Dance: an art in evolution, by Claudia Santivetti

As a dancer, I would like to introduce you to my world. It is made of lights, applause, hard work and study. The world of dance today is very wide-ranging, and covers many different styles, unlike in the past.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the only kind of dance represented in theatres was ballet, which aimed to be a distraction for the bourgeois spectators. At that time, the Opéra National de Paris was the most important theatre and audiences attended the first romantic ballets there. Dancers wore tutus and pointe shoes to symbolise detachment from reality and embrace an ethereal and dreamlike world (see for example, Giselle, Act 2).

In Europe, the first innovations in dance began in the early twentieth century, with the choreographer Mary Wigman. She introduced the idea of the dancer’s relationship with the floor and the use of highly expressive movements based on dancers’ emotions. One of her best known and revolutionary choreographies is Hexentanz

A few years later, another dancer, Kurt Jooss, created a programme of studies for the Folkwang School combining modern dance with drama and ballet. He implemented a radical change in the conception of dance: the productions he choreographed, unlike those that had taken place up to this point in theatres all over Europe, contained criticism of contemporary society and aimed to shake the minds of the viewers and make them reflect on the need for social change. One of his best known choreographies is The Green Table, a parody of vain political discussions.

One of Jooss’ pupils, Philippine (Pina) Bausch, followed his theories and introduced further revolutions in the creative process: she changed the role of improvisation, which became fundamental and led to the use of body language tied to unconscious reality.

Obviously, nowadays, the concept of dance has changed even more. While I am a dancer myself, the choreographies I stage with my group are completely different from those created by Mary Wighman, Kurt Joss and Pina Bausch. But I wanted to tell you their story because, in my opinion, it is thanks to them that dance began to stage dancers’ emotions and become detached from the earlier dream-like world of dance.

If Mary Wighman, Kurt Jooss and Pina Bausch had not existed, we would still be dancing only repertoire. Each of these choreographers made revolutionary changes and helped dance to begin to stage reality. This has brought about a true revolution in the concept of dance.

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