Kayla W. '20

Research Question

How has the art of storytelling in modern and contemporary dance evolved from Isadora Duncan to Martha Graham, and finally to Merce Cunningham? How do the social identities of the dancers, alongside staging and the characteristics of movement, affect the story the choreographer is trying to convey?

Artist Statement

During Senior Plan this year, I have spent my time exploring the evolution of modern dance. More specifically, I have been trying to find an answer to the question: “how has the art of storytelling in modern and contemporary dance evolved from Isadora Duncan to Martha Graham, and finally to Merce Cunningham? How do the social identities of the dancers, alongside staging and the characteristics of movement, affect the story the choreographer is trying to convey?” Through my research, I have summarized the story of each choreographer into one word or theme. Duncan explores the idea of freedom in her work, meanwhile Graham builds all of her stories on emotion. Cunningham, the final and most distinct member, bases his art on the themes of modernization and independence (independence in this situation refers to the lack of dependency between the elements of dance). My creative project, “Evolution,” is a collage of iconic poses, news articles, and pieces by the three patrons of modern dance. The video collage explores the choreographers in chronological order. Evolution begins with Isadora Duncan, the “mother of modern dance,” then segues into Martha Graham and ends with Merce Cunningham. Not only does this video collage allow the viewer to witness the change in choreography, costuming, and obtain a glimpse into critical reviews of performances, it also allows the viewer to hear the evolution in music choice. In addition to a homage to their dance careers, each choreographer has an original makeup look created and modeled by myself inspired by my research into their work. The first look is a blue cut crease with white packed on the lid alongside a few pieces of glitter. Blue was chosen because the color represents freedom. The white is placed in reference to Duncan’s obsession with Ancient Greece. The white represents the marble of the statues and color of the togas found in Ancient Greece. Graham’s look is a simple and semi abstract eyeliner look partially inspired by the dancer's own bold liner choices. Being that red is the most emotionally intense color, I paired the intensity of red with the simplicity of a basic black liner to parallel the most intense and most basic emotions one can feel. Cunningham’s look is a collage of shapes chosen and placed randomly just as he left the elements of his dances (music, lighting, choreography, etc) up to chance. Everything in this look, including the colors chosen, were picked completely randomly. Through a combination of my own interpretation of their work, and photo evidence of their impact on the dance community, I hope I have captured the evolution of modern dance. Enjoy!

Creative Work