Contemporary Dance vs. Lyrical Dance: All You Need To Know

You’ve probably heard of these two terms: contemporary and lyrical. They always seem to be used interchangeably, but you’re not sure whether they’re different? The answer is that contemporary dance and lyrical dance are indeed different, though they can be very similar at times. Today, we will breaking down these two dance forms, and learn how to tell these dances apart!

Contemporary Dance

Contemporary dance is a dance that combines elements of a few dance genres, namely modern, jazz, lyrical and ballet. Movements of contemporary dance are free and fluid, and they aim to connect the mind and the body. Besides that, contemporary dance also focuses less on formal techniques, but rather more on emotional and physical expression. As a result, contemporary dance is all about versatility and improvisation. Contemporary dance can be “dancer-centric”, where dancers are encouraged to undergo a personal exploration on the dance. The dance may also not follow a clear story, following themes and ideas instead. What’s more, contemporary dance may not always be performed to music – silence, other everyday sounds, clapping, or even breathing can all replace the role of music in a contemporary performance.

To sum up: Contemporary dance is a form of conceptualised (sometimes abstract) dancing that takes technical, classical lines and turn them into something different.

Lyrical Dance

On the other hand, lyrical dance is much more straightforward to get. Combining the elements of ballet and jazz, lyrical dance is all about smooth, fluid movement and expression of emotions. In fact, you could probably tell by its name – lyrical dance is most often performed to songs with lyrics, but not always. Lyrical dance focuses on the dancer’s emotional responses, and uses movements to convey emotions. The music used can be of a wide range of genres, as long as it is emotionally charged and expressive, and the lyrics/nature of the music used will serve as inspiration for choreography. Lyrical dance has a few key characteristics, such as fluidity and grace, held poses, high leaps and continuous turns just to name a few.

To sum up: Lyrical dance aims to connect to audience in a specific manner; it is storytelling based on emotional connection, while still firmly influenced by ballet.

In short, contemporary dance is more of an umbrella term that can encompass more specific dance styles under it, whereas lyrical dance is one very specific style of dance under the jazz category. We hope that you’ve learnt to tell these two dance styles apart after reading this article! What other dance styles do you frequently confuse with one another? Let us know in the comments below!


Yiing Zhi

Embarking on the journey of self-discovery through dance.

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