Passing of a Legend

Paul Taylor's House of Cards. photo: Tom Caravaglia
Paul Taylor’s House of Cards. photo: Tom Caravaglia

Dance photographer Tom Caravaglia passed away this weekend. His work with Nikolais/Louis was groundbreaking & he worked extensively with Paul Taylor. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Tom while writing my book, and was so pleased to be able to use several of his photos for the project. This dance is from Taylor’s House of Cards (with one of my mentors, Ruth Andrien). View more of Tom’s work here.

July Bulletin

Welcome to the second-half of 2014, top of the new fiscal year, and the heart of summer dance intensive season! It’s hard to believe how fast the year is flying. June came and went so quickly that I failed to send out a monthly update—what a great dance month though. I started out with a teaching excursion in Texas, had four new dances premiere mid-month, and wrapped it up with a week-long residency at Keith Lee’s Dance Theatre of Lynchburg (DTL).

I had the pleasure of studying with Keith briefly while I was a student at Shenandoah Conservatory, and I’m honored to say that he has become one of the important mentors in my career. Each time I visit DTL, I feel like I have an artistic breakthrough. Part of that comes from the sheer luxury of spending my days actually getting to focus on my art, doing nothing but choreographing all day. A great deal of that though comes from my time talking with Keith. He shares insights into the master works he performed at American Ballet Theatre, his own artistic choices and choreographic process, and we discuss my work. I am particularly pleased with the outcome of this latest dance, which happens to be my 75th composition. I’m so glad I got to make that work at DTL, and am grateful to Keith for all of it.

I am also pleased to announce that the French translation of my book is slated for release this summer. (For those interested, the french title is Introduction aux techniques de danse moderne, the publisher is Gremese Éditions, and the ISBN is 9782366770551. In North America, it will be available via Renaud-Bray.com or Archambault.ca, or it can be special ordered via your local book seller.) I haven’t seen the design for this translation, so I can’t wait to see how it looks.

For those who have been asking if my company is performing this summer, we are not. We’re taking a hiatus to work on other projects, and so that I can develop the script for our new site-specific work premiering in late-September.

Have a wonderful summer, and please keep me posted on what you are up to!

- Joshua Legg,
Artistic Director


Recommended Viewing: Katherine Dunham Technique DVD

In 2003, the Council for Positive Images, Inc. produced a video documenting Katherine Dunham’s technique for the Library of Congress, Music Division (with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts). For years, only short clips from that documentary were available on the LOC website. The complete footage is finally available on a DVD set.

I highly recommend this video to anyone interested in Dunham’s movement vocabulary (Ms. Dunham was on hand for the filming of this project). Check out the brief excerpt in this post, and order the set here.

After (full)

Title: After
Choreographer: Joshua Legg
Style: Modern
Category: professional
Premiere: Dance Complex in Cambridge, MA, May 2008

Note: This work premiered on an adjudicated concert, Choreographers Showcase.

Class at Denishawn in West Lake Park, Los Angeles, c. 1918. Featured on page 15 of my book. photo courtesy: Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives.

Intro to Modern (book)

author: Joshua Legg. publisher: Princeton Book Company.
author: Joshua Legg. publisher: Princeton Book Company.

English version: available from Amazon.com here.

French translation from Gremese Éditions (ISBN  9782366770551): available late summer 2014 in North America via Renaud-Bray.com or Archambault.ca, or special ordered via your local book seller. European readers, please consult your favorite book seller.

About the Book
Bringing together many of the major modern dance techniques from the last 80 years, this engaging account is the first of its kind. The informative discussion starts by mapping the historical development of modern dance: in the late 19th century, a new dance emerged—not yet known as modern dance—that rejected social strictures and ballet as well. With insight into the personalities and purposes of modern dance’s vanguard—including Martha Graham, Lester Horton, José Limón, and Merce Cunningham—this compilation provides a comparative approach that will enable students to discern which technique best suits them and dispel the idea that there is a single, universal modern dance technique. There are also ideas for experimentation so that students can begin developing an aesthetic sense for not only what is pleasing to their artistic eye, but also for what technical ideas are exciting while their own body is in motion.

What Dance Educators Are Saying:

I believe every public school dance teacher should have a copy in her classroom.
— Pamela Sofras - Professor & Chair, Dance Department, UNC Charlotte

Much needed concepts in one book for next generation teachers!
— Susan Kirchner - Professor & Chair, Dance Department, Towson University

Informative, especially for beginning students.
— Nina Martin - Assistant Professor of Dance, Texas Christian University

Well researched. Useful for students in understanding roots/influences of contemporary dance.
— Nada Diachenko - Professor & Co-Director, Dance at University of Colorado

What They’re Saying Internationally:

  • French and Italian translations, late 2014
  • Reviewed in Germany’s Tanz magazine, July 2012
  • Recommended Resource in Modern Dance – Focus Course Profile. Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators, Canada, 2012
  • Available at 25 branches in the National Library of Australia system
  • Used in Tanztheorie course, Institut für Theaterwissenschaft (Universität Bern), Switzerland, Fall 2012

Domestic Press & Reviews:

New Books in Dance Podcast, August 2013

Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin, Professor of World Dance at UNC Charlotte, interviewed me for her podcast.

WV Living Magazine OnlineJuly 2013:

The magazine covering my home state ran a feature on Introduction to Modern Dance Techniques.

Journal of Dance Education
(volume 12, issue 4, 2012. Pg. 149):

…His research is thorough…At the college or high school level, this would be a text that student might be asked to purchase in their freshman year in a dance program. It could then be used throughout the typical four years of study. Or, it could be well-used for a one-semester survey course of modern dance techniques. Overall, this book is a welcome addition to the small number of textbooks for modern dance. Although modern has often in the past been taught without a text, in an era of increased attention to the documentation of learning experiences, having a good text on record and using it is becoming more and more necessary. With its accessible and informative style, this book will help fill that need.

Reviewed by Elizabeth McPherson, PhD
Assistant Professor; Coordinator, BA Dance Education Program
Montclair State University

Dance Teacher Magazine

recommended: Introduction to Modern Dance Techniques:

Ideal for an undergraduate dance history or pedagogy course, Introduction to Modern Dance Techniques explores the work of more than 10 modern dance choreographers, including Martha Graham, José Limón, Lester Horton, Katherine Dunham and Erick Hawkins. The book highlights the training and technique the choreographers developed and introduces their movement vocabulary.

Author and choreographer Joshua Legg, who has written for Dance Teacher and taught at Harvard University and Shenandoah Conservatory, compares each artist’s methods through historical, cultural, pedagogical and aesthetic lenses. He also calls attention to the way the training of dancers has shifted: Unlike dancers today who train in multiple techniques plus somatics, dancers of the early 20th century were fluent in the one style of their choreographer.

Legg includes descriptions of key exercises from each choreographer’s class work, forming a basic introduction to each movement style. Although the step-by-step instructions are functional, you’ll want to supplement them with video footage that Legg includes in his list of resources at the end of each chapter.

Reviewed by Jenny Dalzell, Assistant Editor

ACRL Arts Books, March/April 2012:

Reading Joshua Legg’s book, Introduction to Modern Dance Techniques, brought to mind my days as an undergraduate dance major and a course titled Theories of Movement .  Legg’s compilation of classic modern dance techniques would have been the perfect textbook for such a course.  In one work, the author brings together the history, philosophy, and techniques of major modern dance choreographers such as Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Katherine Dunham, Jose Limon, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Taylor.  What makes this book so unique is that in addition to setting a historical perspective and providing biographical sketches, Legg includes a philosophical basis for the techniques, practical exercises/lesson plans, and ideas for further experimentation.  This is supplemented by journaling and discussion topics as well as improvisational experiences related to the core ideas.  I particularly enjoyed the interviews with practicing artists/teachers that occur throughout the chapters.  Novice students may need some assistance in interpreting/executing the exercises, although photographs are included for some of the movements; an accompanying DVD would be a great enhancement. While the author recommends this text for beginning modern dance students, it would also be useful for students enrolled in undergraduate dance history courses, as well anyone with an interest in the development of modern dance techniques over the past 80 years.

Reviewed by Jacalyn E. Bryan,
Reference and Instructional Services Librarian,
Saint Leo University

The MidWest Book Review, December 2011:

Introduction to Modern Dance Techniques discusses modern dance and what it takes to be a dancer in today’s versatile dance world. Discussing the history and the many techniques of modern dance, illustrated throughout with black and white photography, Joshua Legg works with an expert staff of collaborators to give Introduction to Modern Dance Techniques a complete and comprehensive understanding of what modern dance is.

page cover photo: Class at Denishawn in West Lake Park, Los Angeles, c. 1918. Featured on page 15 of my book. photo courtesy: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Archives.

dancer: Joshua Legg. photo credit: Josiah Kennedy

Grantsmanship (article)

Many dance company directors panic when considering grant applications, certain that there’s some secret everyone else knows about the best way to get funds. The truth is, there is no great secret. The most successful grantseekers win grants because they incorporate grant applications into their annual strategic funding plan, and they realize that a methodical approach to grantsmanship actually helps them build a stronger, more stable dance company. Not only is that an exciting prospect, it’s a fairly easy one to achieve. With a little patience and elbow grease, you’ll find grantmakers who will fund new choreographic projects, community outreach programs, collaborations with musicians and visual artists, and sometimes even facility expansions—it just depends on their mission.

Download the full article here: Finding, Getting, and Managing Grant Funds

author: Joshua Legg
originally published: Dance Teacher. August 2005.

Been Thinkin’ (full)

Title: Been Thinkin’ These Day: Poems for Ms. D.
Choreographer: Joshua Legg
Commissioned by: Keith Lee’s Dance Theatre of Lynchburg
Style: Classic Modern
Premiere: July 2012
Category: students

Notes: This dance is dedicated to Katherine Dunham. The technical foundation is a fusion of Dunham, Horton, Humphrey and Limon, and Taylor.