THE HISTORY OF MODERN DANCE
Ballet Austin’s Michelle Thompson and Frank Shott The Pioneers of Modern Dance
Modern Dance was born in America during the turn of the 20th century when a number of choreographers and dancers rebelled against the two forms of dance that were prevalent at the time, ballet and vaudeville. They rejected what they interpreted as the rigid and imperialistic nature of ballet, and they wanted to be taken seriously as artists rather than be seen simply as entertainers. Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, and Ted Shawn are considered to be the pioneers of modern dance in America.
Loie Fuller in La Danse Blanche circa 1896
Isadora Duncan at the Parthenon Theater
In 1891, Loie Fuller began experimenting with the effects of gas lighting on her silk costumes. Fuller developed a form of natural movement and improvisation techniques that were used in conjunction with her revolutionary lighting equipment and translucent silk costumes. Fuller was an inventor and stage craft innovator who held many patents for stage lighting, including the first chemical mixes for gels and slides and the first use of luminescent salts to create lighting effects. Most of the movement was performed with the arms, as Fuller had minimal dance training. She emphasized visual effect rather than storytelling or expressing emotions.
Considered the founding mother of American modern dance,
Isadora Duncan was largely self‐taught. She presented her first recitals in 1898, and by 1900 she was in Europe, where she would spend most of her remaining life and win the greatest acceptance.
Duncan was truly revolutionary. She discarded the corset, slippers, and