Contemporary dance, or modern dance, is a dance form that was inspired by a need for change from the strict and disciplined movements in ballet. The modern dance movement came about in the early 20th century and was designed to allow a freer and more natural style of movement. There are as many variations and styles in contemporary dance as there are choreographers. Some basic steps and movement combinations will help you prepare for any contemporary style.
A very important part of contemporary dance is the warm-up. Before performing any steps, your body should be warmed up and stretched out to avoid injury. Start with isolations. Isolations target a certain part of the body and moving only that part. The head, for example, can move right to left, up and down, and in a complete roll. Isolate and move your head, then your ribs, and then your hips, moving each one right to left, and forward and back, and then roll in either direction. The ability to isolate each part of your body and control its movement is crucial in contemporary dance.
The spinal roll helps warm up your back and gain control over its movement. Stand with your feet together. Bend at your waist and hang with your hands on the floor and your neck relaxed. Roll up, starting with your lower back, keeping your head tucked in until you reach the full standing position.
Release moves are designed to help you let go of your body and gain control again quickly. They also help you use your breath along with the movement. Drop swings are one example of a release move. Start by standing straight up. Release your upper body, bending at the waist and dropping to the floor. Relax your neck and allow your arms to hang down to the floor. Exhale as you drop and bend at the knees. Allow the weight of your drop and exhale to bring you back up to the standing position. Drop swings can be performed in a variety of foot positions. You also can start in one position and end in another, many times going from two legs to one.
Triplets are a basic travelling move using a 3/4 or waltz timing. They are typically done in a turned out position and use a variation in heights, ranging from bent knees, or plie, to walking on the balls of your feet, or releve. Start off with a slide forward in the plie position, rising to the releve position for counts two and three. Keep your feet close to the floor, sliding as you move from one foot to the other. Arm movements and turns can be incorporated at a more advanced level.
Leaps are another move that get you moving across the dance floor. Start with a chasse, or step together step. Take one more step, and then leap, step, leap, and continue until reaching the end of the floor. Repeat this on the other side, starting with your other foot. Point your toes as you leap, and you can experiment with different arm positions.