Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

American Modern Dancers: The Pioneers follows the genesis of modern dance in the United States from its origins around 1900 through its development into an established art form by the middle of the twentieth century. Following an introduction, Olga Maynard divides her book into four chronological sections: “The Beginnings,” “Denishawn,” “The Burgeoning,” and “A Summation.” The book also contains an appendix with a diagram of the “family tree” of modern dance and endnotes that add further explanation to some of the topics mentioned in the text.

The first section, entitled “The Beginnings,” examines the formative influences on American modern dance. This background reaches back to the mid-nineteenth century in Europe and encompasses the work of theorists and dancers in France, Switzerland, and Germany, including François Delsarte, who formulated laws of expression in the arts, and Émile Jacques-Dalcroze, who espoused the use of rhythm to connect music with body movement. A number of dancers in Germany created a modern dance movement. Among these figures, the ideas and dance style of Mary Wigman were most influential in the United States. In the United States, Isadora Duncan was the first modern dancer. Her approach to dancing was personal and unique. Her work was not fully appreciated in the United States, however, and she found greater acceptance in Europe.

The collaboration of two dancers, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, provided the real foundation of modern dance in the United States. St. Denis...

(The entire section is 636 words.)