I went to Rob Cross, Perry Artistic Director of the Virginia Arts Festival, because I know
very little nothing about contemporary dance or modern dance.
I’ve seen wonderful dance performances at the VAF each year. Like any art, I respond emotionally, and that’s good. I think I would have more appreciation if I knew more about it. I don’t even know the difference, if any, between contemporary dance and modern dance.
There are three great dance events coming up at this year’s Virginia Arts Festival. Jessica Lang Dance on Sunday, April 14 at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, https://secure.vafest.org/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=695
Dance Theatre of Harlem on Friday, May 3 – Sunday, May 5, also at Chrysler Hall https://secure.vafest.org/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=633
and Pilobolus on Friday, May 10 at Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach. https://secure.vafest.org/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=650
More on Dance Theatre of Harlem coming soon. This is something really special. Besides being one of the great dance companies in the world, they will be performing a world premiere commissioned by the VAF and the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution. Stay tuned.
Let’s discuss contemporary dance, modern dance, Jessica Lang Dance and Pilobolus. There are some experts who use the terms contemporary and modern interchangeably. Some think there is a spectrum from classical ballet, like Swan Lake and The Nutcracker to the contemporary dance of Jessica Lang Dance to the “gymnastics, acrobatics, applied physics, theories of leverage” and bodies-as-an- art-form dance that is Pilobolus.
Rob Cross calls contemporary dance “dance for the sake of beautiful dance.” He says that contemporary dancers are either bare-footed or in dance slippers. “No point shoes.”
Cross notes that Jessica Lang is one of the most important contemporary dance choreographers alive. The performance at the VAF this year will be the company’s last performance. Ms. Lang is disbanding her company and returning to her first love, choreography. Cross calls Jessica Lang Dance “audience friendly, beautiful and elegant. It is dancing at the highest level.”
A ballerina friend of mine, someone who danced professionally for 6 years, tells me that “modern dance is perhaps more primal.” Pilobolus would fall into that category. The dancers of Pilobolus use their bodies as instruments. Cross calls Pilobolus “dance theater.”
Pilobolus is “very unique” and “totally different”. The dancers twist, turn, balance, and manipulate their bodies into shapes, rhythms, and forms that seem unattainable and sometimes impossible. The women have just as much strength as the men. The men have just as much grace and beauty as the women. Their performances are “surreal and poetic.”
Have we solved the mystery of contemporary dance vs. modern dance? Probably not. Does it matter? Not really. There are three world-class dance performances coming soon to Hampton Roads. All of them will stir up your soul. All of them will make you appreciate the art form of dance.
For more information and to purchase tickets to these performances, go to https://secure.vafest.org/single/EventListing.aspx?k=8