Even if you weren’t aware of the name, you will have seen a contemporary dance performance at some point in your life. Whether it was in a movie, a music video, or at the theatre, contemporary dance is a unique form of dance that is used widely as an art form. Today’s video features a contemporary dance routine to Billy Eilish’s Bellyache by Erica Klein and Aidan Carberry and you can’t help but be moved by the power and emotion of the choreography when you watch.

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What is contemporary dance?

Contemporary dance is notoriously hard to define, and this is part of what makes it so special. It was created in the early 20th century as a reaction to the very formal and highly structured forms of dance that were popular in theatres at the time, mainly ballet.

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In contrast to these structured dances, contemporary dance is deliberately unstructured and open to interpretation. You might spot ballet-style leg work, classic jazz movements, and even hip-hop elements, but the differences between one performance of contemporary dance and another make it difficult to explain why they are the same dance style.

What ties them all together is the theory behind the dance. Contemporary dance is at its core a storytelling medium. The dance is a vehicle to convey a storyline to the audience with characters, emotion, and a narrative. Regardless of the particulars of the dance styles that are used in any given performance, you can expect to be carried along by a dance that makes you feel.

Why is contemporary dance so powerful?

And that is what makes it so powerful. Unlike many other forms of dance, which are of course equally as valid, contemporary dance strips away the rules and outward dressing that we usually expect. All forms of dance tell stories and elicit emotions, but depending on the dance style the focus can be on different areas. Some forms of dance are highly technical and it is the ability of dancers to perform these technical moves that are the focus. Other forms of dance may focus on the interplay between two dance partners and others again may focus on improvisation.

For contemporary dance, the main focus is this emotive storytelling, with the specific movements being a tool to help tell the story better. And when it is done well, as it is in today’s video, the audience is swept away by the dancers in a beautiful and powerful way.

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