of a piece. While Dunn had distinct ideas regarding composition, he did not wish to define or codify a style of movement, and insisted on his work always being seen as an evolving process rather than proven theory." (Wikipedia). I feel hat improvisation and composition became important in choreographic elements.

Kurshiah 3Postmodern music evolved just like other art forms during this time; it breaks away from the traditional forms. "Postmodern music is either a musical condition or a musical style. As a musical condition, postmodern music is music that exists in late capitalism, as part of the postmodern condition. In this sense, postmodern music is a language by which people can signify belonging to a musical culture. As a musical style, postmodern music contains characteristics of postmodern art. It favors eclecticism in form and musical genre, and often combines characteristics from different genres. It tends to be self-referential and ironic, and it blurs the boundaries between "high art" and kitsch."(Alton, Gorgia) Just like dance, postmodern music combines different characteristics of musical genre to start experimenting with new ways of making music. There were many pioneers of postmodern musicians like John Cage, Phillip Glass and Frank Zappa.

In one of Frank Zappa live interviews he made music using everyday objects like bicycle and so on. People thought he was crazy and were laughing at what he was doing, but because he wasn't afraid to be different he found new ways to make music, which changed the perspective on making music. Whereas, "John Cage began to explore electronic sound generation, at first through record turntables whose speed could be modulated; eventually, transferring his allegiance from Schoenberg to the chaotic tradition of Charles Ives and Edgard Varese, Cage thought of composing from sounds heard on the streets." (Kostelanetz) This is the earliest form music technology was accepted as an art form.

Kurshiah 4These two different art forms, dance and music developed at the same time with a certain idea and to break away from common styles or tradition. For example Merce Cunningham and John Cage first worked in New York ever since 1944; "because their works "broke the rules" and thus were different in more ways than the dance and music worlds could understand, both mean, separately and together, were widely dismissed as "unserious" or "absurd"."(Kostelanetz) during that time it wasn't common and the music created by Cage was not pleasant and he used weird and unusual objects. Many people that weren't open to new ideas at that time could not accept the music that Cage produced. Same as it is in dance, created by Cunningham were either going against the music or the gestures and movements through space weren't considered as dance movements. Both dared to be different that is actually the most important thing that I would like to point out they explore beyond possibilities. They created a sense of freedom and unlimited source of materials were used. "Together and separately, Cage and Cunningham rank among the most influential artist of their time, affecting not only their own art but, more significantly perhaps, on others." (Koselanetz) with this being said, I agree with the statement. Because of Cage and Cunningham forty of collaboration together they developed a kind of mind set or an idea and it was able to progress because it was a uique and new way of making dance and music.

Postmodern art has created and changed people's perspective of art and how it affected our dance today. Because of this artistic movement improvisation and composition existed in our vocabulary. People no longer followed the traditional art forms or styles of performing. Now people become more original and they were able to show their character in their own and individual way. Postmodernists are more pessimistic and do not see the world necessarily improving in the future.(Alton, Gorgia) People no longer just look for beauty or perfection, they found a way to look beyond that and even if it is distorted people began to appreciate art in an aesthetic point of view. I feel that nowadays people lack the initiative to experiment and be daring to take risks; by pushing boundaries and by not playing safe we could create something different. We won't know if it works or not if we do not try then how could we possible know?

Kurshiah 5Even though, "Postmodern dance was a relatively short-lived movement, but it was a stepping stone to other artistic endeavors. Performance art, a movement featuring theatrical events realized through loosely structured combinations of events, grew out of the collaboration between dance and other art forms. Dancers like Twyla Tharp put their own stamp on postmodern theory and began a return to more structured choreography, making way for the contemporary dance genre of today."(Alton, Gorgia) Without these aspects of postmodernism the art forms wouldn't transform or develope to what we call "Contemporary Dance" that we have today.

Kurshiah 6Work Citation

Alton, Gorgia. The History of Postmodernism: September 12, 2009. 22nd Augus2010.<>

Banes, Sally. Writing Dancing-in the age of Postmodernism. Wesleyan University Press: University Press of New England Hanover and London, 1994.

Kostelanetz, Richard. John Cage-(ex)plain(ed). Schimer Books: An imprint of Simon and SchusterMacmillan New York, 1996.

Wikipedia, Postmodern Dance. 24th July 2010. 22nd August 2010. <>

Wikipedia, Robert Ellis Dunn. 30th June 2010. 3rd October 2010. <>

World Wide Arts Resources Granville, Ohio, 1995. 22nd August. 2010. <>

Website citations

The Purdue OWL Family of Sites. The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue U, 2008. Web. 23 Apr. 2008.

Felluga, Dino. Guide to Literary and Critical Theory. Purdue U, 28 Nov. 2003. Web. 10 May 2006.

Book citations

Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.