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Contemporary Dance

Contemporary dance differs from more traditional dancing styles in one critical way: it is not bound or defined by set standards or styles; unlike practically every other 'formal' dance form. Its onus lies heavily on individual expression, and on total body movement. This reflects its origins, which are firmly international in nature, and stem from a mixture of Western, African and even Japanese butoh dancing.

Because of this, one could define Contemporary dance as more of a collection of dance styles bound by a common ethos, rather than a specific dance form in its own right. Vis a vis, it mirrors the other cultural forms alongside which it developed, and which give Contemporary dance its cultural context. These include abstract art, pop music and postmodernism.

Well-known forms of Contemporary dance include:

  • Street Dancing
  • Breakdancing
  • Thrashing
  • Cha Cha slide

to name a few. In reality, there are a huge number of forms associated with the movement; in fact, some would argue there are as many forms as there are people practicing it.

A key element of Contemporary dance is that its forms, on the most part, evolved outside of the studio/theatre environment, and were then adopted, formalised and commercialised after the event. This has led to some anthropologists categorising Contemporary dance as essentially 'urban folk dances'. While this is an interesting perspective, 'folk' dance is a loaded term that carries strong connotations of localism and class divide, which aren't applicable given Contemporary dance's globalised, cross-cultural remit.

To learn Contemporary dance, you have more avenues open to you than many traditional dances like, say, ballet. Studios and tutors are, of course, firm options; but there exist many dance clubs, crews, workshops and societies that may enable you to learn the basics for free in a friendly, community environment. The form's lack of strict styles works to its advantage here: if you don't quite 'get' the moves, it isn't the end of the world!

A solid course of action could be to combine the two: learning from a tutor to improve your skills and then practicing them with a club or crew. The former will give you the technical knowledge and skill, and the latter will provide opportunities to let loose and practice!