Diana Vishneva rehearses for a contemporary dance performance. (Photo courtesy of AP Photos)
Whitney High School

Opinion: Contemporary dance is a unique popular sport for teens this summer

In the 1970s, an American high schooler, taking advantage of freedom, usually spent their summer days playing baseball, football or swimming.

According to Forbes Magazine, America 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, high schoolers now, 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.

According to Voice of America, contemporary dance was first discovered by a professional U.S. ballet dancer, Isadora Duncan, in the early 20th century. Duncan became known nationwide as the “mother of modern dance,” the first to dispose of the strict, flawless rules of classical ballet and instead use simple, natural movement using lively music.

She allowed the musicality to lead her movements naturally, without conforming or strictly abiding ballet’s rules of pointed feet and graceful arms. However, her career became controversial as Americans took exception to her unique movements, informal clothing and disregard for ballet.

Regardless of the public reaction, with determination and perseverance, she traveled to Europe and inspired many aspiring artists.

Since then, contemporary dance became a combination of modern, jazz and lyrical dance, highly praised and preferred 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 of Snowglobe Dance Studio, said 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 at Universal City, Calif., 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 the competitive dance. Youth dancers travel for hours on buses and trains with their teammates to compete.

Costumes, regardless of being worn for a couple performances maximum, cost hundreds of dollars, and dancers pay thousands a month for private and group lessons.

Thus, a question inevitably arises: Why are high schoolers so committed, regardless of this high price?

Sarah Park, a recent Whitney High School graduate that 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 result of contemporary dance is that “bonding can happen during classes and shows, where you can meet new people and dance altogether,” Park said.

Dance is a team effort; teammates cheer each other on when they perform, train for hours together, zip each other’s uniforms up and pray for a trophy.

Regardless of language barriers, economic disparities, career paths or ethnicity, dance unites teens of all backgrounds today.