Modern dance is a term describing a genre of theatrical dance which arose in Europe and the USA in the 20th century. Its primary features are the pursuit of freedom, the rejection of canonical ballet practices and the tendency to keep ballet culture up to date.
For instance, gravity is one of the key aspects of modern dance, which can be recognized both visually and kinesthetically. Classic ballet requires utmost, nearly unreal, lightness of the body, whereas modern dance uses gravity as the driving force of the moves and the dancers do not aim at the perfect vertical axis. The two also differ when it comes to body coordination, spinal articulation, rotations, amplitude etc.
The list of most notable figures of early modern dance includes Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis and Maud Allan. These dancers travelled the world, usually performing solo numbers barefoot and dressed in peculiar loose clothes. Duncan was an experimenter, expressing music alongside with nature in her dances; Fuller liked to work with light effects; St. Denis expressed herself through the dances of different cultures; Allan distinctively interpreted literary works. Unfortunately, almost none of their creations or techniques were preserved, but the movement continued to grow thanks to the enthusiastic followers and apprentices.
The next stage of the history of modern dance can sometimes be addressed as two different branches of the time. Those are American (represented by Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman) branch and European (represented by Rudolf von Laban, Mary Wigman, Kurt Jooss, Hanya Holm) branch. This stage marked the genesis of modern dance forms, techniques and repertoire which are used nowadays. Dance companies are formed, proper education system invented, dance theory emerged too. Modern dance made it up to the theatre stages and ballet troupes started hiring choreographers to create brand new productions.
Nowadays, modern dance techniques are inherent in both traditional and experimental dance institutions. The productions of the modern dance era are seen less and less recently, but certain troupes (like Martha Graham Dance Company) are keeping them alive. However, the basis of modern dance still holds its place in contemporary interpretations and keeps inspiring new forms and ideas.