American Dance: Ted Shawn

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There are many performers, choreographers, and artistic movements that have greatly impacted and influenced today’s American entertainment industry. One man in particular led a revolution of modern dance which created the dance style as it is now known and recognized today; this man is Ted Shawn. As an innovator of modern dance, Ted Shawn impacted today’s American entertainment industry through his emphasis on masculine rather than effeminate qualities in male dancers, and the creation of his nationally renowned dance festival and institution known as “Jacob’s Pillow.” Ted Shawn’s innovations regarding movement and choreography greatly revolutionized the way the male dancer is viewed today. Commonly referred to as the “Father of American Dance,”…show more content…
Kinetic Molpai was choreographed for an all-male dance company and contained much of Shawn’s innovative movement for men (Jacobs pillow). The piece begins with a soloist performing very staccato movements to hit a particular pose and hold there until moving on in the choreography – in Choeur Danse, poses were placed and the dancers would slowly melt out of them before continuing on to the next movement. In Kinetic Molpai, the dancers create strong, angular body lines and every move is delivered with emphasis and power. As the dance continues and eight new dancers enter the stage, each movement has a purpose and there is no room for additional flourishing - as is typically expected of female dancers and is clearly seen in Choeur Danse (Jacob’s pillow). By comparing and contrasting the two works, one can see the clear stylistic distinction between the two genders that Shawn so greatly tried to distinguish between.With this new masculine approach to dance, Shawn attracted many male followers and students. In the 1930’s, Shawn created the all-male dance troupe known as the Men Dancers. The troupe toured nationally and internationally with much success throughout the 1930’s and made a great impact…show more content…
The Jacob’s Pillow farm, originally named for its geographical attributes, was bought by Shawn in 1931 to be used as a retreat (Jacob’s pillow history). Shawn “wanted his dancers and students to be outdoors, live away from the city, and eat a carefully considered, simple, and nutritious diet” (Reaccession pg.70). Shawn and his Men Dancers made their home at “The Pillow.” Here they danced, promoted their work through well attended “Tea Lecture Demonstrations,” and planted the roots for the festival as it is known today (pillow about). In return for his innovative and successful leadership, the company contributed greatly to the growth and development of festival grounds by “building their own cabins, refurbishing a barn into a dance studio, and erecting a stone dining room” (Scolieri). Other features of Jacob’s Pillow include, the first ever American theatre built solely for the use of dance performances – the Ted Shawn Theatre. Opening its doors on July 9th, 1942, the theatre set a precedent in the American entertainment industry and inspired many more dance theatres to be built across America (about Jacob). As years passed, the festival continued to grow in success and pioneering in the dance world. Since 2000, the festival has received several national

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