Modern Dance and Education in the United States By Green, Jill
The history of dance instruction in educational settings in the United States dates back to the early twentieth century. A number of female physical education teachers, including Gertrude Colby and Bird Larson, became interested in dance and experimented with rhythmic and ‘‘natural’’ movements as they developed technique classes in physical education curricula. John Dewey’s ideas about art in education and the rise of the progressive education movement in the earlier part of the century were particularly present in the work of Margaret H’Doubler at the University of Wisconsin, as well as in elementary school programmes focussing on creative movement as a holistic means to help students develop their individual talents and abilities. In the 1930s, artistic goals came to the fore at educational institutions such as the Bennington School of Dance, which hosted a summer programme from 1934 until 1942, with a break during the 1939 term when the school was held at Mills College. This summer school led to the development of the ‘‘Gymnasium Circuit’’—a series of universities and colleges that provided a touring network for modern dancers. Although modernism still exists in higher education dance in the United States, the close of the twentieth century reoriented dance scholarship toward dance history, criticism, and global and postcolonial thinking favoring a pluralistic world view, and challenging the presumed ‘‘high art’’ elitism and Eurocentrism of modern dance.