March 5, 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!

Formerly, in The History of Dance Part 8: The Consolidation of Contemporary Dance, we saw how amazing Brazilian choreographers such as Rodrigo Pederneiras from the “Grupo Corpo” and Deborah Colker with her dance company contributed enormously not only to promoting this new style in South America but also to inspiring and inviting other choreographers to examine their cultural diversity and develop an identity in their dance.

Furthermore, other outstanding Flemish choreographers like Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker with her dance company “Rosas” and Wim Vandekeybus with his company “Ultima Vez” have explored Contemporary Dance and its interaction with audiovisual arts.

They took a step further, creating dance for the screen and producing plenty of dance films.

At this point, it may seem that the definition of Contemporary Dance is vague, as each choreographer’s work is completely different.

Still, we will clarify it soon. So, let’s keep travelling in time, as some other relevant choreographers are waiting for you to know their contributions.

Wayne MacGregor

The Unbridled Creative Force in Contemporary Dance

The fantastic work of Wayne MacGregor is, without a doubt, the work of a young British choreographer that we can not omit in the history of Contemporary Dance.

MacGregor, who has a solid foundation in Modern Dance, started his dance training at Bretton Hall College of the University of Leeds and the Jose Limon School in New York. In 1992, he was appointed Choreographer-in-Residence at the Place, the home of the London Contemporary Dance School.

That same year, he founded his own dance company, “Random Dance”, which would be named after him and allowed him to start his journey as a successful choreographer.

In 2002, he was invited along with his dance company to be the first Resident Company at the new Sadler’s Wells Theatre. In 2006, MacGregor also became the first Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet from a Contemporary Dance background.

Regarding his particular dance style, MacGregor has been described as the “Enfant terrible of dance.” His insatiable curiosity and unbridled creative force have allowed him to develop his dance with disturbing ease in various fields, such as opera, visual art, theatre, all forms of dance, films, music videos, architecture, cognitive science, and high fashion.

The ideas that feed his choreography come from all kinds of places, from the artistic legacy of Sergei Diaghilev and his company, Ballets Russes, to the most advanced technology.

MacGregor is one of the first choreographers to explore dance creation with artificial intelligence and robotics.

Choreographies such as “Tree of Codes” (2015), “Multiverse” (2016) and “Living Archive: An AI Performance Experiment” (2019) show his style as both easy to recognise and difficult to describe.

Avoiding classical storytelling or concept development in dance with the inevitable plot, the words abstract, modern and experimental all apply to his work. Still, it is said that their meaning is only understood when experiencing his work in motion.

Furthermore, his choreography expresses an ongoing desire to understand the physical world, feel, and explore space, bodies and movement as the stage becomes the laboratory and the body parts become experiments.

MacGregor’s principal message in dance is to focus on the body and watch and understand the body.

Akram Khan

A Look Back to Go Forward in Contemporary Dance

Along with Wayne MacGregor, another stunning young British choreographer of Bangladeshi descent whose work has been crucial for Contemporary Dance is Akram Khan’s work.

With a dance background rooted in classical Kathak, which is one of the eight major forms of Indian Classical Dance, he started his training in Contemporary Dance at De Montfort University, at the Northern School of Contemporary School and with working with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker after being already a well-known dancer of Kathak.

During the 90’s, he began presenting solo performances of his work, starting to gain recognition for his unique dance style. In 2000, he launched the “Akram Khan Dance Company” to develop his dance in other fields, such as music videos, pop concerts, visual arts and theatre.

As an instinctive and natural collaborator, Khan is described as a “Magnet to World-class artists from other cultures and disciplines”. Dance plays such as “Until the Lions” (2016), “XENOS” (2018) or “Jungle Book Reimagined” (2022) show his particular ability to take elements from the past to create a Contemporary Dance style that is completely innovative and original, along with his profoundly moving, fast and sharp dance style in which his intelligently crafted storytelling is effortlessly intimate and epic.

Therefore, with a dance style based on his own version of the Kathak and his use of collaboration and ensemble production, Khan has become a global icon and an inspiring reference for other choreographers.

Group of contemporary dancers

So, What is Contemporary Dance?

So far, we have seen how this new style appeared motivated by the desires of choreographers to go far beyond the established rules in dance, looking for new possibilities of movement and body experience and dialoguing with audiovisual arts.

We also told you how it was consolidated by choreographers’ desire to develop an identity in their work and create dance, especially for the screen.

Now, we have just told you about the most recent traits that help to describe Contemporary Dance, which is the unbridled creative force that this new style incentivises and that it looks back to go forward and create innovative choreographies, so Contemporary Dance is constantly evolving.

Now, we can finally define Contemporary Dance as even inside the Dance World; sometimes, dancers and choreographers find it challenging to define because Contemporary Dance is the current era in dance and is in total development.

In summary, Contemporary Dance is a dance that has the need to express itself more freely and initially with the body in opposition to Classical and Modern forms, this being the space where various movement techniques typical of the 20th and 21st centuries converge, which often seeks to develop and transmit concepts of the choreographer’s discourse and which constantly dialogues with other arts to feed on them.

44 years have passed since its appearance, and although our prediction is that Contemporary Dance will continue for 5 or 6 more years until another era arrives, the future is uncertain.

From now on, we are spectators, but time travel in the history of Dance is not over. Even though we have arrived at the present, at S&C Dance, we will gladly tell you about other amazing Dance Styles.

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