Modern Dance Steps


Modern dance steps can be a challenging choice for a classically trained ballet dancer, but no matter what your training background, learning them can be a wonderfully diverse experience.

A Brief History of Modern Dance Steps

Modern dance was developed by now famous pioneers Martha Graham, Paul Taylor and Isadora Duncan, to name only a few. These classically trained dancers all shared the same sentiment that dance could be enjoyed outside of the realms of rigid ballet. Modern dance was created to show emotion and a more "human" side to the art, a striking contrast to the strict rules and guidelines of ballet, which was the most popular style of dance in America at that time.

Modern dance steps continue to evolve with each dancer who is inspired enough to create, and the style will only grow with future generations.

Modern Dance Steps

When you take a modern dance class, the technique you learn will vary upon the preference of the teacher. Since it is such an emotion-driven genre of dance, students are able to learn great variations of the craft by studying under different instructors. However, there are some movements and choreography that are uniform in studios, and these modern steps can easily be mastered.

Curl Down and Up

Starting in jazz first position (feet parallel facing front), with your arms at your side and your gaze focused downward, curl your spine over slowly, being careful not to collapse at the waist. When you are halfway down to the floor, bend your knees and continue to "curl." Your instructor may tell you to curl down one vertebrae at a time, and then subsequently "grow back upward," again with one section of your spine at a time.

Leg Swings

Standing again in parallel first, place your arms in second position. Sliding the right leg forward with a pointed toe, it should then brush through the first position and follow through backwards, slightly bending the knee. This is often used as a transitional movement in a combination of choreography.

Flat Back

It sounds simple enough, but a flat back executed properly takes a distinct amount of discipline and flexibility. After you have bent over, keeping your spine as straight as possible, raise your arms into high fifth with the palms facing inward. Raise the torso back up, simultaneously with the arms as a single fluid movement. This step is a wonderful exhibition of grace and bodily control, almost derived from its ancestor ballet.


With tendus, the foot points forward and back into parallel first. You can then repeat the position to the side and to the back, alternating in a rhythm. This is commonly a floor exercise, but can also be used in routines.


The chasse is a simple jump found often in modern dance. Standing with the weight on one foot, you shift the weight while in a plie stance, and then jump so both feet are vertical together in the air. You can travel across the room with this movement, and add height and a spin for a more advanced look.

No Boundaries

A common rule is that all modern dance steps are essentially the derivative of something else. Be it classical ballet or a tree outside your window on an exceptionally windy day, modern dancers find choreography sources in every single movement they witness in life, and the ability to do so is stunning.

If you are pursuing modern dance as either a career or hobby, do not be afraid to create dance steps out of thin air, as the results can be nothing short of amazing, and most definitely rewarding.

Modern Dance Steps