The First of My Many Realizations About Modern Dance.

Posted by on 10.20.2010

Today was day two of Miami City Ballet’s work with Patrick Corbin, who is setting Paul Taylor’s “Promethean Fire” on the company.  The only other Taylor work I have danced, is Company B, which I would consider to be more on the contemporary side of the dance spectrum.  But Promethean Fire, is full blown modern dance.  And with that realization came a few more:

1.  Modern dance is no joke.  But of course modern dancers make it look easy.  As we watched the video today, we couldn’t quite tell what we were in for until we started attempting these movements that feel so foreign to us.

2. Ballet dancers have NO idea how to fall.  I know it may seem hard to believe, but indeed, there is a proper way to fall.  Watch a modern dancer do a somersault across the floor, then compare that to a ballet dancer’s.  The modern dancer will look effortless without even the slightest sound and the ballet dancer will ineviatbly make a huge thud that makes onlookers shudder.  This is a common problem that we have encountered before, but before have been able to fake our way through.  This time, that won’t fly, as we are going to be making a lot of contact with the floor in this piece.  We hope to uncover the secret very soon… 

3. Turning-in is a foreign concept.  We work our whole lives to turn-out our legs and create pretty ballet lines.  And now, scratch all that; its time to turn in and create, as Mr. Corbin says, some more “broken” modern lines.

4. Bruises and sore muscles will happen.  I am beginning to realize that if you try and protect your body from soreness and bruises, you will never get the right feeling you need for modern dance.  It is best to be fearless and go for it.  But again, I reiterate, modern dance is no joke.

5. Taylor dancers are strong!  Watching how effortlessly the Taylor dancers go about all the lifts, rolls, lunges, etc, it’s become abundantly clear that these dancers are rock solid.  Don’t mess with them.

6.  Running has a technique.  The way the dancers run in different patterns across the stage needs to have a very specific look.  Modern dance is much more low to the ground, where ballet is much more lifted.  The running style in Promethean reflects that.  We must bend our knees and get low to the ground, keeping our feet shuffling quickly across the floor.

6. Epsom salt baths are a must.  After enjoying a bath this evening when I got home, in an attempt to help my muscles recover, I feel that this will become a nightly ritual over the next few weeks.

Though you may read this list and think I am complaining, this is so the opposite.  I see these realizations as challenges.  In the ballet dancer’s endless pursuit of perfection, this is just another hurdle.  This is the great thing about being in a company that has such a diverse rep.  Between now and when we  premier this ballet, we will find a way to fall without crashing to the floor and making a thud.  We will be able to turn in just as easily as we turn out.  We will learn how to avoid bruising.  We will we gain the strength we need to make this ballet another favorite among our audiences.  It will be a rough road, but we will travel it, and we will prevail.


  1. The natural tendency to want to turn out was absolutely my biggest challenge in doing modern pieces! It's like asking a person who has never danced a day in their lives to walk in first position…

  2. Rebecca,
    As a modern dancer turned ballet choreographer I really enjoyed your post. I wish all ballet dancers were as venturesome as you!

    Renée Beauvais

  3. Thanks Robin! I agree with you, it's a hard transition to make, but hardly impossible!

  4. LOVE this! i spent this very afternoon trying to teach ballet students simple modern walks and triplets and things that involved turning in and being earthy. it was quite funny– i forgot how hard it is to make that transition! having always studied ballet i first studied modern at the age of 18 and IT WAS REALLY HARD!
    great post, thanks 🙂

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