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5 Influential Female Dancers You May Not Know About But Should

There are many dancers that have made a positive impact and influenced dance today. We wanted to share a few women who have broken down barriers, challenged the status quo and paved the way for modern dancers to shine.

Carmen Amaya

Carmen Amaya was a Spanish Romani flamenco dancer, known as the “greatest Flamenco dancer ever.” Carmen challenged gender-norms by being the first female flamenco dancer to master footwork previously only done by male dancers, due to its speed and intensity. She even would wear high-waisted pants to further challenge norms and to symbolize her strong character. 

Isadora Duncan

An American-born artist of the early 20th century, Isadora Duncan sought to free herself from the rigid technique and movement of traditional ballet. She renounced dancing typical female roles such as coquette and tragic dance. Instead, she focused on movement that was inspired by Greek arts, folk dances social dance and American athleticism to help pave the way for contemporary ballet.

Mary Wigman

Known not only as a pioneer of modern dance, but also the founding of dance therapy, Mary Wigman used dance to express the scope of human emotion and the human experience. She acted on movement that was inspired by natural impulses and used dance as a vehicle to “feel” for both the dancer and audience.

Raaniyan Di Raunaq Bhangra Competition

Raaniyan Di Raunaq, an all women's Bhangra competition founded by women on the DC Bhangra Crew, is increasing women’s representation and acceptance of competing in Bhangra. This folk style of dance originated in northern India in Punjab to celebrate the harvest, but has sense evolved to be known as the “hip hop” of Indian dance. Traditionally, this style was only danced by males, but it has seen more acceptance of women dancers. To further the representation of women, Raaniyan Di Raunaq creates a safe space for women or those identifying as transgender or nonbinary to compete and be judged fairly.

Katherine Dunham

Katherine Dunham created a new style of dance that combined African and west indies dance styles with ballet and modern dance, that reflected African American heritage and culture. She also founded a dance school that focused on African American students and many of her dancers and faculty performed on Broadway, Hollywood, TV, and nightclubs.

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