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Dance Critique Paper Instructions
Figures in Dance History/Critique Paper Assignment
Choose a figure from the list below.
Write a two-page paper covering the following topics:
-Brief history of your chosen figure.
-Speak to anything specific innovations they brought to the world of dance.
Watch a video of your chosen figure; either a dance they performed it or a piece they choreographed.
-Critique they piece you viewed within the paper. Did you like it? Why or why not?
Catherine de ’Medici (1519-1589)- A member of one of Italy’s royal families, de ‘Medici married into the French monarchy. Neither a dancer or a choreographer, de’ Medici had a love for dance and brought several dancing masters with her from Italy to France. Thus, begun the long reign of the court ballet.
King Louis XIV (1638-1715)- Also known as the Sun King, Louis XIV was the King of France from 1643-1715. He was a great lover of dance and appeared in several court ballets. He granted permission to establish the first Academy of Dance.
Filippo Taglioni (1777-1871)- An Italian dancer and choreographer, Taglioni choreographed La Sylphide in 1832. This ballet is said to have begun the Romantic Era.
Marie Taglioni (1804-1884)- Daughter of Filippo Taglioni, Marie performed in many of her father’s ballets. She introduced a new costume design (bare neck and shoulders, tight fitting bodice, and skirt reaching just below the knee, also known as the romantic tutu), and is known for her beautifully executed jumps and leaps. She also perfected dancing en pointe.
Fanny Elssler (1810-1884)- A dancer born in Vienna, Elssler was a rival of Marie Taglioni while they were both employed by the Paris Opera. Fanny is known for her ability to execute quick, small steps. One of Elssler’s most famous roles, Cachucha, was a Spanish-style dance that she performed very sensually, which led the critics to call her “pagan.”
Marius Petipa (1818-1910)- A French-born choreographer, Petipa came to St. Petersburg in 1847. He formulated the “classical ballet” which stressed formal values such as symmetry and order of movement and staging. Some of his famous ballets include The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929)- Diaghilev was the director of the Ballet Russes. He promoted the idea of collaboration between choreographers, costumers, and set and costume designers. He is credited with giving Vaslav Nijinsky his first opportunity as a choreographer.
Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950)- Nijinsky was known for his outstanding dancing ability and his shocking ballets, including The Afternoon of a Faun and The Rite of Spring. He shocked audiences with storylines that included references to sex and death. He also used unique movement styles that were asymmetrical, heavy, and employed the use of both turned -in and parallel foot positions.
Michel Fokine (1880-1942)- Fokine believed that a fusion of dance, music, drama, scenery, and costumes were necessary, and he broke many rules of ballet to fit his aesthetic. His choreography is known as contemporary ballet.
Anna Pavlova (1881-1931)- A principal dancer with Russia’s Imperial Ballet and the Ballet Russes, Pavlova was known for her beautiful and dramatic dancing, one of her most famous dances was The Dying Swan, choreographed for her by Michel Fokine in 1907. After she left Russia in 1911, she went to London and formed a company of English dancers and they toured all over the world for years.
George Balanchine (1904-1983)- A student of the Russian Imperial School of Ballet, Balanchine toured with a small group of dancers until he was offered a job at the Ballet Russes, where he stayed for four years. Balanchine came to America in 1933 at the invitation of art patron Lincoln Kirstein. Balanchine established the School of American Ballet and had four successive companies: The American Ballet, American Ballet Caravan, Ballet Society, and The New York City Ballet (developed in 1948 and is the only school still in existence). Balanchine is best known for his sophisticated use of music, plotless ballets, and minimal set and costume design.
Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993)- Nureyev was a Russian soloist with the Kirov Ballet, then defected to Paris, where he was hired by the Royal Ballet. He was partnered with a British dancer named Margot Fonteyn and their partnership is among one of the best-known and loved in the ballet world.
Arthur Mitchell (1934-2018)- Previously a dancer with the New Your City Ballet, Mitchell wanted to develop a company where African American dancers could perform in classical ballets. In 1972 he established the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Mikhail Baryshnikov (b. 1948)- A Russian dancer with the Kirov Ballet, Baryshnikov defected while on tour in Canada in 1974. He danced for the American Ballet Theater for several years where he also served as the artistic director. He has since opened the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City, an organization dedicated to artistic experimentation and collaboration.
Sylvie Guillem (b. 1965)- A native of France, Guillem trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School and then became a dancer with the Paris Opera. She is known for her extreme flexibility and the ability to extend her legs and hold them in difficult lines, shapes, and positions.
Benjamin Millepied (b.1977)- This French dancer and choreographer performed with the New York City Ballet for sixteen years and is now the director of Dance for the Paris Opera Ballet. He is the choreographer of the movie Black Swan.
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)- Duncan is one of the first modern dancers and is credited with bringing “modern dance” to the public. She developed the Duncan Technique, comprised of basic movement such as swinging, hopping, running, skipping, and leaping. Duncan sought to “free” the body from the confines of ballet and created truly modern form of dance.
Loie Fuller (1862-1928)- Fuller was an American dancer who was popular in Paris in the late 1800’s. She developed many lighting techniques and lighting instruments and created visual spectacles by dancing with costumes made from yards of fabrics that would pick up the different colors of light.
Mary Wigman (1886-1973)- A German dancer and choreographer whose works are considered to be “expressionistic.” Wigman presented dances whose movements were full of meaning and emotion. She is also one of the first choreographers to use musical scores consisting mostly of percussion instruments, as well as danced in silence.
Martha Graham (1894-1990)- Graham gave her first independent concert in 1926. In 1927 she opened the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance (still in existence today). Graham’s dances, most of them psychological dramas, were primarily based on themes drawn from Greek mythology, American pioneers, and Native Americans. Graham developed a dance technique based on a system of contraction and release of the center of the body.
Doris Humphrey (1895-1958)- A Denishawn student, Humphrey eventually became a teacher at the school and developed a technique known as “music visualization,” in which movement phrases, patterns, and rhythms correspond to musical phrases, patterns, and rhythms.
Katherine Dunham (1909-2006)- In 1931, Dunham had her first concert in Chicago entitled Negro Rhapsody. This concert was to be the beginnings of black concert dance. Dunham is known for combining native Caribbean and modern dance and is also known as a researcher and a scholar. She appeared in several musical theater productions as well as movie musicals, and her work also had an influence on jazz dance.
Alvin Ailey (1931-1990)- A student of Lester Horton, Ailey developed his own company in the mid-1950’s. Called Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the company is located in New York. Ailey was always concerned with making his dances accessible to his audiences. He combined modern, jazz, and world dance to create a unique style.
Alwin Nikolais (1912-1993)- He is best known for his choreography that explored the use of lighting, costumes, and props in a purely theatrical way. He was not concerned with showing emotion on stage, but rather motion, and is known as one of the fore runners of the post-modern movement.
Merce Cunningham (1919-2009)- Cunningham was a dancer with the Martha Graham company for five years before establishing the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1953. He developed the Cunningham Technique, in which the spine acts as a spring and can coil, twist, and turn. His technique also employs intricate direction changes and many shifts of weight throughout a given phrase of movement. He created dances that were devoid of meaning and were “movement for movement’s sake.”
Paul Taylor (1930-2018)- In a career spanning both the modern and post-modern movements, Taylor was both a student of Martha Graham and a dancer with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. He is considered to be one of the fore runners of the post-modern movement. Taylor’s choreography is a combination of athletic dynamics and beauty.
Yvonne Rainer (b.1934)- A student of Cunningham, Rainer was one of the founding members of the Judson Dance Theater. Rainer was concerned with reducing dance movement to a minimum, without the inclusion of emotion, theatricality, or spectacle.
Trisha Brown (1940-2017)- Another founding member of the Judson Dance Theater, Brown’s choreography employed the use of repetition. She crested intricate movement patterns that seemed to logically build from one movement to the next. She established the Trisha Brown Dance Company in 1970.
Twyla Tharp (b. 1942)- Tharp worked with both Cunningham and Taylor, and later developed her own company and created a movement style that was a blend of several dance forms, including ballet, modern, tap, and jazz. Although seemingly “loose” Tharp’s choreography is technically difficult, with its use of a relaxed torso but dynamically charged arm and leg movements. She is an active choreographer, creating works for dance companies, movies, and Broadway.
Garth Fagan (b.1940)- Jamaican born Fagan was a student of Martha Graham, Pearl Primus, and Alvin Ailey. His company, Garth Fagan dance, uniquely blends modern, jazz, and world dance. He also created the choreography for the Broadway production of The Lion King.
Michael Clark (b. 1962)- Formally a ballet dancer, Clark came to modern dance after arriving in the United Stated from Britain and studying at the Cunningham School. He is one of Britain’s most controversial choreographers. His dances, many of which use rock music and stylized clothing, are some of the most innovative dances seen today.
Rennie Harris (b. 1964)- Harris created Rennie Harris Pure Movement, based in Philadelphia, which is dedicated to preserving and bringing hip hop culture to the public. One of his most famous works is Rome and Jewels, a hip-hop version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Jacques Heim (b. 1964)- Heim is the artistic director of Diavolo: Architecture in Motion, which utilizes large scale set pieces that the dancers dance on, under, through, and around, mostly while the apparatus is in motion. Heim has created dances for Cirque du Soleil and has been featured on America’s Got Talent.
Shen Wei (b. 1968)- Shen Wei is a Chinese born American choreographer, visual artist and director. He creates original works that include dance, painting, sound, sculpture, theater, and video, demonstrating a blend of Asian and Western aesthetics. In 2000 he established Shen Wei Dance Arts. Wei was the lead choreographer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Busby Berkeley (1895-1976)- Berkeley was a dance director known for his use of “beautiful girls” in his productions. Often the women in a Berkeley number were costumed to look exactly alike, including wigs that were the same color and style. He moved them around in intricate patterns and provided audiences with aerial shots that provided kaleidoscope effects.
Josephine Baker (1906-1975)- Baker began her career in the Vaudeville era. In 1925 she performed in Paris and became an instant success. She is credited with introducing such dances as the Charleston and the Black Bottom to European audiences.
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878-1949)- One of the great tap dancers of the Vaudeville era, Robinson is best remembered for dancing with Shirley Temple in 1930’s movies. He was one of the first black performers who presented artistic dance on the Vaudeville stage.
Gene Kelly (1912-1996)- Kelly was a physical and acrobatic dancer, combining tap, ballroom, and ballet in his dancing. One of the most famous tap sequences known today is Kelly’s from Singing in the Rain.
Fred Astaire (1899-1987)- Astaire combined tap, ballroom and ballet to create some of the most famous dance sequences.
Jack Cole (1913-1974)- Cole began his career with the Denishawn company. The introduction to East Indian dance had a lasting effect on him and his choreography became a mixture of jazz and world dance.
Cyd Charisse (1922-2008)- In the late 1930’s Charisse was a ballet dancer for MGM studios and is known for her frequent pairings in movies with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
Sammy Davis Jr. (1925-1990)- Davis’ career began as a young child, when he danced on the Vaudeville stage. Davis became a famous singer, dancer, and actor, and performed in all facets of the theater on Broadway, in musicals, and in nightclubs. He is considered one of the greatest all-around entertainers in this country,
Luigi (1925-2015)- Master teacher who was based in New York City, developed a technique and style that was uniquely his own and is studied by dancers all over the world.
Gwen Verdon (1925-2000)- Trained in ballet, Verdon came to jazz dancing after seeing Jack Cole perform, and she went on to be his assistant for several years. She married Bob Fosse after working with him in his musicals Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, and Chicago.
Bob Fosse (1927-1987)- One of jazz dance’s foremost choreographers, Fosse’s choreography is recognizable by its angular shapes, undulating hip and shoulder movements, hip isolations and turned in legs. He provided choreography for some of America’s best loved musicals including Pippin, Cabaret, and Chicago.
Gus Giordano (1930-2008)- A leading jazz teacher, Giordano created the Jazz Dance World Congress, an organization created to preserve and expand the world of jazz dance. In 1962, Giordano developed a jazz company and school in Chicago.
Chita Rivera (b. 1933)- Rivera has appeared in the choreography of Michael Kidd, Jerome Robbins, and Jack Cole. Her outstanding singing and acting ability made her one of musical theater’s biggest stars.
Tommy Tune (b. 1939)- Best known for his outstanding tap dance ability, Tune is also a choreographer and director, as well as a performer. He has choreographed and directed some of Broadway’s most popular shows including Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Cloud 9, and the re-make of Bye Bye Birdie.
Gregory Hines (1946-2003)- Paired with his brother Maurice, Hines began tap dancing at a young age. Much of the resurgence of popularity that tap dance has enjoyed since the 1980’s can be attributed to the many outstanding tap performances by Hines, including White Nights and Tap.
Debbie Allen (b. 1950)- Best known for her role on the television show Fame, Allen is not only an outstanding dancer, but also one of today’s best-known jazz dance choreographers.
Andy Blankenbuehler (b. 1970)- Blankenbuehler is a choreographer who won the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for his choreography for the Broadway musical In the Heights. He also created the choreography for Nine to Five, The Wiz, Bring it On, and Hamilton.
Savion Glover (b. 1973)- Glover starred in The Tap Dance Kid on Broadway, which led to several other Broadway roles. He also starred in the movie Tap, with Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. Glover has since starred in and choreographed Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk on Broadway for which he won a Tony Award for Best Choreography.
Sonya Tayeh (b. 1978)- Tayeh is a dance teacher and jazz contemporary choreographer, best known for her choreography on So You Think You Can Dance. In 2013 she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on season nine of the show. Tayeh as choreographed for Madonna, Florence and the Machine, and Kylie Minogue. She is the choreographer for the new Broadway show Moulin Rouge.
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