In the 1970s, an American high schooler, taking advantage of freedom, usually spent summer days playing baseball, football, or swimming. America, since the beginning of time, has always possessed a deep-rooted passion for athletics: including designating sports seasons, organizing tier-divisions, and expanding an estimated $73.5 billion-dollar industry for professional, youth, and recreational sports. Traditional sports played for decades include “America’s favorite pastime,” which is baseball, or a popular pastime watched on television: football.
However, now it is 2019, and one modern, unique sport is exponentially gaining popularity, while traditional sports, such as football and baseball, have reached a stagnant point. This popularizing sport is contemporary dance.
Contemporary dance was first discovered by a professional US ballet dancer, Isadora Duncan, in the early 20th century. Duncan became known nationwide as the “mother of modern dance,” who disposed of the idolized stereotypes and strict rules of classical ballet. She instead used simple, natural movements and choreography, along with lively music.
Duncan allowed the musicality to lead her movements naturally, without conforming to the traditional ballet rules of pointed feet and graceful arms. However, her career became controversial as Americans took exception to her unique movements, informal clothing, and obvious disregard for ballet. Regardless of the public reaction, she traveled to Europe and inspired many aspiring artists, with determination and perseverance. Since then, contemporary dance has become a combination of modern, jazz, and lyrical dance that is highly praised for being open-minded and freeing in nature.
In the summer months of 2019, dance is a popular summertime hobby for high schoolers, who often participate in open-to-the-public workshops and learn new choreography. Joseph Yi, a 16-year-old dancer at Snowglobe Dance Studio, states that he enjoys dancing at weekend workshops because he can “implement [his] own style into all the movements.” However, at the World of Dance Qualifiers, held in April of this year at Universal City, California, he performed with a team and thus focused more on “getting the moves perfected.”
Recreational dancers or hobbyists may find themselves surprised to see the level of competitiveness and time commitment required for competitive dance. On average, a competitive dancer spends ten to thirty hours a week in a practice room, rehearsing competition dances, and conditioning their bodies for stronger core muscles. Youth dancers travel for hours on buses and trains with their teammates to compete. Costumes, regardless of being worn for a few performances maximum, cost hundreds of dollars, and dancers pay thousands a month for private and group lessons.
Thus, the question inevitably arises: Why are high schoolers so committed, regardless of this high price?
Sarah Park, a recent Whitney High School graduate who began dancing at the mere age of 3, explained her answer to this question. The cost of her hobby is far outweighed by dance’s tremendously positive effects; her favorite part of contemporary dance is that “bonding can happen during classes and shows, where you can meet new people and dance all together.” Dance is a team effort: teammates cheer each other on when they perform, train for hours together, zip up each other’s uniforms, and pray for a trophy.
Regardless of language barriers, economic disparities, career paths, or ethnicities, dance unites teens of all backgrounds today.
Stella Hong, Grade 11
Whitney High School