Tracy Inman teaching Horton technique at the Ailey School. PC Eduardo Patino

Why The Classic Modern Techniques Are More Relevant Than Ever

In a competitive dance world where 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.

University of Taipei students in José Limón's work. PC Yi-Chun Wu


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?"

Penny Godboldo's Dunham class. PC William Robinson

Rethink Your Technique

"The Graham release isn't just letting go of your muscles, but a spread of energy through the body," says University of North Carolina at Greensboro student Kaitlin Clow. "Now in contemporary classes, I can find more control in the releases. It's a regal technique, so I've found that I can broaden my sternum and find the full span of my arms across my chest. It helped me to tune in to smaller muscles, and find movement from within."

Engage with the World

Katherine Dunham incorporated activism into her technique "not because she wanted students to be political," says Dunham teacher Penny Godboldo, "but because she wanted them to be sensitive to what was going on in the world." The Dunham class also incorporates other genres of dance, fusing styles from contemporary to folkloric to jazz.

UNCG students in a Graham work. PC Martin Kane

Transform Your Body

Students may be surprised by the intense physical demands that many of these styles present. Dunham is "a vigorous technique," according to Penny Godboldo, and students who take it see a significant increase in core strength. UNCG student Kaitlin Clow adds that the Graham technique transformed her entire body. "I've used muscles I'd never thought about, and my back is much more defined," she says.

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Friday Film Break: Kyle Abraham's "When We Fell" for New York City Ballet

For his third work on New York City Ballet, choreographer Kyle Abraham has created a quietly haunting new dance film called "When We Fell." Abraham told Roslyn Sulcas of The New York Times that a peaceful winter residency at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park deeply influenced the material, and it shows in the work's spare beauty and elegant sense of calm.

Available for free as part of NYCB's digital season until April 22, the film was co-directed by cinematographer Ryan Marie Helfant. The cast includes India Bradley, Jonathan Fahoury, Christopher Grant, Claire Kretzschmar, Lauren Lovette, Taylor Stanley, KJ Takahashi and Sebastian Villarini-Velez.

February 2021