Development of Modern Dance

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The Development of Modern Dance in British Education
There were significant developments to the provision of dance in education post 1950. Modern dance was emerging as an important art form, both within schools and in vocational and teacher training colleges. In order to have an understanding of the developments in dance education in the era being studied (1965 – 1985), it is important to have some knowledge and understanding of the provision offered before this time. 1920’s/1930’s

* Dartington Hall – the first modern dance groups emerged (disappeared during war years) – see more detailed notes under Dartington Hall 1950’s
* There was a revival of classical ballet after the war years (with the general consensus being the need for the regeneration of national excellence in ballet). There was virtually no modern dance taking place in Britain at this time. This was in stark contrast to the developments that were taking place in America and in other parts of Europe (particularly Germany and Hungary) * Up until this point there was very little dance taught in schools, the only real experience being Maypole dance or Greek dance. Dance was introduced formally into State schools (primary and secondary) in the 1950’s, taught by PE teachers. PE teachers were trained to deliver dance in the Laban model (creative). It was child-centred, which meant that teachers would encourage pupils to come up with the movement, then help them develop it. The aim was to give pupils a ‘valid movement experience’ that was ‘life enhancing’ rather than just going through the motion of steps. * PE teacher training colleges such as IMMarsh, Dartford, Bedford had dance on the curriculum, based on the Laban model * Laban model gives tools for choreography, e.g. an understanding of space and force * The aim, throughout arts education at this time was to put pupils own ideas at the forefront of their creative experiences. * 1954: Martha Graham company comes to England – not well received – slated by critics, however her performances were loved by Robin Howard who went on to set up the London School of Contemporary Dance, teaching Graham technique. * Late 1950’s: The film ‘A Dancer’s World’ about the Martha Graham Company is released – shown in PE teacher-training colleges – this was the first ‘taste’ of American Modern dance to most of the students – some were inspired, some bemused. * Late 1950’s: Jose Limon company comes over from New York to perform at Sadler’s Wells, performing some of his work and some Humphrey work – this was still new and slightly strange to British audiences but was better received than the Graham Company. Early 1960’s

* 1962: Louis Horst’s book ‘Modern Dance Forms’ is published * 1963: Martha Graham company returns and performs at the Prince of Wales Theatre * 1964: Other American dance groups perform in England – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Merce Cunningham, offering other styles of modern dance. Problems associated with educational dance in the 1950’s and the Laban model * Dance in education was completely connected to PE and delivered by PE teachers, not dance specialists. * Teachers going into schools where there was no tradition of dance (except maybe May Pole or Greek dance) having to introduce something new but fairly ill equipped as they were PE specialists. * PE teachers (particularly the male teachers) were more skill oriented and found teaching creative dance difficult. * There was no real connection between dance in education and dance in the theatre (no role model, no route or progression to professional dance). This was not as much of a problem in music and drama as some skills were taught, however in dance the approach was completely creative (Laban) as opposed to teaching steps and technique. Several colleges that were at the forefront of developments in modern dance, both in education and vocational dance: The Art of Movement Studio (later re-named Laban...
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