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During twentieth century, there was a new dance form that was appearing in American, which was modern dance. It was to have a significant influence on the dance education. Modern dance has broken the rule of classical ballet. “The theme of modern dance works might encompass Greek mythology; Ancient or modern poetry or other literary works; American folklore and legendry; major social issues; interpersonal relationships approached psychoanalytically; historical events; or, simply, abstract and lyrical works that had no theme or story line.” (Kraus, Richard. Page, 114) “Modern dance beginning with Isadora Duncan,”(Kraus, Richard. Page, 112) “she believed that dance should come from and be an expression of the spirit, inspired by nature; anything else was stilted and artificial.” (Brown, Jean Morrison. Page, 7)
Isadora Duncan was born in San Francisco, California in 1876. (Foster, Susan Leigh. Page, 116) Her family was artistic, her mother taught music, and young Isadora studied ballet. (Kraus, Richard. Page, 116) According to Richard Kraus, Isadora began to give dancing lessons at an early age. “At the age of eighteen, she left for Chicago;
then she gave concerts in New York at the Carnegie Hall in Greek vases and statuary.” (Kraus, Richard. Page, 117) However, she soon broke away from the classic dance form, which did not suit her spirit. (Kraus, Richard. Page, 116) “Isadora Duncan proclaimed a new era of dance beginning in 1903.” (Foster, Susan Leigh. Page, 145) Her first appearance in Russia, in 1905, stimulated a controversy between the traditional balletomanes and critics and those who proposed reform of the ballet. (Kraus, Richard. Page, 117) “Duncan’s choreographic vision did not depend as much on an understanding of Greek culture or mythology as on her conception of the Greeks’ ideas about the soul and the body.” (Forster, Susan Leigh. Page, 145) She danced barefoot in simple, Greek tunics and scarves, and threw away the dancer’s costume, such as corsets, tutus, and ballet slippers at that period. Therefore, her performance was not in the sense of characterization and told a story.
At that time, people took the Greek idea of perfection of body line, the gesture of classical ballet was limited and rigidly, such as feet turn out and arms holding position, controlling legs and turns in the air, or dancing on the pointes. “Duncan reproached the classical ballerina with a false consciousness of the mechanical origin of movement that ballet was not only wrong about the body, it was unsyntactical, noncumulative, each action was an end, and no movement, pose or rhythm was successive or could be made to evolve succeeding action.” (Kracauer, Siegfried. Page, 7) “In nothing does Nature suggest jumps and breaks, there is between all the conditions of life a continuity or flow which the dancer must respect
in his art, or else become a mannequin-outside nature and without true beauty” (Brown, Jean Morrison. Page, 8)
On the other way, Isadora Duncan’s movement found in nature, such simple action could influence her imagination to created steps. For example, she said: “I was born by the sea, my first idea of movement of the dance, certainly came from the rhythm of the waves.” (Brown, Jean Morrison. Page, 8) The majority of her picture shows, her dance movements were looks like quit simple and without brilliant dance technique, the arms were free flowing and extended, the gesture was freedom and no limited position. “It was more a harmonious plasticity, swinging, swaying, flowing rhythms, with no marked dissonances, no little vibratory movements.” (Constance, Garcia Barrio, Page, 19-22)
Moreover, Duncan’s personal life was almost approach to her dance choreograph. Claiming she did not believe in marriage or monogamy. Duncan brought her feminist consciousness to the dance stage and introduced the soloist performance to dance audiences. For example her solo, “Mother”, “illustrates how the play of idol and fetish becomes activated in the service of an essentialized female role.” (Franko, Mark. Page, 10) “Her efforts to reform the constricted movements of women’s bodies in daily life and in theatrical self-display had meaning both externally for social life and internally for dance history.” (Franko, Mark. Page, 2) “She transferred the idea of a soul in physical form to the syllogism: female body equal to nature, nature equal to dance, therefore: female body equal to dance.”
(Franko, Mark. Page, 1 0) “Duncan’s dancing presented woman as close to nature, emotion, and the unconscious while also enshrining nature in the solar plexus.” (Franko, Mark. Page, 10)
In my opinion, between ballet and modern dance, except gestures and movements different, there was another difference, which was performance stage. “Palais Royal developed manner of the new Italian theater; it had an elevated stage on which the action took place at one end of the hall beneath a proscenium arch during 16 century.” (Kraus, Richard. Page, 74) We can clearly see that ballet steps almost facing frontal since 16 century. This was easily for dancer only focus on one direction of audience, rather than on three sides of audience. That was why the dancer’s feet and leg became more and more turn out, instead of straight forward. Therefore, the performer separated from the audiences.
On the contrast, the stage of modern dance could set something, sometimes the performer had interactive with audiences, audience could go on the stage, and saw the performer from difference direction. Maybe the dancer of modern dance does not care their back or bum facing to the audiences. “Duncan on stage was notably austere; St. Denis often created opulent sets with sculptures and scenic backdrops to simulate exotic locales like Egypt or India. (Foster, Susan Leigh. Page 148)
In conclusion, Isadora is known as the mother of “modern dance,” not only she found a new form of dance, but she also brought a new idea to dance movements. Her choreograph was expressing an inner feeling about life and without discipline, and
provide an unlimited imagination space that dancers could find our own style and translate our own feeling and character to dance movement.
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