HomeDanceModern Bodies: Dance and American Modernism from Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey (Cultural Studies of the United States)

Modern Bodies: Dance and American Modernism from Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey (Cultural Studies of the United States)

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This text exposes the social dynamics that shaped American modernism and moved modern dance to the edges of society, a place both provocative and perilous. It was in 1930 that dancer and choreographer Martha Graham proclaimed the arrival of "dance as an art of and from America". Dancers such as Doris Humphrey, Ted Shawn, Katherine Dunham, and Helen Tamaris joined Graham in creating a new form of dance, and, like other modernists, they experimented with and argued over their aesthetic innovations, to which they assigned great meaning. However, modern dance was distinct from other artistic genres in that it attracted many different sections of society. Women held leading roles in the development of modern dance both on and off stage, gay men recast the effeminacy often associated with dance into hardened, heroic, American athleticism and African Americans contributed elements of social, African, and Caribbean dance. Through their art, modern dancers challenged conventional roles and images of gender, sexuality, race, class, and regionalism with a view of American democracy that was confrontational and participatory, authorial and populist.

  • University of North Carolina Press

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