February 28, 2024

About the Author: Urpi

Urpi is the lead dance instructor at S&C Dance, where her passion for movement knows no bounds. Alongside her captivating dance classes, she also teach singing!

Previously, in The History of Dance Part 7: The Arrival of Contemporary Dance, we told you about how, during the ’70s, Dance Theatre, created by the great German dancer Pina Bausch, influenced the nascent generations of Contemporary Dance, the next era in dance. As well as that, during the 80s, the work of the brilliant Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian contributed to setting the seeds for Contemporary Dance as his work, which mixes elements of Ballet, aims to reveal new possibilities in dance, breaking the rules of academicism.

Then, during the 90s, the work of William Forsythe, an outstanding American choreographer, became crucial for developing this new dance style as his work based on Classical Dance is characterized by taking the fundamentals of Ballet to the extreme, combining the visual arts in his choreographies.

Last but not least, in the early 2000s, influenced by the work of the Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharim, the somatic experience became a trait of Contemporary Dance. So, let’s keep travelling in time to learn about the work of different choreographers worldwide who have helped to consolidate Contemporary Dance; let’s first look at Brazil.

Rodrigo Pederneiras and Deborah Colker

Identity in Contemporary Dance

Following the example of the African American choreographers we discussed before who integrated Modern Dance with Folk Dances in their choreographies, Brazilian choreographers took the lead in Contemporary Dance and have inspired the dance world with their unprecedented Contemporary Dance productions.

They have managed to take aspects such as the rhythms of African and indigenous communities, the movements of animals and nature and the daily life of feelings and human expressions of current Brazilians to develop a Contemporary Dance with identity.

Among the immense portfolio of excellent dancers and choreographers who have promoted Contemporary Dance in Brazil and have been one of its pioneers in South America, the first place is the fabulous work of Rodrigo Pederneiras, the house choreographer of Grupo Corpo, one of the most outstanding dance companies in Brazil founded by Paulo Pederneiras in Belo Horizonte in 1975.

Since its foundation, “Grupo Corpo” has not stopped surprising with every different dance play, and they are widely known for its astonishing choreographies that mix Classical Ballet and Folk Dance and then set to motion bodies that push the limits of technical rigour.

In fact, Rodrigo Pederneiras is probably one of the few choreographers able to achieve such a mix in a very organic way, challenging the audience`s preconceptions regarding Ballet and Modern Dance, and this could be seen in dance plays such as “Bach” (1996), “Parabelo” (1997), “Onqoto” (2005) and many others.

Along with Rodrigo Pederneiras, Deborah Colker is in second place, another brilliant choreographer whose work has also put Brazil at a high level through her dance company’s international and national tours and presentations.

The “Deborah Colker Dance Company” founded in 1993 in Rio de Janeiro reflects indeed the amazing dance style that Colker has developed and that certainly has influenced other Contemporary Dance choreographers.

In dance plays such as Velox (1995), Mix (2001), or Dinamo (2009), we can see how her work is characterized by the search for vigour, vitality, technical precision, and especially the idea that mechanics in Brazilian daily life and sports can be transformed into a choreographic movement.

In this way, the Brazilian Contemporary Dance scene creates a world of sensations, colours, and flavours nourished by every aspect of its vast cultural diversity. It inspires other choreographers to examine their roots and develop an identity in their dance.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaker and Wim Vandekeybus

Contemporary Dance on the Screen

Moving back to Europe, since the 1980s and 90s in Belgium, two incredible dancers and choreographers have been responsible for the unquestionably influential Flemish wave in Contemporary Dance, contributing enormously to its development and popularity.

The first is the case of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, a fantastic choreographer who in 1983 in Brussels founded “Rosas” her dance company and who became a reference in the dance world for choreographies such as “Drumming” (1998) or “Rain” (2001) set to Steve Reich’s Music, being “Rosas danst Rosas” her major work as it gave her worldwide recognition for her unique style which fuses the gestures of daily life with formal abstract movement and reveals an innovative choreographic style.

Besides that, with “Rosas danst Rosas,” a choreography in a dance video format, Anne Teresa was one of the first choreographers to dive into the audiovisual world and take Contemporary Dance with her.

Moreover, in 1995, she founded P.A.R.T.S, a school of Contemporary Dance that has become the leading European training centre.

As well as Anne Teresa, another stunning choreographer is Wim Vandekeybus, who since 1987, after launching his dance company “Ultima Vez” and with the creation of “What The Body Does Not Remember”, started to develop a novel and innovative dance style which has allowed him to become a reference in the Contemporary Dance world.

The wonderful work of Vandekeybus mainly focused on-screen dance, having created more than 12 dance films, such as “Blush” (2002) or “Galloping Mind” (2015) which definitely show his dance signature characterized by intense physicality showing the opposition between men and women, tension and conflict, the body/mind dichotomy, risk and impulses as well as passion, intuition and instinct brilliantly showed on dance films where pure movement develops a story that captures the audience’s attention from start to end.

Therefore, Vandekeybus’s legacy in Contemporary Dance is enormous. He has motivated plenty of other choreographers to develop it in the audiovisual world, which undoubtedly handles other codes in terms of space, time, and dynamics to which dance has to adapt.

At this point, we can highlight that among all the traits of contemporary dance, the one that has made this new style is dialogue with other arts.

But we will tell you more about this mesmerising art in the next part.

So, we invite you to read part 9 of the History of Dance. The history of Dance continues, and at S&C Dance, we will gladly share it with you.

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