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Study in Contrast

“To me one of the most valuable assets in dance composition is the formula of contrast. In painting, this formula is used in the contrasts of darks against lights, of cool colors against warm ones, of plain surfaces against highly decorative ones. In movement this is done with contrasting a soft movement against a hard, moving the body or body parts from a closed contracted position to an explosive one, or moving vertically to horizontally.”

– Charles Weidman

On February 1st, modern dance soloist, Jennifer Conley, will be performing ‘Study in Contrast’ as part of the 92nd Street Y’s Fridays at Noon series. She will be accompanied by the incomparable Pat Daugherty on piano. This will be Study in Contrast’s first solo concert performance.


Jennifer Conley performing En Dolor choregraphed by Ethel Winter

In the early 1930s, Weidman created ‘Study in Contrast’ as a way to teach principles of dance composition. It concisely shows contrasts between:

sustained and sharp movements,

bent, curved and straight lines,

symmetry and asymmetry,

vertical and horizontal,

drawing inward and expanding outward,

the body being pulled off center/equilibrium and returning to center,

internal and external rotation,

“parallelisms” and “oppositions.”

Composed in ABA form, the study contains myriad variations of the initially stated “bent limb” theme which recurs in an extraordinary variety of angles and rotations. As the body responds to lateral and spiral forces, the dancer is eventually swept from his/her fixed position in space and then finally returns to equilibrium and stability.

Carol Mezzacappa & Craig Gabrian performing Study in Contrast at a lecture demonstration at Hunter College 1994

Carol Mezzacappa & Craig Gabrian performing Study in Contrast at a lecture demonstration at Hunter College 1994

Early on, Weidman presented lecture demonstrations devoted to the basics of choreography. Initially they were part of the lecture demonstrations that he and Doris Humphrey began in 1929. Then, starting in 1935, Weidman and his Men’s Group presented lecture demonstrations devoted entirely to composition studies. ‘Study in Contrast’ dates from this period. First performed by the Men’s Group, ‘Study in Contrast’ was later incorporated into Weidman’s technique demonstrations which he continued to present throughout his career.


Jennifer Conley performing En Dolor choregraphed by Ethel Winter

Jennifer Conley is a former member of the Martha Graham Dance Company and Pearl Lang Dance Theatre.  As a soloist, she has performed the work of modern dance luminaries Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, Jane Dudley, Ethel Winter, Yuriko, and Stuart Hodes. She has received commissions to choreograph original GeoDance repertory on university dance programs across the country and has also staged her work in New York City venues such as HERE, Merce Cunningham Studios, and Lark Theatre.  As a regisseur with the Martha Graham Dance Center, Jennifer has staged ten productions of Martha Graham’s ballets in the United States and United Kingdom.  She has served on faculty at Laban, Brown University, Franklin and Marshall College, Temple University, and the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.  She holds an MFA in Dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and is a Doctoral Candidate at Temple University.

For more information on the February 1st performance, visit the 92nd St Y website here:

Words by Nadira Hall

Post by Julia Jurgilewicz

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