Contemporary Modern Dance: The Work Of Alvin Ailey And Katherine Dunham

analytical Essay
1280 words
1280 words

Throughout this analytical essay I will discuss, analyse and conclude the work of two contemporary modern dance pioneers, Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham. I will pay particular attention to the era 1935-1980 and focus on socio elements of this time period, using relevant literature to support my findings.
The twentieth century dramatically changed the way people viewed and perceived dance and gave us contemporary modern dance as we know it. Modern dance allowed movement that was representative of expressive emotion and lifted the restriction identified in dance styles such as: classical ballet. Modern dance was seen as a radical change in the twentieth century, as it made room for interpretive movement, complex narrative and what we know …show more content…

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how ailey's diverse choreographic style played with emotion and reflected his early life experiences.
  • Explains how the ailey organisation caters for everyone and allows his "dance is for all" legacy to live on.
  • Analyzes the work of two contemporary modern dance pioneers, alvin ailey and katherine dunham, focusing on socio elements of the era 1935-1980.
  • Explains that ailey's early life experience of racism encouraged him to open a multi-racial dance company in 1958, and that his choreographic homage to lester horton inspired his own company.
  • Describes how katherine dunham revolutionized american dance in the 1930s by going to the roots of black dance and rituals transforming them into significant artistic choreography that speaks to all.

Ailey’s diverse choreographic style played with emotion and reflected his early life experiences. He used themes within his works such as: racism, oppression, religion, community and solidarity. Such themes are most prominent in his most famous work – Revelations (1960) which is a celebratory study of religious spirit and was created for Ailey’s third season. Ailey was a devout baptist and described church as being a “constant” throughout his childhood and that it gave him “hope”. We can see these religious beliefs being used as key themes during section one of Revelations – “I Been Buked”. All nine dancers raise their hands in a cup-shaped gesture and bring them down with flexed palms using slow heavy and tense dynamics. This is reminiscent of asking for help or pouring forth a blessing. During this section, the theme oppression is also relevant as we see all nine dancers perform a deep plié in second position with their torsos straining sideways, palms splayed and one arm sliding up the wrist. This movement refers to Ailey’s experience of racism in Texas due to the slow, heavy and tense

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