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  • Dianne De Battista

A little bit about Contemporary Dance in Australia and overseas


The history of contemporary dance is very rich. Back in the early days of the contemporary dance movement around the late 1800’s, the contemporary dance pioneers wanted to reflect on the politics of the day, to be creative and to express themselves through dance and tell their stories. Today, in the international dance arena, contemporary dance is taught as a discipline in its own right. It has its own structure and form.

The first and second generations of contemporary dancers were mainly women who choreographed dances that challenged the accepted dance themes. Their choreographed works that commented on political and social changes within society establishing a new language of dance movement.

Within the formal contemporary dance world there are a number of different philosophies or contemporary techniques that are recognised such as Limon Cunningham, Horton and Alvin Ailey and many more. One of the most respected techniques, the Martha Graham technique.

Martha Graham’s technique of contemporary dance is unique. She developed a technique that focuses on the use of the torso. As a young dancer I was drawn to this technique and it became very important to me. It is a structured form of training and can be broken down and reconstructed and a wonderful teaching technique for all ages.

I remember when I was in New York and I saw a special performance by the Martha Graham Contemporary Dance Company showcasing her work. It was an unfinished piece Martha Graham had choreographed. Martha Graham was in her nineties when she was commissioned to create the work. The piece was incomplete because Martha Graham had passed away during the making of the work. I looked at her work and thought: ‘If I could do anything half as good as that, even a quarter as good, in my life, I would be rapt’. It was so beautiful and the thing that got me about her work was that she constantly evolved. Her work never stood still. She was always and ever creating. It was amazing. I couldn’t stop watching. It was so beautiful’


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