The pedagogic significance of 20th Century modern dance training on the 21st Century dancing body, with reference to Doris Humphrey’s dance technique and movement philosophy

Part of book or chapter of book English OPEN
Main, Lesley (2009)
  • Publisher: Congress on Research in Dance

What are the critical issues in dance education and training? A primary issue is ensuring that the ‘trained body’ is equipped for the range of activity today’s dance practitioner will encounter. The paper considers both the relevance and impact that ‘traditional’ modern dance training can have on today’s dancer. Issues addressed will include: what our students are using technique for; the progression from ‘training body’ to ‘trained body’ and how this is achieved; what a codified dance technique offers; appropriate pedagogic approaches. A dance technique could be defined as a set of movement vocabulary/sequences that progress; that are designed to train or develop the body or parts of the body to perform specific action/s; usually sequenced in a particular order. Humphrey and Graham techniques both come within this definition, as could others within the modern dance genre such as Cunningham, Limon, Hawkins and Horton. The original purpose of these techniques remains relevant within a repertory context today but their practice and potential is unexploited within an educational/training context. I argue that these techniques offer the 21st Century dancer a depth of knowledge and experience that should not be ignored – a danger in our ephemeral ever-evolving field. Engagement with these dance traditions involves a physical articulation underpinned by a distinctive movement philosophy. The ‘training body’, therefore, is exposed to a breadth of knowledge on numerous and inter-related levels encompassing the physical, physiological, artistic, historical, musical and analytical. The scholarship entailed in this form of engagement is no less substantive than any other form of study although the outcomes may have a more ephemeral existence. Formal modern dance techniques, therefore, are not simply historical but have the potential to make a significant contribution to the technical and artistic training of today’s dancer.
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