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Ballet - General
The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet (karma: 3)
By allegro13 Comments: 997, member since Tue Oct 10, 2006
On Sun Oct 12, 2008 06:43 AM
Made sticky by Theresa (28613) on 2008-10-12 21:50:08

Contemporary ballet is a fairly new thing in the ballet/dance world, and since dabbling in it more frequently, I've heard a lot of msiconceptions about it. I hope this post makes it clearer what exactly contemporary ballet is.

What Is It? Contemporary ballet is a combination of many forms of dance, mainly classical ballet and modern, althought other styles have been used. Especially recently, the fusion of hip hop and ballet has become very popular due to the "Step Up" movies.
Does It Have a Technique? Well...kind of. :) Contemporary ballet can be whatever you wnat it to be. Most of the time, it bases it's technique on classical ballet, with greater range of movement, including turned-in legs and work on the floor. Pointe is frequently done in contemporary pieces, although it is not nessecary. There really isn't a scrit technique for contemporary-there are positions, other than those set by classical ballet. It's very innovative, and very free. It allows the dancer to manipulate ballet's concepts to their strengths, while not going fully into modern dance.
History taken from and credited to Wikipedia George Balanchine is often considered to have been the first pioneer of contemporary ballet. Today the style he developed is now known as neoclassical ballet, a style of dance between classical ballet and today's contemporary ballet. Balanchine used flexed hands (and occasionally feet), turned-in legs, off-centered positions and non-classical costumes (such as leotards and tunics instead of tutus) to distance himself from the classical and romantic ballet traditions. Balanchine also brought modern dancers in to dance with his company, the New York City Ballet; one such dancer was Paul Taylor, who in 1959 performed in Balanchine's piece Episodes. Balanchine also worked with modern dance choreographer Martha Graham, expanding his exposure to modern techniques and ideas. Also during this period, choreographers such as John Butler and Glen Tetley began to consciously combine ballet and modern techniques in experimentation.

One dancer who trained with Balanchine and absorbed much of this neo-classical style was Mikhail Baryshnikov. Following Baryshnikov's appointment as artistic director of American Ballet Theatre in 1980, he worked with various modern choreographers, most notably Twyla Tharp. Tharp choreographed Push Comes To Shove for ABT and Baryshnikov in 1976; in 1986 she created In The Upper Room for her own company. Both these pieces were considered innovative for their use of distinctly modern movements melded with the use of pointe shoes and classically-trained dancers -- for their use of "contemporary ballet".
Tharp also worked with the Joffrey Ballet company, founded in 1957 by Robert Joffrey. She choreographed Deuce Coupe for them in 1973, using pop music and a blend of modern and ballet techniques. The Joffrey Ballet continued to perform numerous contemporary pieces, many choreographed by co-founder Gerald Arpino.

Today there are many explicitly contemporary ballet companies and choreographers. These include Alonzo King and his company, Alonzo King's Lines Ballet; Nacho Duato and Compañia Nacional de Danza; William Forsythe, who has worked extensively with the Frankfurt Ballet and today runs The Forsythe Company; and Jiří Kilián, currently the artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theatre. Traditionally "classical" companies, such as the Kirov Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet, also regularly perform contemporary works.
Tharp also worked with the Joffrey Ballet company, founded in 1957 by Robert Joffrey. She choreographed Deuce Coupe for them in 1973, using pop music and a blend of modern and ballet techniques. The Joffrey Ballet continued to perform numerous contemporary pieces, many choreographed by co-founder Gerald Arpino.
Contemporary Companies and Ballets Some contemporary companies and ballets are....

Companies:
Alonzo King's Line's Ballet
Los Angeles Contemporary Ballet
Nederlands Dans Theatre
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Aniheim Ballet
(there are many more) In addition to these companies, (which are strictly contemporary) There are classical ballet companies that perform more contemporary works, including American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Royal Ballet....and many more.
Contemporary Ballets: There are several set-in-stone comtemporary ballet's, including In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, The Upper Room, and many more by Twyla Tharp. Many contemporary works are choreographed based on companies and dancers, and are completely orginal.
Similarities and Differences in Comtemporary and Classical:
Similarities: (Taken from dancehere.com)

Similarities:

-Both use a vocabulary of movement that employs the French language.

-Both utilize dancers who are highly trained in their technique and performance abilities.

-Both emphasize a strong relationship to music.

Differences:

-Classical ballet always has a storyline; most contemporary ballets focus on the movement.

-Classical ballet appears very symmetrical, with both sides of the stage equally “balanced” by having the same number of dancers on each side executing the same movements. Contemporary ballet does not focus on symmetry, and having a stage that is “unbalanced” is a characteristic of the style.

-There is always a pas de deux in classical ballet; there may or may not be one in contemporary ballet.

-Classical ballet choreography may incorporate pantomime and literal gestures; contemporary ballet never does.

-Female dancers always wear pointe shoes in a classical ballet; they may or may not wear them in contemporary ballet.

-For the most part, dancers in a classical ballet keep their spines erect; dancers in a contemporary ballet curve, twist and bend their upper bodies.
Some Final Thoughts:

Classical Ballet, storytelling is key.
Classical Ballet, the technique demands so much skill.
Contemporary Ballet, the abstract theme and movement opens up so many possibilities.
Contemporary Ballet, you can focus on the movement.
Which is better?
Either one. Pick what suits you best, and dancers can practice both classical and contemporary ballet. Diversity is wonderful for dancers.

Contemporary can be anything you want, anything you feel, and anything combination of anything. NOTHING IS WRONG.

So many great ideas have stemmed for this fabulous new style. Hopefully, this gives a clear idea of what I spend all my time doing. :)

35 Replies to The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet

re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By terpsidance Comments: 1262, member since Wed Sep 24, 2008
On Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:43 PM
Thanks for a very in depth presentation! I had some questions about contemporary ballet and this cleared them up for me. Nice post!
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By Terpsichore_Dubh Comments: 34, member since Sun Dec 07, 2008
On Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:47 PM
I love the abstractness of contemporary ballet, and the focus purely on the choreography, the music, and the body. I am a big Balanchine fan and find that his choreography was such a perfect expression of the music he used, particularly Stravinksy. Forsythe is similarly genius when it comes to choreography and I've watched Darcey Bussell in In the Middle Somewhat Elevated several times. She is amazing with contemporary ballet. I must say that I never liked Twyla Tharpe's When Push Comes to Shove. I do like her choreography for her own company, but When Push Comes to Shove looks so dated now. And it was not a great vehicle for Baryshnikov.
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By CorsaireCutie Comments: 194, member since Thu Aug 26, 2004
On Tue Dec 09, 2008 01:55 PM
Edited by CorsaireCutie (104572) on 2008-12-09 13:56:59 Typo!
Edited by CorsaireCutie (104572) on 2008-12-09 13:57:13
Edited by CorsaireCutie (104572) on 2008-12-09 14:01:26 All sorts of messed up today!
This is great! I whole-heartedly agree that Balanchine should be considered a pioneer of contemporary ballet. The beauty of this style is its versatility. It has a solid base in ballet but can bend the rules. I do have to disagree with Terpsichore Dubh though, I find "Push Comes to Shove" to be one of Tharp's most brilliant pieces. It plays to Baryshnikov's humorous side and the choreography is amazing. Admittedly, I might be a little biased since I learned the piece from Elaine Kudo (who starred with Baryshnikov and Susan Jaffe in it) and found it not only to be ridiculously difficult (Tharp's movements push bodies to the brink) but completely rewarding. Choreographers like Tharp as well as Gerald Arpino, Robert Joffrey and Paul Taylor, among many others, have furthered this form of ballet into something different and beautiful.
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By Terpsichore_Dubh Comments: 34, member since Sun Dec 07, 2008
On Thu Dec 11, 2008 11:21 AM
Sorry, I got the name wrong there. But I will say concerning Baryshnikov, I didn't really think his humorous side was that funny in "Push Comes to Shove". And I do still think it looks dated now. However, I will watch it again as it's been so long, and I might change my opinion. It's always about the choreography and I may find that watching "Push Comes to Shove" again, being a few years older, and paying close attention to the choreography, I might just love it.
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By Cliffbella Comments: 146, member since Tue Dec 16, 2008
On Tue Feb 17, 2009 08:14 PM
Wow! That explained a lot! Karma for you! :)
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By T_Dance_Girl Comments: 218, member since Tue Jun 30, 2009
On Wed Jul 08, 2009 11:09 PM
Thanks. I'm just starting comtemporary this year because i'm finally old enough. This helped alot. We also use some jazz technique in our dances i've seen.
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By luvxx2xxdancemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1174, member since Thu Mar 05, 2009
On Thu Jul 09, 2009 06:08 PM
wow, that had a lot of good info. great job!! =]
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By elle_ballerinamember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 175, member since Mon Sep 07, 2009
On Tue Sep 08, 2009 06:07 PM
Thanks! I personally like classical ballet better, I like the feeling of it being very strict and disciplined, it just feels better to me, more like ballet. But contemporary ballet is very fun to dance :D
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By LiveLoveDance5 Comments: 226, member since Fri Jan 30, 2009
On Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:10 AM
What's the difference between contemporary, lyrical, and modern?
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By c58sgreat Comments: 84, member since Mon Dec 07, 2009
On Mon Dec 07, 2009 03:58 PM
I absolutely love contemporary ballet and find myself choreographing in that direction more and more often. With such amazing companies out there how can you not be inspired? I put on some Vitamin String Quartet and get my girls dancing!
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By Flitzcgcg06member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 662, member since Sun Sep 29, 2002
On Tue Dec 15, 2009 08:20 AM
Thanks for posting this! As someone who learned most of my dance technique from color guard this was very helpful for me to put a name to what I have been doing all these years! I originally tried to label it as modern but after doing some modern dance classes, I am definitely not a modern dancer and am terribly uncomfortable with modern dance because I have such strict technique training. Thanks for all the research you did!
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By cutedancer1 Comments: 36, member since Wed Dec 30, 2009
On Wed Dec 30, 2009 05:23 PM
Is contemporary ballet the same as lyrical? My dance school has lyrical class and I absoloutly love it! I feel really free when i'm doing lyrical. There's something about it that I can't put my finger on but I just love it.
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By greenpumpkinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 2214, member since Thu Dec 20, 2007
On Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:51 PM
I'm not convinced. This article seems to define as "contemporary" just about anything that happened beyond 19th Century Tsarist Russia (which was dominated by one choreographer, Petipa). It also mixes up technique, style, costuming and the presence or absence of a storyline. And it confuses piece-specific signature elements (a flexed foot here or there) with overall technique.

I don't think the term "contemporary ballet" has much of a definition at all. Classical dance (ballet) is classical because of its adherence to the principles and aesthetics of ancient Greece --- length, verticality, emotional abstraction.

The 19th Century Russians were classical, the Ballets Russes were classical, Balanchine was classical, as are many of the "contemporary ballet" choreographers cited above. Of course we can tell the difference between Petipa and Forsythe, just like we can tell the difference between Haydn and Mendelssohn. But just because they're different doesn't mean we need a new genre for each one.
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By mollyballet4ev Comments: 31, member since Thu Mar 04, 2010
On Sat Mar 13, 2010 07:53 AM
Thanks for this information! I must say, it is very interesting! I have been wondering about contemporary ballet for some time and this answered all my questions!
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By TaraBunny Comments: 24, member since Tue Mar 23, 2010
On Mon Mar 29, 2010 02:14 PM
Really insightful! Thanks x
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By cclovesdance Comments: 2, member since Fri Apr 30, 2010
On Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:35 PM
Thanks for posting this !! Really gave me a lot of information about contemporary ballet!
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By BellaDeMonia Comments: 22, member since Fri Jul 09, 2010
On Sat Jul 17, 2010 02:29 AM
Thanks for posting this.

I'm about to start teaching an adult ballet class and was wondering where to "draw the line" with teaching the adults too classical ballet.
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By dancingdaffodils Comments: 17, member since Mon Mar 29, 2010
On Mon Jul 19, 2010 09:51 PM
Thanks for all the info! I have always enjoyed dancing contemporary almost as much as ballet (Sorry, but ballet will always be at the top!) and my teachers are always saying "You need to expand your curriculum, or you'll never progress". Who knew so much had to go into something so seamless?
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By greenpumpkinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 2214, member since Thu Dec 20, 2007
On Mon Dec 13, 2010 08:20 PM
The Wikipedia article referenced has no citations, and the assertions it cites as facts are in dispute. Some would say that the term "contemporary ballet" lacks meaning.
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By Ashhh Comments: 35, member since Tue Jan 19, 2010
On Tue Feb 08, 2011 02:57 PM
thanks this really explained everything well :) good thread!

Comment #9524888 deleted

re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By Ballet_Master Comments: 8, member since Sun Mar 07, 2010
On Fri Apr 29, 2011 07:19 PM
First, there's no such dance form as "lyrical" - it is a made-up name that started within the competition circuit, using the term lyrical denoted dances performed to music with lyrics.

Contemporary Ballet: contemporary - of the current time, or of the current period... Dance that is called contemporary ballet is referencing the expanded range of movement both allowed and expected in choreography. As the Ballet Master of the national contemporary ballet company of Israel [Bat-Dor Dance Company] I must state that contemporary ballet is not a combining of modern and classical. Contemporary ballet is soundly based in the principals of classical technique, and expanded by the possibilities allowed by the bio-mechanical movements of the human body. Classical ballet is defined by simplicity of line, while contemporary ballet is defined by continuity of movement. "Le Sacre du Printemps" ("The Rite of Spring") by Nijinsky is often regarded as one of the first "contemporary ballets" and it was performed by Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (which was a very classical ballet company)... It is not correct to think that contemporary ballet is a less technical form of ballet. The best example is the original Joffrey Ballet (NYC). Joffrey's prima ballerina Francesca Corkle is regarded as the epitome of classical technique and quite possibly might be regarded as one of the greatest ballerina's of the 20th century. Another example is Bejart's Ballet XXth Century in France... Contemporary ballet is not a "watering-down" of ballet technique, it is in fact an expanding of classical technique to include all possible movement available to the human body beyond and including the foundational classical principals of technique.
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By ChainedLady Comments: 36, member since Fri Apr 25, 2008
On Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:03 PM
While I agree with you Ballet_Master that Contemporary Ballet is not to be thought of as a "watering down" of classical ballet but an expansion upon movement, I disagree the Le Sacre du Printemps is a Contemporary Ballet. Just because they wear ballet slippers does not make it a ballet. The only technically identifyable ballet movement I saw through the whole piece was one or two pirouettes. To be a Contemporary Ballet you have to use a significant amount of Ballet movements. While the piece was very technical, I would not say it was ballet technique. I would class that piece as purely modern. Did you see all those flexed feet and shapes? It was all about the shape that you make with your body. That's what modern dance is all about. While Classical Ballet is about lines, modern is about shape. What do you get when you put line and shape together? You get form. THIS is what Contemporary Ballet is about FORM. It's my specialty. :)
re: The In's and Out's of Contemporary Ballet
By nadi12 Comments: 6, member since Sat Jul 02, 2011
On Sun Jul 10, 2011 04:56 AM
Thanks that was very informative. I didn't really understand what contemporary was about/ what the actual differences to classical ballet are. Now I do!
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