What Do They Mean By ‘Contemporary’ On SYTYCD?

What is contemporary dance?

How is it different from modern dance, or jazz dance?
IMAGE Nicola Ayoub reaches a flexed foot in the air with clasped hands. IMAGE

Nicola Ayoub - Fete de la Danse 2010 | Photo by pixieduc.

Good questions that get asked a lot! And not just by newcomers to dance.

It seems the entire dance community is trying to sort it all out…

  • Four months ago, I got an e-mail from a reader who e-mailed me wondering if I had written anything on the topic. Seems she had been to some workshops and asked around, hoping for some clarification on the term. She came up empty.
  • Our new columnist, Heather Vaughan-Southard recently called describing contemporary dance ‘The Next Verbal Challenge‘ on her EducatingDancers blog.
  • And that was expounding on a conversation happening on Twitter (in 140 characters) and mentioned by Jordon Cloud on her blog about the differences between contemporary and modern dance.
  • And fellow dance writer and Houstonian, Nancy Wozny, penned The Contemporary Conundrum for Dance Spirit Magazine. It’s not a new article but the questions sure are familiar.

The point is, this is an ongoing conversation. I’m sure none of us were the first and we are obviously not the last thinking, processing, and scribbling about it.

EDITOR’S UPDATE: More scribblings

I’ll add more interesting articles as I find them.

I’ve been sitting on this post really, picking at it until I felt like I’d nailed it. Problem is, it refuses to be nailed. The subject really should be (and probably is) somebody’s Master’s thesis.

BUT it deserves to be talked about among undergrads and younger students as well. Students need to hear the perspectives and some of the history and experiences behind them.

And so I throw my thoughts into the fray. A scholar I am not, but let’s see where they go and what you do with them, shall we?

I’ll start with my Bottom Line first…

(you’ll forgive the language, I hope)

Labels suck but we kind of need them.

Can ‘contemporary’ be taught?

You have probably heard the term Contemporary Dance used as a noun (as in, “I am taking Contemporary Dance lessons,” or “That dance was Contemporary, not Jazz.”).

Maybe I’m just splitting hairs, but I’m not fond of contemporary dance as a term for something learned or taught. And referring to it as a dance form, style, or genre usually raises hairs on the back of my neck, too.

Teachers use strategic techniques and methods to prepare dancers for the work they do in performance. There are dance techniques or methods (Graham, Humphrey, Horton, Limon, Hawkins, Dunham, Cunningham, or Vaganova, Cecchetti, Bournonville, or Giordano, Luigi, Mattox.) that can be taught.

If you are currently taking “Modern Dance”, your training may blend multiple training methods within the same class. Many schools and studios have moved away from teaching these techniques in their purest form.

From where I stand, techniques (long-term training methods) in contemporary dance have not emerged, though I can’t say this won’t or isn’t changing as I write this.

Perhaps a “contemporary dance class” would thoroughly blend modern, jazz, and ballet techniques. But isn’t this triad already covered in most concert and commercial dance training already?

What does ‘contemporary’ look like?

In general, contemporary dancers (dancers of right now) are on a quest which lies at the heart of all evolutionary art-making… the search for something that feels new or now. They…

  • are interested in blending or drawing from the ballet, jazz, modern, and other techniques in which they’ve trained
  • are athletic and have a strong technical focus which allows them to move between and bend genres with ease
  • are willing to borrow or dabble in ideas and approaches to choreography from the past
  • often experiment with movement disciplines outside the realms of theatrical or concert dance.

The characteristics of contemporary dance reflect these interests and goals but I can’t identify a ‘look’ to the movement or choreography among those that call themselves contemporary dancers.

IMAGE Rays of light surround a dancer in action IMAGE

©René Michaels

Is contemporary commercial or concert?

Some dance, like the choreography on So You Think You Can Dance, appeals very much to our popular culture’s sense of taste. The show’s artists simultaneously appeal to and establish commercial tastes, or aesthetics.

Concert dancers and companies affect, and are affected by contemporary trends as they broaden the definition of dance. Lines are blurry. Concert dance companies are taking notes on marketing their artwork and *gasp!* maybe even welcome commercial appeal. Commercial dancers raise the bar with the level of artistry in their work.

Dancers are staying less within one particular bubble, passing easily across what remains of concert and commercial boundaries. Instructors are teaching a diverse range of dance forms and eclectic methods in universities and sometimes even traditional training environments.

So what is contemporary dance?

There are several uses for the word contemporary but you can boil all of them down to one definition: of the same time.

The word modifies or describes a noun (like dance for example).

Contemporary dance is what it sounds like: dance that belongs to or exists in a time period… right now.

In this way, everything on SYTYCD is contemporary. Concert dance, musical theatre, the avant-garde, even ballet made by contemporary dancers and happening in the vicinity of right now is contemporary dance.

  • Right now, in a fast-paced and interconnected world, dance trends seem to form and meld so quickly that it is sometimes hard to pin them down before they take another leap forward. Small movements are happening all the time.
  • Right now, unlike some of the dance movements of the past, is one of inclusion, not rejection (unless it is rejection we are rejecting?).
  • Right now, dancemakers acknowledge what has come before, sometimes fully embracing it and sometimes just using what they will to build their own unique vision. Perhaps dancers have always done this, but now more than ever, it seems to be an open acknowledgment of relationships.

What’s in a name?

Clearly, ‘modern’ is another confusing term we use to define some dance.

Before there was the term Modern Dance, some dancers of the early 1900s sparked a movement when they chose a new approach to dance that was free, informal, and experimental. They sought to reject or distance themselves from the training, heirarchy, and themes of ballet.

Those who sought to establish a set of techniques that served their individual approach to dance and expression, and develop technical dancers in a track independent of ballet, strengthened the movement.

This expressionistic rebellion against ballet, this movement, moved on. Its dancers (those that affiliated themselves with the modern dance movement) have moved or passed on as well.

So why do we call this movement, or approach, its dancers or techniques, modern? It may have seemed appropriate at the time to call this new work modern (recent or right now). The label stuck.

Yet dance is never stuck, it is ever evolving.

What happened when dance moved on?

Postmodern dance (a term you’ll most often hear slung around on a university campus) was a movement as well.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, a group of people who had trained in and felt bound by the techniques and performance trappings of their “modern” dance predecessors, furthered some artistic ideas that were removed and against the grain of their upbringing.

Their impact was powerful enough to establish a differentiation or mark a shift in the approach to dance-making. Rejecting form and content, postmodern choreographers often stripped dance of emotional expression, technical foundation, and/or theatricality. They not only questioned “what is dance?” but brought forth the idea that “perhaps this is dance,” “…and maybe this,” …or this!”

We’ve moved beyond the postmodern movement and many of its motivations as well. Yet, we continue to blur and blend boundaries during this contemporary time period.

Full circle

So what really bothers me about using contemporary dance as a noun, a form, a look, a SET thing? Pretty soon (it may be too late) the label will stick.

And like “modern” dance before it, dance will move onward into a new right now where we will be stuck with yet more unfortunately named and confusing terminology.

IMAGE Macro image of a chain link. IMAGELinking vs. Labeling

Dance is tied to traditions and perspectives of the past and connects to others existing in the present.

The borders between corn fields are nearly indistinguishable when you are among the stalks. They only become clear as you move above and away from them. In a few hundred years we will probably see changes and shifts along the timeline of dance more clearly.

In the Right Now, rather than trying to label or categorize dances or movements as one form or another, you might think of the process as distinguishing or guessing the dance’s lineage and relationship to various techniques or approaches.

This requires looking back through dance history (kind of like we did above) AND looking at a wide sampling of the dance going on right now to fine-tune your “eye” for connections. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but the result is generally more accurate than any labeling.

Take some time to explore and experience a variety of dance and dance artists. Do it one piece at a time, but be willing and open to the observation. You’ll be amazed at the bonds, parallels, and inspirations evident in the choreography on TV or on stage.

“There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.” ~ Audre Lorde

“It doesn’t matter how new an idea is: what matters is how new it becomes.” ~ Elias Canetti


Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world.
Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle (owner/editor)

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  1. I don’t ever watch SYTYCD… isn’t that an inspiration!

  2. I don’t watch it either, really. But I don’t watch much tv, and the judges & corny tv behind-the-scenes segments are annoying.

    I don’t think the show’s influence & impact can be discounted though. It’s commercialized dance, entertaining & popular. Broadway/theatre jazz is commercialized, hip-hop is a far cry from the root forms it sprung from. Entertainment need not be devoid of artistry (and visa versa) but some dances hit the mark, some don’t – it’s the same in concert dance.

    • I love SYTYCD. It is inspiring, it is powerful. As a would-love-to-be-dancer-nearing-40, I admire so much the power and passion of the dancer’s bodies, and their physical capabilities. To see them is to inspire me, and to see how much their bodies can do is a huge source of inspiration and admiration, and absolutely wows me to see how much work they have put in to become so adept. I think without shows like this, people who don’t dance often don’t realise the intense training required to dance. I also think it is a great platform to help role model athletic bodies. I have always been naturally slim, however if I had my time over and could dance and develop a body which is as capable as a dancer’s body, then that would be so much more exciting than simply being slim. Hopefully SYTYCD helps role model such positive body image for teenage girls who need such inspiration.

      • Hi Sally! You won’t get an argument from me about the positive impact of having dance on tv each week (though there are inevitable drawbacks too). And I’ve got no qualms with the dancers or artists themselves, or (as much as I value dance as pure artistic expression) with commercialization, for that matter. The format of the show itself just doesn’t inspire me to watch – that’s me, it’s the same reason I lost interest in Idol after one or two seasons. In terms of this post, the show just happens to be a platform where the contemporary dance label is heard and used a lot, and so begs to enter the conversation. Thanks for adding your thoughts!

  3. unfortunately in today’s world so much is commercialized. But thankfully there are artists who fight against it, theatre and film directors who create art for art’s sake and not for the $.

  4. The best way I have been explaining to people is contemporary is a combiniation of Jazz and Modern. Lyrical is a combination of jazz and ballet.

    • You’re not alone in using that description but I also think that in general people aren’t really clear on what modern is either. And lyrical is a term that almost like ‘modern dance’ has gone out of fashion with the people that dance it. It has connotation that for whatever reason people don’t want to be associated with any longer.

      Contemporary dancers (right now dancers) do a lot of mixing of jazz, ballet, and modern principles and methods in their work and training. Those are our contemporary (current, right now) dance values at work. But in my mind, there’s no such THING, as Contemporary Dance as a form itself. So, for me, I wouldn’t be able to actually say “Contemporary Dance is _____.”

      I hope I’m making sense! I love the thoughts and conversation!

  5. Nicola Ayoub says:

    Nice article and I agree that contemporary dance is right now! However, I’m curious where you found the photo of the girl with the short hair in the out-door dance festival since there’s no name or photo credit. You see that girl is actually me performing at Entrez dans la danse in Paris, France. Thank you.

  6. “Contemporary” dance – and I have no problem calling it that if that is how those artists wish to refer to it – is heavily, heavily based in African dance and ballet with a smattering of jazz and perhaps hip-hop. I do feel that African dance is not getting enough credit for this danceform. Go back and look at tapes of Geoffrey Holder and his colleagues in their younger days of movement exploration and dance employment and you will find TONS of movement patterns that are indisputably identical to what’s being served up as original movement these days. I absolutely commend today’s choreographers for pairing those movements with current trends in music and costuming and for using them in ways that express the modern world and reach young people, but it saddens me that so many young dancers who love this type of movement aren’t even remotely educated by their teachers on the great artists that came before them and laid more than the foundation for it to exist.

    • Thanks Juliette for addressing some of the African roots at work! I agree, without knowing the full history here, that you can clearly see African and Jazz elements in the more commercial hybrid we are watching on sytycd and in studios across the country.

      However, what of the concert dance artists who have also adopted the contemporary dance label? I’m not sure that many of them are working from this same place – most come from a modern dance lineage. Will there be a smackdown about who exactly gets to carry the ‘contemporary dance’ label? lol

      Add to these the terms ‘contemporary ballet’ and ‘contemporary jazz’ and you’ve got nothing but contemporary confusion. And here’s where I run into problems with using the term contemporary dance in either or maybe any setting. The word contemporary can only tell time, it doesn’t tell you anything about what you’re seeing. It’s little wonder why students (and teachers) may not be communicating clearly even if they do have some historical dance knowledge under their cap.

  7. I get where you’re coming from, I do! But is it fair to say that people who create work for commercial projects are only in it for money? It’s equivalent to saying that people who create work for art’s sake are only in it for their egos. Just a bit of friendly debate, but while artists waste energy fighting amongst themselves about which kind of work is superior, the people who support projects (audiences and funders) lose interest and move on.

  8. Good point, no doubt. I’m classically trained, retired pro dancer. Love theatre and the arts, can’t get in to reality TV. So much great art out there to enjoy; also literature and music, etc etc.

  9. I’m with you. So much great work out there. I’m glad to know that SYTYCD is finally featuring some pro dance artists & companies on the show… baby steps, but glad.

  10. Thanks Nichelle, for a great article. I don’t watch SYTYCD but my mom is an addict. Anything that exposes people to dance and gets people excited about dance is worth taking notice.

    As some one who works with a ballet company that defines its rep as “contemporary”, I offer this: contemporary ballet is heavily rooted in classical training, which choreographers rely upon. They want pointed feet, extended lines of legs and arms, turn out, but they want to be able to break the rules of ballet as well. They want dancers who can move from broken lines to extended lines, from classical positions to made up positions. Some want to incorporate elements of traditional modern, jazz, yoga and even hip-hop, but the movement still has, as a foundation, a classical ballet base.

    I think contemporaries (us present day poeples) will define contemporary jazz, contemporary ballet, contemporary modern and contemporary dance in as many diverse ways as there are ways of moving. What is exciting to me is to see the crossing over of many different styles into the same choreography. Some one recently said that ballet is dead. I disagree. I think ballet is doing what it has always done…evolving.

    • Melanie, I agree with your “definition” of contemporary ballet. And, I think to clarify, I don’t really have a problem with the terms contemporary jazz, contemporary ballet… contemporary modern (hmmm… I think that’s why those modern dance lineage folks use contemporary dance instead). They’re okay by me because in these cases contemporary really remains a modifier. It is jazz/ballet/etc according to current values (which constantly evolve).

      Contemporary Dance as a label or dance form – something restrictive by which we’ll later have to define and classify subsequent labels and forms, gives me a headache. 🙁

      • I agree with Melanie and with you Nichelle. I don’t have a big problem with the ambiguity of the labeling. I do think that contemporary ballet, which from what I’ve seen retains enough of a classical ballet base that it is often performed on pointe, could be categorized separately from contemporary jazz, which is more what I think is seen on SYTYCD and on the comp circuit.

        When I hear contemporary dance though, I think of the bigger bucket that encompasses all of those movement forms, including cont ballet, cont jazz and even Balanchine, plus hip-hop, plus even newer forms of street dance and acro – basically any newer forms of dance movement today. That said, I would never get offended if someone “mislabeled” something according to how I see things. I do think that the various styles should be attributed to their authors when possible and appropriate though, as we do with modern now, eg Horton, Graham, Duncan. I think that what might be missing when people just throw out contemporary dance as if that means something definitive. Does that make sense?

        Also I’m surprised that in this very creative industry more creative linguistic patterns have not evolved for self-description. Take modern-day music for example – there’s metal, grundge, emo, rock, punk, alternative and the list goes on. I’m surprised we haven’t come up with more descriptive wording than to just say, in so many words as you pointed out, “present-day dance”. I mean, wow, can you get any less descriptive?

  11. As a dance teacher I am happy to see a renewed interest in dance, one which- in part- has be spurred by SYTYCD. However, I find it frustrating that the dancers all only want to take “contemporary” class. I think they watch SYTYCD and see “contemporary” dancers winning and getting standing ovations for their “contemporary” performance and they think “If I am a contemporary dancer, I will be a good/popular dancer”.

    It is becoming increasingly difficult to get new students to be excited about taking classes with more traditional labels. As a jazz and modern teacher, I am frustrated! Dancers who I would consider contemporaries are ones with a strong understanding of the foundations of dance which came before the “right now” and have a thoughtfully artistic way of merging these styles to create something new.

    How do you explain that to someone who wants to be a SYTYCD contemporary dancer?

    • How frustrating! It’s that whole instant gratification thing. Students see SYTYCD and walk into a studio and say “make me look like that.” But they don’t really want to do the work. Any instructor worth their salt knows that the majority of great dancers have a solid foundation in some kind of technique whether it’s ballet, jazz, modern, tap or ballroom. SYTYCD purposefully finds those exceptions to the rule, those diamonds in the rough, those naturally gifted, multi-faceted performers. That doesn’t make our jobs as studio owners or instructors any easier.

      • Ditto that. I sometimes feel like saying to these kids, Well, you can take all the contemporary jazz classes you want, but learning combos that you are not prepared technically to execute yet will get you… poorly executed combos. You will probably not succeed as a contemporary jazz dancer if you do not first master the basic technique elements of ballet – which are not taught in most contemporary jazz classes that I have ever seen.

        I’ll be honest, I saw the same thing ten years ago when jazz was all the rage and the jazz kids who didn’t want to take ballet class could never figure out why they were consistently at the bottom of the class – by a long shot.

        If I had my druthers, contemporary jazz and jazz would be something studied only after a (truly) intermediate level of ballet had been reached. My main issue with the classes is repetition of improperly executed combos -the implications of the inevitable muscle memory results make me want to give up when they walk in my ballet class sometimes. But that is a systemic issue that I have seen span schools of the U.S.

        As a contrast, I think hip-hop and other street forms are terrific styles that – because they are not based in ballet – are perfectly fine to study without any other dance knowledge. I say this in order to point out that my reasoning really is based on the technical truths of dance, not from some snooty self-importance that wants to impose ballet on everyone that wants to dance. 🙂

  12. 1) I’m thrilled with dance on TV in any form as sports has held sway for so long that it’s delightful to see any dance. Some child some where is going to see a TV dancer and say “I want to do that”…and the journey will begin.
    2) Names and labels seem to be pretty fluid whether it’s a style or a step. I find myself saying “Well, we used to call this leap “x” but the dance team folks at Just for Kix are calling it “y” now, so we’ll go along with that. Not a big deal.
    3) I have a few students who want to sign up for a lyrical class, and a contemporary class, and not a ballet class. We’re pretty recreational, so I try to vary the choreography my dancers do in their ballet class, so that they get a taste of each style. In this way I hope that they will be prepared for different styles in college.
    4) Many years ago, two alumni fresh from college with “modern” dance degrees did a small concert in our town. I remember that a few of the pieces presented used toasters and fans as props…I’ll never forget a puzzled grandmother asking me after the concert if “it was modern dance because it involved small appliances.”
    4) I’ve been teaching for 37 years and the changes I’ve seen in the studio and competition scenes are incredible. The athlethes we turn out now are nothing like the girls I first taught…can’t wait to see where “we’ll” go next!

  13. Nice article! My question is… Does it matter what we call it? I’m so happy that it is becoming mainstream in the dance world to be creative, think outside the box and push boundaries. I’m a studio teacher in a small town and even 6 years ago, to ask a room full of some what ‘green’ pre-teens to improvise and discover movement would have cause everyone to quit dancing and call it hokey. Now through the popularity of ‘contemporary’ through mainstream television, students have role model’s and idols who went through the same type of training they are experiencing. It really helps to give them a context for creative movement and how it can be translated into something spectacular.
    I usually explain it basically how you did, that contemporary means right now. So the movement that we are creating in this class right now is our version of contemporary. I try not to use names of steps, but describe movement and discuss how to create the shapes we discover for the choreography that we are working on.

  14. Tia, Vivette, Juliette, Melanie, and Noel (ooh what lovely names you all have), THANK YOU for your thoughtful and insightful discussion. Full of delicious thoughts, coming from teachers. It makes my heart glad that you are leading a generation of young dancers.

    First, I feel compelled to say that I lead a double dance writing life – lol! That is, in addition to being a teacher (in studios and now mostly on this blog), I am also a part-time dance critic. So I confess that in writing about labels, I’m not always voicing the frustrations of a dance teacher but one whose job it often is to describe, explain, and connect dance in an historical or web-like context.

    What your comments remind me is that the primary concerns for teachers (even those that do or want to present an accurate picture for their students of the rich history of dance) is how students feel about and respond to dance they see. And you know, that goes for audiences too. So thanks again.

    In either setting, then, does it matter what we call it? I think yes and no. Juliette, your comment pointing out that as a dance community we do not have a way with words or descriptors hit home. It made me wonder how much dance critics/writers are responsible and if the lack of prominent voices in that arena has affected label-coining over the years…

    On the teaching side of things, it’s interesting how much SYTYCD has affected the culture surrounding dance these last few years. Your comments about how differently your students have responded to the show and the dance on the show bring perfectly to light the double-edged sword of having dance (no matter what we call it) so near the center of pop culture – that it can simultaneously open people up AND put dance in a box. So I wonder how, as teachers, do we get students to respond with more of the former and less of the latter.

    In other words, how do we talk about or deal with the show so that they can see that dance (artistic or commercial) is indeed about investigation and experimentation and expression – not just mimicking what you see. And that the more finely tuned the instrument (the body), the more adept we are at that. Maybe we simply have to do more talking about it – help them watch it, actively guide their digestion of it rather than leaving them to make sense of it themselves and wrongly coming to the conclusion that this thing they are excited about can just be ‘put on’ like a new coat – that dance is as much a process as it ever has been.

  15. A great discussion here! The use of the term “contemporary” has been an issue of great consternation to me as a ballet choreographer.

    I am a product of modern dance. I cut my teeth on Graham technique. I also studied Cunningham, Humphrey/Limon and Nikolais/Louis techniques. When I was dancing the general public didn’t know what modern dance was. Someone would ask what I did for a living and I would tell them and they thought I danced in the local strip club!

    I think a significant reason Modern dance was never as widely known as ballet (the main reason being a 400 year age difference) was because there were not many qualified critics outside NY.

    A point of note is that the techniques I studied and the ones you mentioned above, are specific, codified systems – just like ballet, oddly enough. They are artistic movements of the 20th century and all are named after the choreographer who devised them. Here is the crux – they are all based on concrete principles of movement, principles of life.

    I remember when the term “contemporary” started to be kicked around. It was in the mid-late 90’s. Throughout the previous decade, interest in classical ballet was on a continual decline. To put some life into an anemic art, ballet companies began hiring modern dance choreographers. Nearly EVERY ballet company in America had Paul Taylor’s Company B in their repertory. Works by Mark Morris and Twyla Tharp also made the rounds.

    The result was you now had modern dances performed by bunheads. It looked different. It became the rage. Modern dance in ballet slippers. Choreographers deliberately began to use the two techniques in the same dance. It wasn’t a fusion of the two, it was more complementary, simultaneous execution.

    And that I think is where it’s stayed – and grown. When I see what gets called “contemporary” I see a hodgepodge (not that that is bad) of dance vocabulary from all the techniques and styles – modern, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical (which is a form of jazz),African and the personal movement style of the choreographer.

    You can clearly tell I’m old school because I see the confusion and lack of definition as a sign that “contemporary dance” doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up. Because we are in the early 21st century maybe that is okay. But….

    How can you really effectively promote dance as an art form if you can’t articulate about it? Perhaps it needs to have specific principles to uphold, clear standards and a clear vocabulary. Perhaps we need to establish a foundation first, then deviate from it, expound on it, evolve it, revolutionize it – just like ballet and modern dance have done.

    I’m interested in hearing what other choreographers think. Anyone?

  16. Wow! So many dance experts, dance teachers and choreographers here! I’m just a beginner dance student with four lyrical classes under my belt.

    Thank you Nichelle! Since deciding to pursue dance, I’ve been really trying to differentiate and define contemporary, lyrical, modern and so on. I agree, I feel like I’ve been affected by SYTYCD’s ability of opening me up to dance while initially limiting me to “contemporary” dance. Media is quite the agent of socialization!

    And everyone else’s insight also really helped! A question though, is contemporary jazz the same as lyrical? Are the terms interchangeable? How similar is lyrical to the ‘contemporary’ on SYTYCD? Thank you! You see, when choosing a dance style, I had lyrical, graceful, flowy movement in my mind… but I know that such is usually danced to slower ballads. However, I wanted to be able to dance to uptempo, emotional music as well with staccato movement sometimes. This left me in a conundrum between jazz, lyrical and contemporary. I liked Wikipedia’s description of lyrical and I figured maybe that it’s the in-between of jazz and contemporary, being lyrical jazz. Perhaps I will move in a more jazz direction in the future. Or contemporary if it’s so diverse and evolving…

    For now, I’ll try out some contemporary classes (as the studios define them) in addition to lyrical and see where I go from there. I’ll make sure to eventually take ballet classes though!

  17. To all the contributors, thank you for such interesting reading. But there is so much to pick up on. I think it was Rene who touched on critics. We need more articles written about dance in general. Articles to not only inform the general public as to choreographers intent but also to educate the non-dance audience. I have had such interesting comments after our shows where people have come up and said `Hell, I really enjoyed that’, making me feel that they didn’t expect to enjoy it. I also find people want to discuss my choroegraphy and learn more about my thought process. I find this positive and something I intend to build on and am working on in our South African Arts and Culture online magazine imaginemag!.

    Amy Gould, Cape Town, south Africa
    PS We have lovely wines and cheese in South AFrica in fact I live on an estate which was part of one of the oldest vineyards in the country and you are all welcome
    to visit.

  18. Hello, Ms. Nichelle. Your article is such an eye opener. For me who is living in the Philippines where dance is not as well articulated as it is in the US, your article had made me realize that contemporary simply might just not be a form of dancing at all. I ended up reading your article while I was looking for in the web the difference between contemp, jazz and contemp jazz and it made me think as why have I not thought of that (that contemporary is the right-now). Anyway, thanks for posting your article. God bless and more power.

  19. Different words have different meanings for different people. Contemporary as a word means – present day. I have used it in that sense to define my company, Dance Crew as being a Contemporary Ballet Company as we proivide choreography of our time and place in society and to differentiate our company from those performing conventional ballet productions. Ballet today has become more open minded and more relevant to current situations and stories. Ballet itself has been struggling to find a relevant identity that would appeal to a broader community. In South Africa it is still seen as an elete art form and this perception can be a negative aspect when attracting and building new audiences. This is a lovely conversation and thank you for allowing me to be part of it. Amy Gould