ViroLaunch_2017_03_1-6vert_Viro.pdf 1 3/22/17
Why classic modern techniques are still an
essential part of training today BY LAuren Wingenroth
In a competitive dance world where college students train to conquer the next big thing, it can feel
like historic modern techniques—from Graham to Horton to Cunningham—just aren’t a priority. But the
truth is, these styles are just as relevant today as when they were created.
What Are They?
Some of the classic modern techniques taught at
the college level:
Dunham: Katherine Dunham fused ballet with Afro-
Caribbean styles to create a technique known for
merging the spiritual and mental with the physical.
Horton: Marked by long, clean lines, Lester Hor-
ton’s technique was inspired by Native American
Taipei students in
dances and anatomy.
José Limón’s work
Graham: Martha Graham’s codified modern
vocabulary broke from ballet using elements such
movement should originate from the inside out.
as breath, contraction, release and spiral.
Cunningham: Although it has a strong founda-
Limón: Inspired by the everyday experiences of
tion in ballet, directional changes and inventive
the body, José Limón’s technique is grounded in
rhythms distinguish Merce Cunningham’s tech-
the sensation of fall and recovery and the idea that
nique from its classical predecessor.
Connect to the Past—and the Present
Experiencing this movement allows dancers to live a part of dance history in their own bodies. But
it also brings new context to the contemporary forms that students might be experiencing in other
classes. “Anything you’re doing now came from something else,” says Tracy Inman, Horton teacher and
co-director of The Ailey School. Penny Godboldo, co-director of the Institute for Dunham Technique
Certification, adds: “If you don’t know where dance has come from, how can you understand where it is
now and where it can go?”