Redefining Modern Dance

New York's 92nd Street YM-YWHA helped broaden American dance to embrace multiculturalism and diversity.

Print this page Print this page

While standard histories of American dance see a radical divide between the two movements, with postmodern dance bursting onto the scene with the work of the Judson Dance Theater in the early 1960s, it may be that there is a greater connection than previously thought.

Today, one of the most visible dimensions of postmodern culture is the movement toward multiculturalism, which challenges the priority of a monolithic identity in American history, highlighting racial as well as ethnic diversity and claiming public resources on behalf of these groups. The Y's long patronage of Jewish, African American, and out-of-town dancers, among others, foreshadowed many of the current effects and questions of multiculturalism in the postmodern dance world in terms of both policy and style.

The choreography of young, lesser-known artists of all kinds appearing at the Y was often innovative, involving a combining of different movement traditions. Analyzing their legacy can help us to better understand current choreographers' fascination with stylistic fusion as well as lead to a greater awareness of the continuity of the democratic tradition in American dance.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Naomi M. Jackson

Naomi Jackson is an Associate Professor of dance in the Department of Dance, Herberger College of the Arts, Arizona State University.