Musings on the Mothers of Modern Dance and Yoga: Duncan, Graham & St. Denis
Dancing Minnesota-style modern feels very similar to moving through vinyasa yoga classes. The posturing, focus on breath and sense of following a natural rhythm, over a musical one, are a few tactical reasons why.
While freelancing, I picked up a gig that required me to read biographies of accomplished dancers. After reading short biographies on the mothers of modern dance, Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, I do believe there are similarities in the original philosophies as well.
Duncan was greatly influenced by the ancient practices of dance, she studied ancient rituals and the spiritual side of dancing. This spiritual component to movement is present in many yoga disciplines as well. Both yoga and modern dance practitioners come to see their practices as sacred and somewhat divine. Yet, not divine or spiritual in an ornate way, but in a much simpler, ancient manner.
Graham's father was a doctor who used movement to cure disorders of the nerves. She came into dance from this inner emotional wellness standpoint. This is also a core focus in many yoga classes. This idea that moving the body in such a way has a direct healing effect on your emotions is often commented on when working on the hips, "All of your emotions are stored in the hips."
Ruth St. Denis is another important figure in modern dance. One of my yoga teacher training classmates shared how she took a particular interest in Eastern cultures and brought yoga to the West in the early 1900s.
Note to self, do more research. Until then, keep that leg up.