Contemporary dance is a style of dance that emerged in the 20th century as an outgrowth of modern dance and other 20th century dance techniques. Defining this style of dance can be difficult, as it is an extremely fluid and very nebulous style of dance. Unlike traditions such as ballet, contemporary is not associated with specific dance techniques, but rather with a dance philosophy. In it, people attempt to explore the natural energy and emotions of their bodies to produce dances that are often very personal.
Some notable names in the field of contemporary dance include Martha Graham, Trisha Brown, Isadora Duncan, Merce Cunningham, and Jose Limon. Martha Graham is perhaps one of the most famous people in the field, and the Martha Graham School of Dance in New York City offers training in Graham's techniques to dancers from all over the world. New stars are also always rising in this field of dance.
Contemporary dancers can come from any training background, ranging from classical ballet to break-dancing, and they integrate bodywork techniques such as yoga and Pilates into their dance, along with systems such as the Alexander Method. The contemporary style places a heavy emphasis on the connection between mind and body, with dancers being encouraged to explore their emotions through dances that push against traditional boundaries. This style of dance often involves a great deal of playing with balance, floorwork, fall and recovery, and improvisation.
In classes, students learn to use their bodies in a variety of ways, and they focus on breathing, posture, and emotional state to establish a mind-body connection. Students may learn choreographed works, or they may be encouraged to improvise dance pieces. A contemporary dance composition may take the from of a personal narrative, an allegory, a commentary on society, or an integration of cultures, and it can feature a wide variety of dance techniques, reflecting the melting pot nature of the style.
Numerous major cities around the world host contemporary dance companies that offer regular performances for the public, and some of these dance companies are attached to dance schools, for people who wish to pursue training in the style. Classes can also be taken through colleges and universities, community dance schools, and occasionally through health clubs.