Trending

5 Significant Women Who Changed Dance Forever

Dance Magazine archives

In the spirit of trying to imagine a whole #daywithoutawoman, can you fathom the history of dance without all the incredible women we know and love? No, we can't either. Here are five women who revolutionized dance as we know it today.


Martha Graham

Dance Magazine archives

One of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century, Martha Graham (1894–1991) helped lead the American modern-dance revolution, breaking from the traditions of classical ballet, as well as the romantic style of earlier modern-dance pioneers.

These movements and vocabulary terms are among the many contributions Graham gave to the artform:

  • CONTRACTION: The percussive action of exhale; it's a curved lower spine and rounded pelvis—initiated from the pelvis.
  • RELEASE: The action of inhale. Initiated with the pelvis, it's an extended lower back and elongated spine.
  • INNER LANDSCAPE: “The soul of man." It was Graham's fundamental quest to express the human psyche.

Agnes de Mille

De Mille in her most famous role: the Cowgirl in RodeoDance Magazine archives

Famous for choreographing Oklahoma!, Carousel and Brigadoon, Agnes de Mille forever changed the face of Broadway dance. She was the first to create movement that added to the story's emotional impact, rather than simply inserting standard chorus-girl routines between each scene, as was the convention of the time. De Mille's movement actually helped move the plot along.

Repeatedly told that her body type was all wrong for dance—de Mille was short and voluptuous—she instead earned her English degree at the University of California at Los Angeles, while choreographing solos for student productions on the side. #Loveyourself

Isadora Duncan

Duncan, circa 1903Dance Magazine archives

Arguably the most important American-born dance artist of the early 20th century, Duncan forged her style against ballet's codified technique and its aristocratic lineage. Renouncing typical female dancing roles—such as the coquette, femme fatale and tragic victim of love—the trailblazer expanded women's possibilities, onstage and off, and helped lay the foundation for American modern dance. To think, where would dance be without Isadora?!

Josephine Baker

Provocative costumes, onstage antics and a real joie de vivreDance Magazine archives

If you're a Beyoncé fan, then you need to give thanks to the original Queen Bee: Josephine Baker. Her big break came in 1925, when she was recruited for a new, all-black variety show in Paris called La Revue Nègre. In it, she danced suggestively while nearly nude in a tribal costume. She became an instant hit and the show's poster girl. After hugely successful runs at the famous Parisian music hall, Folies Bergère, Baker tried her luck in French movies. She starred in Zouzou (1934) and Princesse Tam-Tam (1935), both big hits.

Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp. Photo by Marc van Borstel, courtesy of Dance Magazine

After studying with Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, Tharp went on to join Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1963. In 1965 she formed her own company, Twyla Tharp Dance, and since then she has choreographed groundbreaking performances for dozens of dance companies and Broadway shows, including the 2002 hit, Movin' Out, for which she was awarded a Tony for Best Choreographer.

She famously said, "Art is the only way to run away without leaving home."


Music
Getty Images

Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less
Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.