Doris Humphrey

Contribution to Modern Dance

Doris Humphrey was a pioneer in American modern dance and an innovator in technique, choreography, and theory of dance movement. Humphrey was born in Oak Park, Illinois, but grew up in Chicago, Illinois. She studied with eminent ballet masters as well as with Mary Wood Hinman, who taught dance at her school, the Francis Parker School. Due to her families financial problems, at the age of 18 Humphrey opened her own dance school. Due to this significant point in time, Doris's career in dance started to make a very large impact towards the Modern Dance Era. She Did this in many different ways such as developing many unique and modern techniques, theories and creating her own choreographic works.


To make the significant impact that she has made, Doris Humphrey from an early age was trained in several disciplines, including ballet, free dance, folk and ballroom dancing. Humphrey graduated from the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, where she studied a number of dance genres. She was also taught by Mary Wood Hinman, who educated her students in a version of eurhythmics and Swedish folk dancing. Humphrey also studied ballet in master classes with the European ballet dance teachers. With all this training and experience, Humphrey developed and used techniques within her dancing to portray the Modern form which contributed greatly to Modern Dance. To develop a personal technique she spent many hours in front of a mirror and came to believe that all movement fell within the “arc between two deaths,” or the range between motionless balance and falling imbalance incapable of recovery. Doris Humphrey was interested in the fundamental importance of tension and relaxation of the body and developed the fall and recovery concept.
Humphrey movement