Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate, we’ve put together this post including some of the most influential women in dance, both past and present. We believe these women have influenced dance and been an inspiration for many dancers growing up. Keep reading to see if your dance inspiration has made our list and to learn about other dancers who shaped the industry!
Martha Graham is a true icon of dance. She was an American modern dancer and choreographer for over 70 years. Her famous dance technique, the Graham technique, had a huge influence on American dance and is still present today, being taught all over the world. The Martha Graham Dance Company was established in 1926 and for the first decade of its existence was female only. Graham’s famous quote, “dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body” is well-known among dancers and choreographers today.
Here’s an interview with Martha Graham discussing the role and responsibility of a dancer and her dance technique.
Darcey Bussell is known as one of the greatest British ballerinas. Bussell became a Principal Ballerina at the Royal Ballet at the age of 21 and she stayed with the Royal Ballet for her entire career - over two decades! Whilst with the Royal Ballet, Bussell performed over 80 roles and had 17 roles created for her. She also made guest appearances with multiple leading companies including New York City Ballet, La Scala Theatre Ballet, the Kirov Ballet, Hamburg Ballet and the Australian Ballet.
Take a look at Darcey Bussell in action as she performs the Act III solo in Sylvia.
Copeland was one of the youngest dancers to be promoted to a soloist at American Ballet Theater, during her whole career with ABT she was the only African-American woman in the company. The lack of diversity within the ballet community meant she experienced cultural isolation. In 2015, Misty Copeland became the first African-American woman to be promoted to Principal Ballerina in ABT’s 75 year history. In the same year she was named in the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. It’s safe to say Copeland’s achievements both on-stage and in the history books have been groundbreaking.
We are obsessed with this performance by Misty Copeland!
Isadora Duncan began her career in dance at a very young age, giving lessons in her home to children in her neighbourhood. Despite moving around America in hope of settling in a dance company, Duncan felt unappreciated so moved across the Atlantic to London and Paris. In 1902 Duncan toured all over Europe with Loie Fuller where she created new works with her innovative technique, emphasising natural movement in contrast to the rigidity of traditional ballet. Duncan was always more passionate about educating the young about dance rather than touring and giving public performances. This led her to open her first dance school with the mission to teach women about the philosophy of dance. This dance school was the birthplace of the “Isadorables”. The “Isadorables” were six of Duncan’s protégées whom she legally adopted and who continued her legacy.
Here’s a montage of pictures and videos of Isadora Duncan dancing.
Judith Jamison dedicated the majority of her career to Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, she toured Europe and Africa with the company gaining valuable experience. The dance company was forced to take a hiatus, after struggling with financial complications, during this time Jamison danced with Harkness Ballet. She returned to Alvin Ailey Dance Theater when the company reformed and stayed there until 1980, when she left to appear on Broadway. During her time at Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Jamison appeared as a guest artist with the Cullberg Ballet, Swedish Royal Ballet and San Francisco Ballet, to name a few! In 1981, Jamison returned to Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, taking over Alvin Ailey as the artistic director when he died. She continued to work in the company and choreographed dances for the next 21 years, achieving great success.
How incredible is this choreography by Judith Jamison?!
Anna Pavlova was a Russian prima ballerina who was the first to tour around the world, including South America, India and Australia. She is most recognised for her creation of the role of The Dying Swan. Pavlova faced much criticism during her career, her feet were naturally really arched so this gave her great difficulty whilst ‘en pointe’ yet despite this, she was an incredibly successful dancer. Pavlova’s final words were, ‘Get my ‘Swan’ costume ready’.
See Anna Pavlova as The Dying Swan here.
Ginger Rogers was an American singer, dancer and actress who was best known for appearing with Fred Astaire. She became an overnight star at the age of 19 after appearing in her debut Broadway role in ‘Top Speed’, where Fred Astaire was hired to help with choreography. Rogers was considered an American icon during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Her musical films with Fred Astaire are credited for revolutionising the genre.
Check out Ginger Rogers with Fred Astaire.
Let us know over on our social media if there are any other women who you aspire to! We’re always on the lookout for more dancers to look up to! Head over to our Instagram page, @movedancewear to tell us who the most important women in dance are for you!