BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 449

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 449

IELTS Academic Reading Test
BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 449

The History of Modern American Dance

The birth of modern American dance occurred in the first years of the twentieth century. And, perhaps unusually for academics, dance historians hold remarkably similar views when it comes to identifying the individuals and influences that shaped the evolution of modern American dance. Starting in the early 1900s, we can see that dancers quite deliberately moved away from previous approaches.

This included rejecting both the formal moves of ballet dancing and the entertainment of vaudeville dancing. As a result, dancers began the new century with a fresh start. One important figure at this time was Loie Fuller, who performed largely with her arms, perhaps because she had limited dance training. Fuller emphasised visual effects rather than storytelling, and pioneered the use of artificial lighting to create shadows while dancing.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Perhaps most influential in the early years was Isadora Duncan, who was well known in both America and Europe. Duncan refused to wear elaborate costumes, preferring to dance in plain dresses and bare feet. She is also notable for preferring music written by classical composers such as Chopin and Beethoven, rather than contemporary compositions. At a similar time, Ruth St Denis was bringing the influence of Eastern cultures to American dance, often performing solo. In 1915, St Denis opened a dance training academy with her husband with the intention of passing on her approach and style to the next generation of American dancers.

By the 1920s, the modern dance movement in America was well established. Audiences were enthusiastic and dancers were increasingly prepared to experiment with new ideas. Martha Graham was one of an important group who emerged in New York. Graham looked within herself to find her dance style, examining how her body moved as she breathed, but also observing the patterns made by her limbs when walking in order to find a new, naturalistic approach to dance.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Doris Humphrey wanted her dance to reflect her personal experience of American life. She explored the concept of gravity, allowing her body to fall, only to recover at the last moment. Her book The Art of Making Dances, which detailed her approach to dance composition, was highly influential with later generations of dancers.

By the 1930s, modern dance was becoming an accepted, respectable art form. Universities such as Bennington College included modern dance in their performing arts programmes for the first time. In the 1940s, German-born dancer Hanya Holm embraced the changing times by including modern dance in mainstream musicals on the Broadway stage. Among Holm’s many other innovations was bringing her own humour to these performances – audiences adored it.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Modern American dance has seldom stood still. Each new generation of dancers either developed the techniques of their teachers or rejected them outright. So by the 1950s the techniques of traditional European ballet dancing were again influential. This was certainly true of Erick Hawkins, who also incorporated Native American and Asian styles.

Similarly, Merce Cunningham emphasised the leg actions and flexibility of the spine associated with ballet moves. Paul Taylor preferred his dance to reflect the experiences and interactions of ordinary people going about their everyday lives. Taylor’s career was the subject of a documentary that provided valuable insights into this period of dance.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

The middle decades of the 20th century were certainly a dynamic time. Increasingly, the modern dance movement recognised and reflected the fact that America was a multi-racial, multi-cultural society. Katherine Dunham, an anthropology graduate, used movements from Pacific, African and Caribbean dance to create her unique style. Pearl Primus was another champion of African dance, which she passed on through her dance school in New York. After retirement she travelled widely to universities throughout America lecturing on ethnic dance, which became her main priority.

Modern dance since the 1980s has become a mix of multiple forms of dance, as well as art more generally. For example, Mark Morris’s hugely popular work The Hard Nut includes sensational costumes and a stage design inspired by the comics he’d always enjoyed. Another innovator has been Ohad Naharin, who studied in New York and has worked internationally.

Naharin’s ‘Gaga’ style is characterised by highly flexible limbs and backbones, while in rehearsal his dancers have no mirrors, feeling their movements from within themselves, a break from traditional dance custom. In many ways it was a fitting end to a l 00-year period that had witnessed a transformation in dance. The emergence of modern American dance was very much a 20th-century phenomenon. The style drew on influences from home and abroad and in turn went on to influence global dance culture.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage l? In boxes 1-6 onyour answer sheet, write

TRUE – if the statement agrees with the information

FALSE – if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN – if there is no information on this

1. Dance historians agree about the development of modern American dance.

2. Dancers in the early 1900s tended to copy the styles of earlier dancers.

3. Loie Fuller preferred to dance alone on stage.

4. Isadora Duncan wore complicated clothing when dancing.

5. Some dancers criticised Isadora Duncan for her choice of music.

6. Ruth St Denis wished to educate others in her style of dancing.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each answer.

Developments in Modern American Dance


• Martha Graham based her dance on human actions such as breathing and 7……………………………………. .

• Doris Humphrey wrote an important 8……………………………………. about her ideas.

• Dance became a respectable subject to study at university.

• Hanya Holm introduced 9……………………………………. into dance and musicals.


• Erick Hawkins and Merce Cunningham reintroduced some ballet techniques.

• An influential 10……………………………………. outlined the working life of Paul Taylor.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each answer.

11. When Pearl Primus gave up dancing, what did she focus on doing?

12. What was an important influence for Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut?

13. Dancers working with Ohad Naharin practise without using what?

IELTS Academic Reading Test


BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 449

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IELTS Academic Reading Test

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