Acro Dance: What is it? Unravelling the Art of Acrobatics in Dance

Acro Dance

When athletics and art come together to make something new and beautiful. Physically demanding, emotionally captivating, welcome to the world of “Acro”.

As the fairly literal name would suggest, Acro Dance is a captivating style that skillfully combines classical dance techniques with precision acrobatic elements. Known for its athletic character, this form of dance often showcases stunning choreography, blending beauty and strength to create truly jaw-dropping performances.

Acro challenges dancers to seamlessly integrate these two disciplines while maintaining grace and poise. As a result, acro dancers are well-rounded performers who possess strength, flexibility, and fluidity. For budding and upcoming dancers, Acro Dance provides variety and training to develop an impressive repertoire of skills and abilities that can be applied across a wide selection dance styles.

How did Acro Dance develop? A whistle-stop history.

So who’s great idea was it to create this new genre?  To answer that we need to go back a fair way to traditional Chinese dance (influenced by Chinese acrobatics, which has evolved since 475 – 221BC), and eventually found its way to the western world in the late 1800’s-1900’s. According to CityDance, this unique dance form became especially popular in the United States and Canada during the latter end of this period, as it was often showcased as an act in circuses and vaudevilles – which at this point had evolved well beyond its roots in French theatrical comedy, to be much more of a ‘variety show’ format of short impactful performances.

Although dancing and gymnastic acts were already being performed in vaudevilles before the 1900s, it wasn’t until this time that the two disciplines began to be combined into what we now know as acro dance. As acro dance continued to evolve, fluid movements, strength, and flexibility became the foundation for executing seamless choreographed routines.

The last few years has seen the spotlight and garnering the recognition it deserved. And rightly so.

Key Components


Acro dance incorporates acrobatic elements, which include various tricks such as handstands, backflips, aerials, and contortions. The use of acrobatics in a dance context adds excitement and visual appeal for the audience.

It is essential for Acro dancers to develop strength, flexibility, and balance in order to execute these acrobatic moves with proper technique. The foundations of Acro focus on teaching dancers these fundamentals in a safe and methodical manner, allowing them to progress and build upon their skills.


Besides acrobatics, Acro dance also integrates classical dance technique into its unique choreography. This can include elements from various dance styles, such as ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance, allowing for a diverse range of expressive movements.

Dancers need to not only learn how to perform acrobatic tricks but also how to incorporate them into choreography, which is no small feat.

Popular Acro Dance Tricks & Poses

So let’s take a look at a few of the popular tricks and poses. Please note that dancers require a gradual build-up to these moves, the right stretching and support. We advise getting expert tuition to help you develop safely.

  • Aerial cartwheel – Also known as a no-handed cartwheel. Where the dancer launches into the air executes a cartwheel without touching the ground with the hands.


  • Back walkover – The dancers begins in a standing position with arms extended overhead, bends backwards into a bridge, kicks the legs over consecutively to perform the splits and returns to a standing position. This video has a handy hint of using a raised platform, for those who are struggling to perform the back walkover.


  • Valdez – Similar to a back walkover, but performed from a seated position.


  • Handstand – A fundamental acrobatic move that involves balancing upside down on the hands with legs extended together or in various positions, such as a split. Go to the full version of this video to see stretches to prepare for the move and also a selection of tips to help you balance longer.


  • Elbow stand – A variation of the handstand, where the dancer balances on their elbows and forearms.


Obviously this is  just a few examples of the many acro dance tricks and poses that can be incorporated into routines. As acro dance continues to evolve, dancers are always exploring new ways to push the boundaries of what is possible and add unique elements to their performances.


What to Wear to Acro Dance

Form-fitting dancewear is the top choice for acro dancers allowing for unrestricted movement during acrobatic moves and upside-down work. This will often be a bodysuit, paired with footless tights, as these allow for bare feet while still providing coverage and support for the legs. Tights are preferable over bare legs, especially for floor and upside-down work. Other suitable clothing options include black jazz pants or leggings, spandex shorts of appropriate length, and leotards for upper body coverage. When selecting apparel for acro dance, it’s important to ensure that it provides the necessary support, coverage, and freedom of movement required.

Training and Safety

Proper training is essential in ensuring the safety of dancers while performing complex acrobatic tricks and maintaining the artistic integrity of the dance style.

Here are some key aspects to consider for safe and effective Acro dance training:

  • Qualified instructors: Ensure your instructor is certified and experienced in teaching Acro dance, as improper guidance can lead to injuries.
  • Progressive training: Acro dance skills should be learnt gradually, building on foundational skills before attempting more advanced tricks. This allows for proper muscle development and reduces the risk of injury.
  • Spotting: Instructors should always be present to spot students during the learning process, ensuring proper form and technique are followed.
  • Proper equipment: Utilise appropriate mats and other safety equipment during training to minimise the risk of injury.

By following these guidelines, dancers can experience the benefits of Acro dance training while maintaining their safety and well-being.

Popular Acro Dance Performances

Vitori, by Cirque Du Soleil, is a great example, which showcases exceptional aerial acrobatics coupled with emotive storytelling. This world-renowned act continues to impress spectators with its breathtaking display of acro dance skills, strength and balance.

The USA 2006 Women’s Acro Dance Group left a remarkable impact at international competitions. The team showcased extraordinary acro skills and flexibility while harmoniously synchronising their dance moves. Such high-level performances require years of dedicated practice and training to achieve excellence.

Competitions and Events

Acro dance competitions are held across the world and often feature multiple age groups and abilities, making them inclusive events for dancers of all levels – each event may have its own specific rules and regulations.  To keep the competitions engaging and varied, various dance styles, such as acro, ballet, and contemporary, may be encouraged by the organizers. By providing a wide selection of styles, performers can demonstrate the dancers versatility, while audiences have the opportunity to appreciate the diverse range of talents on display.

Finding Acro Dance Classes

To enrol in a suitable class, you can start by exploring local dance studios or schools that offer specialized acro dance programs.

When looking for acro dance classes in your area, consider the following tips:

  • Search online for local dance studios or schools that offer acro dance programs and check their websites for information on class levels and schedules.
  • Ask for recommendations from friends or family members who have experience with acro dance classes.
  • Visit nearby dance studios in person to get a feel for the environment and teaching styles. This can help you decide if the studio is the right fit for you.

Once you have found a studio or school offering acro dance classes, don’t be afraid to try a few different classes or instructors to find the best fit for your needs and skill level. Remember, practice makes perfect, and soon you’ll be mastering the art of acro dance!



Header image by Ilana Bressler, CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

What is The Contemporary Dance?

What is the Contemporary Dance?

Contemporary dance is a form of dance that combines different styles to express emotions and convey ideas through fluid, expressive movements. It is a popular and widely-practiced form of modern dance, with the term "contemporary" referring to movements that are now or currently in style, as opposed to those that were fashionable years ago. One of the unique aspects of contemporary dance is its ability to tell a story without using words, using body movements to communicate themes of time and space.

Contemporary dance does not have a single, identifiable style. It is an eclectic mix of dance techniques from western (classical dance, jazz-modern) and eastern (qigong, Tai Chi Quan, yoga) art of movement. Contemporary dance is distinctive because it reflects current trends and knowledge about the possibilities of the human body and its interaction with dance. The dancer explores and finds new possibilities for movement.

What are its main features?

There are many different styles for this type of dance, but they all have some common features. They are typically focused on the body and the dancer's relationship with it. The body expresses feelings and emotions in ways that words cannot, so the dancer is free to do whatever they want without being restricted by their connection with an outside source. This type of dance can be fluid or rigid, depending on what the choreographer wanted to convey with their movements.

Contemporary dance is characterized by the widest palette of dance patterns and movements.

The movement of this type of dance is highly improvisational, though choreographers do put in some time preparing the overall structure. The movements are continuous and fluid; they roll one into another to make it seem like there was no break between them. Contemporary dancers tend to be more liberal with their use of props and costumes. Often, the style of music is unobtrusive and its tone fits in seamlessly with the dance itself.

One of the best things about this type of dance is that it can be expressed through so many different means. This makes it a constantly growing and changing style, while still maintaining its fluidity throughout every change.

Contemporary dance includes:

  • Upright (dance in a standing position)
  • Parterre (movements on the floor)

During classes, the focus is on breathing, working with space, body weight, voice, and emotion.

History of contemporary dance style

The term "contemporary" when applied to dance is generally used to describe the modernistic approach towards dance which was born in Western countries.

The history of this type of dancing dates a long way back to ancient times when it was called “naïve art” or “art brut”. This then evolved to the theatrical style known as ballet, popular in Western countries. In Russia, however, there was a different approach to a dance called modern dance that gave rise to such styles as abstract and avant-garde.

It is a style of dance that has been around for quite some time. Contemporary dance was born in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. The roots of contemporary dance can be seen in the interpretation of ballet. The early innovators included dancers like Isadora Duncan, Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis, and Martha Graham; who worked to create modern interpretations of classical forms in which they combined with their own ideas. This led to the creation of new concepts that allowed for freedom of movement of the body and personal expression through dance. Duncan used to dance to express feelings and emotions which was quite new for this period of time. These new styles became very popular and people began to flock to see them. Dancers like Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham were the first to use this term which later went on to become a separate form of dancing.

Today, contemporary dance is one of the most popular styles that exist and dancers around the world continue to innovate it into something better with each passing day.

Modern vs Contemporary Dance

Modern dance and contemporary dance styles of dance are generally regarded as the same thing, but they actually have quite a few differences.

In this case, the context becomes important. The first to use the term "modern dance" was in the early twentieth century, when the pioneers of modern dance Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Rudolph Laban, and many others decided that dance needed to return to its original significance. So in response to strict classical ballet, they gave up pointe shoes and danced barefoot; they began to talk with dance about complex issues; they went into the parterre, giving great importance to working with gravity, contrary to ballet, which denied gravity.

When, in addition to the basic principles of modern dance, the dance began to adopt the techniques of oriental martial arts, yoga, dance-movement therapy, dance became even more advanced. So in the '60s, the term "contemporary" began to be used.

Today, the term "modern" is most often used to refer to a period of time, it often means the current, today's practice. That is, it refers to the current stage of development of a particular dance style, such as modern ballet, modern jazz, etc. When the term is used without naming a particular genre (as in the previous examples), the term usually refers to the set of aesthetic values preached by the founders of that genre.

Opinions of contemporary dancers and choreographers also differ on this issue and they do not express clear criteria for the difference between contemporary vs modern dance. So instead of thinking about whether modern or contemporary dance styles exist or not, focus on practicing it and having fun!

Final Words

Different from ballet, where the main idea is weightlessness, in contemporary dance you know how much your body or arm weighs, and you use that to build free, easy, beautiful movement and dance. The focus of the contemporary dance is on the expression of emotions and ideas through movement, rather than trying to be perfect. The fluidity in this type of dance makes it a constantly growing and changing style without losing its fundamental free-flowing nature.

Today, it's hard to define what exactly "contemporary dance" is because of its diversity and uniqueness. It is more important to enjoy the creative process while dancing and creating your own style rather than following strict rules set by people before you.

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan and her Dance Heritage.

Isadora Dunkan

a woman whose name in the early 20th century was synonymous with dance.

“If you could explain something with words, there would be no point in dancing it.”

Isadora Dunkan

is an American dancer considered the founder of free dance, the forerunner of the art nouveau dance.

Isadora Dunkan a woman whose name in the early 20th century was synonymous with dance


Isadora Duncan was born in San Francisco in 1877 to Joseph Duncan, a banker. Born Dora Angela was the youngest of four children in the family. Soon after Isadora was born, the head of the family went bankrupt and the family lived in extreme poverty for some time.

The father soon left the family and the mother, Mary Isadora Gray, had to work hard to support the four children. But she used to say a lot: "You can do without bread, but you can't do without art." In their house there was always music, the family read a lot, played ancient tragedies. Little Isadora started dancing already at the age of two. And at six, she opened the first "school of dance" for neighboring children: teaching them the movements that she invented herself. At the age of 12, while giving lessons, the young dancer could already earn a part-time job. A year later she left school and devoted all her time to dancing, studying music, literature, and philosophy.

From childhood, Isadora perceived dancing differently from other children - the girl "followed her fantasy and improvised, dancing as she liked". Dreams of a big scene led in 1985, Duncan in Chicago, where she unsuccessfully went to auditions in different theaters, and then in New York, wherein 1896 the girl got a job with the theater famous critic and playwright John Augustine Daly. There she took ballet lessons from ballerina Marie Bonfanti. But Duncan is known for her denial and contemptuous attitude towards ballet. Ballet, according to the dancer, was just a complex of mechanical body movements that do not convey spiritual experiences. So, disappointed in classical choreography, Isadora moved to London in 1898 and then to Paris.

Isadora Duncan Biography.

It was in Paris in 1901 there was a fateful meeting between Duncan and Lois Fuller (about which the dance film "La danseuse" was filmed and which later became the founder of the modern dance). Loi and Isadora had similar views on the dance, seeing it as a natural body movement rather than a rigid system of proven movements like in ballet. In 1902 Fuller and Duncan went on a dance tour in European countries. Together they created new compositions: "Dance Serpentine", "Dance of Fire", "The Divine Shoe". Duncan became very famous in the European cultural scene.

In 1903, the dancer went to Greece. There she initiated the construction of a temple on Kopanos hill for dancing classes.

In 1904 Isadora moved to Germany and opened her first dance school there and then another one in Paris, but it was soon closed down due to the outbreak of World War I.

Having become a widely popular and revered dancer around the world, Duncan continues to tour Europe, Russia, and America. She never liked it, she believed that the tour distracted her from her true calling to educate young dancers and create something creative.

Personal life

Duncan's personal life was filled with tragic twists of fate. But she, as a creative person, found solace in work and creativity, no matter what.

In 1904, she met the director Edward Gordon Craig, and a year later they have a daughter. But the happiness didn't last long. Craig, who never officially became Isadora's husband, returned to his former mistress.

In 1910, Duncan gave birth to a second child from billionaire Paris Singer. By the way, the heir to a vast empire of sewing machines needed a lot of effort to win the heart of an incredible and so famous dancer.

Isadora with children.

In 1913, both Duncan's children died tragically. The car in which the children were driving on a car trip fell off the bridge in the Seine. The doors in the water jammed, nobody managed to get out. Isadora went down in fever. She didn't want to live, her strength gradually left her. The doctors sent her inconsolable mother to the resort and prescribed complete peace.

1914. Having become pregnant with the third child by Italian sculptor Romano Romanelli, Isadora also found no consolation: the child died a few hours after birth.

Isadora Duncan and Romano Romanelli.

Then Isadora realized that she was not meant to be happy, that her destiny was loneliness. From now on, work is the only thing that holds her back in this life. There is a new detail in the dancer's stage image - a long red scarf that stood out like a bloody wound against the white tunica. It symbolized the wound that was not healing in her heart.

In 1917, 6 of the first Duncan students were adopted by her and were given the name Duncan. This was done so that during the tour to the U.S. there were no problems associated with the German origin of the participants in the tour.

Duncan and Esenin.

In 1921, Isadora met Sergei Esenin, a famous Russian poet who was 18 years younger than her. It was a bright and discussed love affair because despite the language barrier and age difference the couple was madly in love. At first, they lived in Russia, but soon Duncan had to go on tour to America. To go abroad together, the couple got officially married in 1922. While they lived in Russia, the relationship developed perfectly. But abroad Esenin stopped writing, began drinking, and most of all he was annoyed that no one here knew him as a poet Esenin. Marriage was officially dissolved in 1924, although a couple separated earlier: Esenin left Duncan and went to Russia in 1923. Two years after the divorce, Duncan received the news of Esenin's suicide, which also left a sad trace in her soul.


Duncan was bisexual. For example, after Esenin, she had an affair with American poetess Mercedes de Acosta - about this relationship learned from the letters that the girls wrote to each other.


On 14 September 1927, at the height of her fame, the dancer was to give a concert in Nice. A legend that became famous later said that a moment before getting into the car, Isadora exclaimed to her fans: "Goodbye, friends! I'm going to glory!". The driver touched the car from his seat, but neither he nor the dancer noticed that a long red scarf wrapped around her throat caught the rear wheel axle. After stretching out, he literally strangled Isadora Duncan. The body of the great actress was cremated and the ashes were buried in Paris' Per Lachez Cemetery.

Dunkan's death.

Dance Heritage

Virtually no video recordings of Duncan's dance remained, because the dancer herself believed that the dance could not be recorded, that this is a specific energy that exists right at the moment of the dance.

There is still a perception that Isadora went into some kind of trance and improvised when she came on stage. That is certainly not true. According to a June Layson research, Duncan staged almost 223 dances + 20 in "Iphigenia", of which 176 for herself, 47 for the students.

Innovations introduced by Duncan:

  • The barefoot dance - nobody recognized barefoot dance before her.
  • Light Tunic - Duncan always said that dancing should be about nudity, and tunic helped to show the contours and shape of the body.
  • Music by "serious" composers. Whereas previously ballets and dances had been put on special music by special composers, Duncan chose music by "serious" composers.
  • Cancellation of the corset. At the end of the 19th century, women still wore corsets, but Duncan believed that a corset ugly the body and its shape (including in everyday life).
  • The emancipation of the woman. Duncan fought for a woman's right to live the life she chooses.

A lot of people say that Duncan didn't have the technique. In fact, her dance has certain common features, which can be called a Duncan technique.

Component technicians:

  • solo dance (she was the first one to dare to go on stage without an entire troupe of artists);
  • running;
  • jumps;
  • steps;
  • flowability of movements (one movement flows from another);
  • pantomime;
  • expressive gesture.

The origins of Duncan's choreography:

  • Antiquity;
  • Renaissance;
  • German romanticism;
  • Symbolism;
  • Modern;
  • the dance of the future (the dancer really forced the concept of the dance of the future, because if we now read her essay, published in 1903, we understand that all her prophecies have come true, that the dance really exists for life, the dance somehow corresponds with the forms of the one who moves, etc.).

Dance of the Future Concept

Duncan has developed his own philosophical views. She believed that learning to dance needed everyone to make it a "natural state" for people. Under the influence of Nietzsche's philosophy, Duncan wrote the book Dance of the Future.

According to her beliefs, it is in the dance that a person is able to express his highest ideals and the process of his own formation as self-overcoming. For Duncan, dance is an affirmation of life, health, sensuality, an expression of life's impulse.

The main requirement of Duncan is to radically reconsider views on dance, to recognize it as a "high" kind of art, to use symphonic and opera music, to express spiritual impulses through dance. The ideal of Duncan becomes the dancer of the future - a new harmonious man, living in harmony with nature, with his soul and space. The beautiful movements of this new man should express the impulses of the soul and correspond to the forms of his body. Dance, as Duncan thought, is not an exercise and pirouettes, it is an exaltation of life, theopractics, it is an alternative to the word means to generate ideas. The movement, as she thought, does not need to be thought up, it needs to be invented.

She thought nature was the source of the dance. But Duncan also saw nature in a philosophical way. She learned to observe nature: the movements of waves, clouds, trees, and always sought to bring in his movement a little divine sequence that is inherent in nature.

Another interesting statement by Duncan: "Will is expressed through the use of gravity". That is, Isadora, denying the unnatural forms of ballet that struggled with gravity, on the contrary, believed that one should feel one's body, used earth, and gravity to express one's dance and form.

For her, dance is not only an art but also the basis of a whole concept of life, more refined, natural. Duncan brings morality, beauty, and health to dance. Beauty as understood by Duncan is truth and harmony.


  • June Layson “Isadora Dunkan: A Preliminary Analysis of Her work” Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research.

William Forsythe: a Revolutionary Look at Classical Dance

William Forsythe dance.

Improvisation and choreography are equal partners in a dance. Improvisation is the most important direction of choreographic thinking, it organizes the form of dance and the specificity of dance performance. One of those who made a serious contribution to the art of improvisation as a method of searching for choreographic vocabulary and a tool for developing creative thinking is William Forsythe.

Researchers of modern dance rank Forsythe's improvisation as postmodern improvisation, or the art of dance performance. Forsythe system has been shaped and honed for 15 years. And in 1994, it was designed in a specialized video manual “Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye”, which is still used for training new dancers of Forsythe's troupe and is also a part of training professional dancers of modern dance in Europe and the USA.

About William Forsythe's work and his influence on modern dance – read below.

Life and Career

William Forsythe is a ballet master, a specialist in the field
of modern dance, a researcher of the specifics of human body movement and improvisation. He was born in New York in 1949. He got his choreographic education in Florida. He got at the first dance class at the age of 17 with his roommate by accident, having absolutely no idea what the lesson will be.

In 1971 he joined the Joffrey Ballet (a company famous for the works of contemporary choreographers). It was there that Forsythe first saw Balanchine's ballets on the stage of the New York City State Theater, which undoubtedly contributed to his development as a researcher of dance and choreography.

Since 1973 W. Forsythe has been working in Germany as a performer in the Stuttgart Ballet. Already in 1976, he was appointed ballet master of the company. For this company, he created his first neoclassical miniature - "Urlicht" - a duet to music by Gustav Mahler.

In 1984 William Forsythe became the head of the legendary Frankfurt Ballet and continued to be so until its closure in 2004. At Frankfurt Ballet, the choreographer worked on productions such as Artefact (1984), Steptext (1985), In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (1987, Paris Opera), Impressing the Czar (1988), Limb's Theorem (1990), Loss of Small Detail (1991), ALIE/NA(C)TION (1992), Eidos:Telos (1995), Endless House (1999), KAMMER/KAMMER (2000), and Decreation (2003).

His productions are part of the repertoire of the world's major theatres, including the New York City Ballet, London's Royal Ballet, Paris Opera, National Ballet of Canada and the Netherlands Dance Theatre.

This period of the ballet master's work is characterized by a special radicalism: he puts on performances that are completely different from classical ballet, transforms the aesthetics of classical dance, proclaims freedom in dance from any canons and narratives.

In 1994, the program "Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye" was developed and released.

After 20 years at the Frankfurt Ballet, William Forsythe founded his Forsythe Company troupe in 2004. In addition to appearances at the main venues in Dresden and Frankfurt, the artists were active on tour. Forsythe has staged such ballets for the new company:

  • Three Atmospheric Studies (2005);
  • You made me a monster (2005);
  • Human Writes (2005);
  • Heterotopia (2006);
  • The Defenders (2007);
  • Yes we can't (2008/2010);
  • I don't believe in outer space (2008);
  • The Returns (2009);
  • “Sider” (2011).

He worked as a director and ballet master until 2015 in the troupe. As the reason for Forsythe's resignation, the need to reduce workloads due to health reasons was reported. However, Forsythe has remained a consultant for the company, a guest lecturer and teacher, one of the co-directors and teachers of the European Dance Students' Network program. The directorship of the Forsythe Company was taken over by Jacopo Godani under a new name The Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company".

Forsythe produces and participates in the creation of a large number of architectural and performance installations. The installations have been exhibited at the Louvre, the Venice Biennale, and other important venues. His short film "Solo" was presented in 1997 at the Whitney Biennale.

The choreographer has also received special recognition in the field of fine arts, organizing amazing installations, whose viewers themselves become participants in the action.

Today Forsythe regularly holds lectures and seminars at various universities and creative organizations. He lives and works in Vermont.


Special attention we should pay to Forsythe's work in the fine arts. The project "Choreographic Objects" includes various installations, including interactive ones. Over the past few years, they have been shown in many museums.

Some of its current* interactive installations:

  • The Fact of Matter (Brisbane, Australia) – December 7., 2019 - April 26., 2020;
  • Acquisition/Körperschaft (Hasselt, Germany) - March 14. - May 10., 2020;
  • Aufand, Doing and Undergoing (Besançon, France) – until April 26, 2020;
  • City of Abstracts, Human Writes Drawings, Backwords (Essen, Germany).

* Expositions are temporarily closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

"City of Abstracts" is scheduled to be shown in Essen at Art Basel on September 17-20, 2020.

Forsythe's Technologies of improvisation

In 1994 the computer program "Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye" was presented. Until now, it is actively used in the process of training dancers of different levels. This work deserves detailed consideration because its importance for the dance world is immeasurably great.

Improvisation technologies basically use the geometrical approach, working with lines, arcs, corners which form a body of the dancer. It was important for Forsythe to use what his dancers already knew. Since they were graduates of ballet schools, they were used to working with lines in body and space. This approach allowed the dancers to forget "how to move" and focus on the inner part of the movement, to overcome "numbness" in improvisation.

Forsythe Dancer.

The choreographer shows simple movements and techniques in the program. The main purpose of his training is to teach the mind of a dancer to analyze movement in geometrical categories, corresponding parts of his body in space.

It's useful!

Check out the program, even not only for ballet dancers. You will definitely learn a lot about your body.

For example, here are a few techniques from Forsythe's technology. In his video lessons, the choreographer shows how to work with lines. For example, you can create an imaginary line with body parts and "move" that line in space, or you can create the same line with one of your body parts. You can also create a line by "pulling" it out of a point, or you can stretch not just a point but an entire line and create an imaginary plane. You can extend the line by unbending a joint, for example, an elbow. You can work in the parterre by building movements along imaginary lines on the floor. The technique of getting into the line is to find a way that you can "get" into the imaginary line by a part of your body.

William Forsythe's New Ballets

After leaving Forsythe Company in 2015, the choreographer has staged several ballets:

  • «Blake Works 1» for the Paris Opera Ballet;
  • «Playlist [Track 1, 2]»;
  • «A Quiet Evening of Dance»;
  • «Playlist (EP)» – the work for Boston ballet company;
  • «Artifact Suite».

Influence on modern dance

With the death of George Balanchine, the era of great discoveries in ballet was coming to an end, and few people believed in the possibility of a new revolution in dance. Nevertheless, the postmodern era has made its mark and proclaimed in dance freedom from any canons. The improvisation and value of the moment "here and now", the study of the movement and limits of the human body, the importance of the process rather than the final product of art - all this became the basis of contemporary dance. It was William Forsythe who brought ballet into the realm of marginal art, making it speak about contemporary ballet.

The avant-garde Forsythe has pushed back the boundaries of what is generally accepted: while in classical dance the position of arms and legs is fixed, Forsythe gives freedom to both arms and legs, and head. This also applies to his methods of working with dancers. Improvisation - the main method of working with dancers - requires not only freedom to own their own body in space, but also freedom of thought. In this case, the intellectuality can be called one of the most precise characteristics of the specificity of W. Forsythe's works.


Forsythe is a new turn. It's basically a classic, but as if turned from a different angle... It's as if you look at it through some special optics - and you get Forsythe.

At the same time, despite this release of thought and body, William Forsythe's approach to choreography is surprisingly algorithmic. Through systematic exploration of the boundaries of space and time, the potential of the body and the mechanics of movement, the choreographer has developed his own author's method of dance geometry and thus gives rise to a characteristic Forsythe's style of movement.

The imagery and abstractedness of Forsythe's ballets deserve special attention. After all, not every spectator is ready for a Forsythe's form of interpretation, hence the complexity of perception. We can state the mechanical or geometrical style of dance plastics, but certainly not the lack of content. Forsythe is simply not interested in stories and characters that are important in classical ballet. What is more important in these works is the emotional dynamics of the performers, the way the change in body movement determines the changes in a person's emotional state. An abstract stage reality is formed on stage, within which a multivariate narrative of philosophical content is performed.


Dance critic Roslin Sulkas highlights the following features in the work of William Forsythe:

  • the presence of so-called "flickering movement" (based on elusive points of presence), performed by dancers with classical training, that is professionally developed in the aspect of ballet plasticity;
  • the use of the principle of inclusiveness - the possibility of including elements of absolutely any kind in the dance, both on the technical and conceptual sides;
  • approach to the realization of a complete work on the basis of the concept of "one theatrical universe", where each element is a significant part of the multidimensional structure of the dance;
  • the development of a plastic language based on personal ideas of movement, where each element is endowed with volume.

We can't help but mention the improvisational inserts in Forsythe's ballets. Certain parts of the composition are performed by dancers in accordance with the concept of dance at their own discretion based on their own vision. Thanks to this, each display of a dance piece becomes unique and each broadcast gives a new reading to the work.

By its nature, modern dance is "dance of the head", i.e. choreography that stimulates thinking tone not only of the dancer but also of the viewer in the process of perception of dance. Such mutual work of the ballet master and the viewer gives the necessary body and emotional contact. Then the viewer leaves with a huge plume of emotions and thoughts after the performance.

William Forsythe does not like to repeat himself, he always speaks to the viewer through his work in different ways. And no one knows what this choreographer will present to the public next time...


Doesn't matter whether we call Forsythe by The New Balanchine or The Classic of the Ballet Avant-Garde, many today consider him one of the most important choreographers working today. Having traversed in his life from a dictatorship of ballet to a free of contemporary, William Forsythe has struck the ballet world with radicalism and experimentation. He has transformed and continues to transform the aesthetics of classical dance, has led to a rethinking of the importance of dance improvisation and has made an invaluable contribution to the training of dancers around the world.


Contemporary Dance History

Contemporary Dance History

Contemporary dance is a popular dance direction characterized by plasticity, emotionality, variety of movements and techniques. Today, this dance has huge popularity. Its active popularization and development began only in the 80s of the last century. Even the word "contemporary" only then began to be used exactly as the name of the whole direction in dance. But you should understand that this style of dance appeared much earlier. Let's find out - when?

Theories of Origin

We don't know exactly when the Contemporary dance came out. That is, it is not clear who and when he first started dancing, inventing movements and techniques. There are several theories that are based on the similarity of certain techniques to others.

Contemporary dance origin.

So, there is an opinion that contemporary dance came from Eastern practices, in particular from yoga and some martial arts. This is explained by the special technique of breathing in a contemporary, which is also inherent in yogic breathing. It's also important for the contemporary dance to have a stable position, balance, smooth transition from one movement to another, which is also very typical for yoga. So one cannot help but think about the similarity of these two types of physical activity.

Contrary to the previous theory, some historians argue that the emergence of contemporary dance is directly related to either Central America or European countries.

Alternative to classical ballet

What nobody denies is that the contemporary appeared as a result of the denial of classical ballet and its canons. Ballet is a rather structured system of movements with strict rules. Contemporary dance has become a kind of opposition to everything classical, because of its free, expressive and natural character.

Contemporary VS Classic Ballet.

It should be noted that the classic base of a contemporary dancer is often an undeniable advantage in terms of physical fitness and capabilities of the body.


The mother of modern dance, free and sensual, is rightfully considered Isadora Duncan, although contemporary dancing got its popularity even 30 years after her death. It was she who began to contrast the sharp lines, strict choreographic movements and standardization of poses in favor of free, natural dance, which expresses sincere emotions and feelings.

Isadora Duncan.

Isadora has established a tendency to dance barefoot. She was not interested in inventing new pas, but in creating a new worldview - light and joyful. This feeling was fully conveyed through her dancing and performances. She talked so much about "liberation from conventionality", about "free spirit in a liberated body" that her art was eventually dubbed "free".

Isadora Duncan's Photos.

Authenticity and individuality, the manifestation of personal feelings of the dancer - these signs became the main in determining the modern dance according to Duncan and her followers. The ballerina's frozen smile has disappeared, and she has been replaced by sincere emotions and feelings.


It is also worth noting the significant influence of the idea of freedom of movement and expression of feelings in dance on classical ballet dances. Even the academic ballet could not allow a "soulless" gesture after Duncan.

Martha Graham (1894-1991)

Although Isadora and her dance were quite popular, contemporary dancing has gained more popularity thanks to Martha Graham. This dancer, who introduced and widely popularized contemporary dance to a global audience.

Martha Graham.

М. Graham excluded imitation of movements, teaching independent plastic thinking and expressiveness of gestures. For this purpose, she used the technique of contraction and release, according to which the movement originates from the center of the body where breathing is concentrated (diaphragm).

Martha Graham's photo.

Graham has introduced into modern dance all known to this day bases:

  • Breathing techniques: when exhaled, the diaphragm shrinks, directing the movement inside; when inhaled, it expands, the movement spreads in a spiral upward through the torso, arms, neck.
  • The movement must cover the entire space, that is, the dance takes place standing, sitting and on the floor (parterre).
  • The dance completely covers the whole body, all parts of the body are used.
  • More complete use of space through movements on the floor.

Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham worked with M. Graham's troupe in 1939-45. In 1952, he formed his own troupe. He believed that the emotional element should be brought to choreography by the spectator, not by a choreographer or a dancer. His aesthetics were close to the theatre of absurdity and aleatoric in music. Cunningham has staged performances of both the Art Nouveau Dance and the European Classical School in many European and American companies, particularly the Paris Opera.

Merce Cunningham.

Pina Bausch

The German dance theatre in the Pina Bausch version becomes the third source of all modern culture with modern dance. She has been working as a choreographer since 1968, thanks to which she creates the Wuppertal Dance Theatre. She has not only transformed modern dance but has also created a new genre: dance theatre, a system in which words, music, and movement exist on equal terms. Many of the things that exist in the field of dance theatre today owe this genre to Pina Bausch.

Pina Bausch.

Present days

Today, contemporary dance is a popular dance around the world. Such dancers and choreographers as William Forsythe, Alain Platel, Steve Paxton (creator of contact improvisation), Wim Vandekeybus, Itzik Galili, Meg Stuart, Ruth St. Denis, Boris Charmatz, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Sasha Waltz made a significant contribution to its development and popularization. They and many others are the authors and ideologists of modern free dance - contemporary dance. To these people, we should be grateful for what we see and enjoy this amazing dance exactly as it is.

This may be interesting to watch:

Books about the history of the Contemporary:

  • Steve Paxton “Gravity” and “Trisha Brown: dance and art in dialogue, 1961-2001”;
  • Driver S. William Forsythe “Chur: Harwood Academic Publishers”, 2000;
  • Susan Rosenberg “Trisha Brown: Choreography as Visual Art”.

So, what do you think about the future of contamporary dancing?

Let's talk about it in comments bellow.