Introduction to Contemporary Dance


“Dancing is a spiritual exercise in a physical form” – Merce Cunningham

What is contemporary dance?

The term contemporary dance is a huge umbrella, covering a world of varying techniques, as diverse and individual as you. Introduction to Contemporary Dance will give you a foundation to build on, and into, this colourful world – plus, the opportunity to add your own personal flare.

Our learn-at-home course will guide you, step by step, through a series of carefully constructed exercises. Starting with the basics, you’ll soon be dancing freely – with strength, confidence and fluidity.

No previous dance experience? No problem – jump right in! This course is perfect for adult beginners. Find your personal flow, in the safe hands of our expert tutor.

We’ve constructed our online tutorials to help you find your feet in the comfort of your own home. And if you haven’t got a lot of space to play with, not to worry – all the sequences are easily adaptable for any room – so you can slide, twist, and turn smoothly between furniture and family members.

Treating yourself to the time to focus on your mind, body and feelings – both physical and emotional – through dance, is a precious gift. Throughout the course your confidence will grow as you develop strength, improve coordination, find balance, and discover your way of moving. We will keep you safe with tips on technique, so that you can enjoy your own dance, in your own body, every time you revisit the exercises. The true beauty is, it will be different every time.

“I think of dance as a constant transformation of life itself” – Merce Cunningham

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What you will learn

  • Introduction to basic contemporary dance terms and body positions
  • Develop correct technique, alignment and posture
  • Perform each move with confidence
  • Warm up and cool down effectively
  • Be ready to participate in basic group contemporary dance classes
  • Feel more confident with your body.
  • Improve your posture, coordination, stamina, and balance.

Preview the course

Learn Contemporary Dance

The course includes:

  •   Over 100 minutes on-demand video
  •     10 lessons
  •   2 downloadable resources
  •   Full lifetime access

Course content

  • Introduction
  • Warm-up
  • Pliés
  • Foot Articulation
  • Tilts and Curves
  • Twists and Swings
  • Adage
  • Suspensions
  • Combination – slow and fast versions
  • Cool Down


In these expertly produced, on-demand, online classes, you’ll learn the fundamentals of contemporary dance – with an emphasis on developing the correct technique, so you can enjoy the choreography.

The course consists of a series of easy-to-navigate chapters. Maeve McGreevy, your contemporary dance instructor, will take you through some basic terminology and the essential body positions for contemporary dance. Each lesson will build upon the exercises of the last. You can take it step-by-step, at your own pace, replaying the tutorial as many times as you like, until you’ve got the moves down and are ready to move on.

The first lesson begins with a guided warm up, and ends with a cool down – to make sure you are looking after your body. We recommend going through these exercises before and after every session. This should be part of your routine, as you dip into the rest of the material. Maeve will cover both stationary and travelling sequences. By the time you’ve completed the chapters, you’ll be able to dance your way through a simple movement phrase, also included in the course.

No special equipment is required. All you need are some comfortable clothes you can move in, and a pair of socks (or bare feet if you prefer).

FAQs - Contemporary Dance

What is the difference between ballet and contemporary dance?

This is a big question, so, to briefly address a few basic differences:

  • In contemporary dance there is a lot of work with hips, legs and feet in parallel position whereas ballet works with these areas turned out
  • In contemporary dance, it is common to dance in socks or bare feet whereas in ballet the preference is ballet pumps or, at a certain stage, pointe shoes
  • Certain contemporary dance techniques centre around floorwork (e.g. rolling, falling) which is rare in ballet (please note that our Introduction to Contemporary Dance course does not include floorwork for health and safety reasons)
  • Contemporary dance has a specific focus on the spine from the outset which you may not find so much of in the early days of ballet
  • In terms of performance, very broadly speaking, ballet often brings a narrative to the stage whereas contemporary dance tends towards abstract concepts

If it’s of interest, some pioneers and prominent practitioners/companies of contemporary dance who you might want to read up on are:

Alvin Ailey, Pina Bausch, Trisha Brown, Michael Clark, CandoCo, Merce Cunningham, Isadora Duncan,  DV8, Martha Graham, Helen Lewis,  Akram Khan and Steve Paxton.

What are the basic steps in Contemporary Dance?

The basic steps of Contemporary Dance depend on which technique you are training in. Several movement practices fall under the umbrella term Contemporary Dance, so the language becomes vast and rich, very quickly. However, it is useful to be able to recognise basic phrases and have some awareness of which part of the body/action in the body, they generally refer to:

  • plié: a bend of the knees
  • tilt, twist, curve, arch: spinal orientation and direction
  • parallel: the direction of the hips and feet, facing forwards
  • contraction: concentrated action in the pelvic floor
  • swing: motion driven by momentum and flow
  • suspension and fall: the quality of reaching and releasing

Is Modern Dance and Contemporary Dance the same?

It depends on where you’re from!

Nowadays, in the USA, ‘modern dance’ is what would generally be seen as ‘contemporary dance’ in the UK.

In the UK, ‘modern dance’ would often be described as ‘Jazz’ or ‘Lyrical Dance’ in the USA.

Do you need to know Ballet for Contemporary Dance?

No. It is not essential to have experience in ballet, or any other dance form, before trying contemporary dance. The door is wide open to all!

Of course, once you begin, it can be helpful and enjoyable to have another movement practice on the go. Combining Ballet and Contemporary will enhance your body knowledge, boost your strength and coordination, and fuel your imagination and creativity.

If you want to try ballet, we have our very own Ballet Basics course, but you can start from scratch with Contemporary anytime.

What shoes do I need to wear for Contemporary Dance?

In performance, it can vary – bare feet, soft-sole shoes, trainers, boots, socks – depending on the choreographer’s vision.

In class, we generally work in socks or with bare feet. Working barefoot cultivates a greater awareness of the articulation of the feet, maintaining a bodily connection to the floor. However, socks can help us maintain a certain fluidity of movement, depending on the floor surface.

The most important thing is to feel comfortable in whatever you are wearing, making sure to minimise the risk of slipping.


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Course instructor

Ballet Instructor

Maeve McGreevy

Based in Ireland, award winning dance artist Maeve expertise ranges from ballet to contemporary, and tango to folklore.

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