Learn contemporary dance. Contemporary dance is the name given to a group of 20th century dance forms. Contemporary includes free, modern, expressionist and post modern dance.

What is Contemporary Dance?

Rather than a specific dance technique contemporary dance is a collection of systems and methods developed mainly from Modern and Postmodern dance.

In the early1900s, dancers in Europe started to rebel against the rigid constraints of classical ballet. Shedding classical ballet technique, costume and shoes these early modern dance pioneers practiced free dance.

From this evolved Modern Dance, a term applied to ballroom dances and 20th century concert dances, plus Postmodern Dance. Also developed in the 20th century, Postmodern incorporated the use of everyday movement in its performance.

If you were to ask a dance teacher today to describe Contemporary, you could well be faced with words such as modern, Jazz-like, loose, expressive, not formal or rigid.

Perhaps the best way to describe Contemporary is as a modern dance form, based upon classical ballet techniques where a young dancer, once they begin mastering the basic dance moves, they can then begin to interpret the music through their own expression.

Where do you learn Contemporary Dance?

You may choose for your child to learn to dance at home via music DVDs, videos or online for free. Alternatively, most centres around the country have dance schools or studios. Some only specialise in one particular type of dance such as Ballet or Highland. Others cover several dance forms. You will need to phone around and join a school offering tuition in all dance styles, including Contemporary.

While it varies from school to school, most teach in a class environment only. There are advantages with the group tuition, where young children interacting with others, creates an enjoyable synergy which is stimulating and fun.

As the young dancer progresses individual tuition is available through private teachers. However, the dancer would generally be expected to be fairly well advanced.

What age can your child start Contemporary Dance?

For Contemporary, most dance schools take pupils from age five. Several schools offer pre-school classes, but these are usually dance and music appreciation classes, where the youngsters are encouraged to explore music and movement rather than a specific dance style.

While the younger the better when it comes to learning dance, a young person can begin a dance style such as Contemporary in their early teens and progress quickly.

How do you progress over time?

Many schools combine Contemporary with another dance form such as Tap, Hip Hop or Ballet for the first few years. This provides the child with a range of dancing skills and, after a period of time, allows them to continue with the dual dances, or specialise in one.

Contemporary dance examinations are available. Most schools offer the examinations, and although not compulsory, dance students are encouraged to follow the examination path. This course of study is viewed by dance teachers as practical and a great way for the student to set tangible goals for themselves. Progress can then be monitored on a practical level over time.

The examinations are usually via the New Zealand Association of Modern Dance (NZAMD).

Examinations begin at Primary Prep Level, advancing through to grade five. The next step is Elementary to Advanced. These allow the successful dance student to add letters after their name, as in tertiary qualifications. While the NZAMD provide examination formats for a range of dance styles, there are examinations that are Contemporary specific.

Also, should the young dancer decide to follow a performing or teaching career, such formal qualifications are viewed favourably.

To reach advanced status requires several years of dedicated practise. A young dancer would generally be well into their late teens or older before attaining the higher levels.

Many dance schools will put on a public show, perhaps twice a year. These shows are a great way for the young dancers to showcase their talents and are an exciting time for the kids.

Contemporary, as with any dance, is about more than simply dancing. Any dance teacher will tell you that the chance to perform regularly before others generates self esteem and self confidence, putting the young person at ease around peers and in public.

Some dance schools also provide group singing classes in addition to dance. These classes are seen as a way for the young students to develop all around entertainment skills as Contemporary dancers can be expected to sing should they become involved in stage shows. As the dance student progresses into their teens, teachers will often encourage formal singing lessons for this reason.

What equipment do you need for Contemporary Dance?

Contemporary dance uses a basic uniform consisting of a Leotard and tights.

Foot wear required is a standard pair of Jazz shoes. These are designed specifically for modern dance styles and are different to the traditional Ballet shoe. They need to be a good fit. Avoid buying a larger size to give your child ‘growing room’.

There will or should be heaps of practice at home, so a stereo system is essential, as is a place to practise. Any decent sized room or garage is preferable, with good lighting, ventilation and away from distractions.

How much does Contemporary Dance cost?

School charges vary depending on several factors. These include class size, age group and also whether the class is just providing dance instruction for Contemporary or a combination of dance forms such as Contemporary and Jazz.

  • For a 45 – 60 minute class, once a week, you will pay around $75 – $125 per term.
  • Leotard: $35 – $50
  • Jazz Shoes: $65 – $95

How much time does Contemporary Dance take?

Beginners classes are usually 30 minutes in duration and increase to 45 – 60 minutes depending on the pupil and class.

Practice at home is expected. Most dance teachers recommend 30 minutes daily for beginners and increasing to 30 – 60 minutes.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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