Modern dance is a broad genre of theatrical or concert dance that includes various styles such as ballet, folk, social, religious, and ethnic dancing. It was first developed in the US and Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was regarded as a way to express social concerns and reject the traditional ballet.



Although modern dance is often regarded as a rejection of classical ballet, historians believe that various factors such as the rise of the middle class and the decline of social strictures influenced the development of this art form. In the United States, for instance, the rise of the middle class and the increasing number of people with disposable income led to a new interest in physical fitness and health. During that same period, the role of physical education in the development of modern dance was also greatly influenced by the movement’s popularity.


In 1927, newspapers began assigning dance critics, such as Walter Terry, and Edwin Denby, who approached performances from the viewpoint of a movement specialist rather than as a reviewer of drama and music. Subsequently educators accepted modern dance into college and university curriculum, first as a part of physical education, then as performing art.

✨Major Modern Dancers/Founders✨

Martha Graham

Graham is to Modern dance what Stravinsky is to Modern music or Picasso to Modern art. It’s hard to overestimate her influence. She codified a vocabulary of Modern dance that still prevails and is the closest thing to a “mainstream” Modern dance. The force of her personality was legendary, and although her primary work was done before World War II, she lived until age 96 in 1991.

Alvin Ailey

He formed the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in 1958, with an eclectic style built from his “blood memories” of his native Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel, asking for a combination of leg and footwork – what he called a “ballet bottom” – combined with a “Modern top,” the torso, arms and head, that “only Modern dance offers.”

Isadora Duncan 

Free spirit incarnate, Duncan danced barefoot in Grecian robes, invoking ancient dance, and created the first school of Modern dance. 

Merce Cunningham

In the forefront of the dance avant-garde for more than 50 years, Cunningham revolutionized his field, divorcing movement from the music that accompanied it, and from the constraints of narrative. His influence has been enormous.