Associate Professor Gwendolyn Hamm's students listened attentively from their blue mats as she illustrated an effective breathing technique. \n"Think about the breath going from the top of the head down to your sternum. Inhale through your nose," Hamm said. \nHamm teaches the Advanced Modern Dance class twice a week at the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. Hamm said modern dance is a rising genre of dance that emphasizes fluidity of movement and abstract choreography. \nOne of Hamm's students, junior Bryan Duncan, said he took modern dance because he did not like ballet. \n"It's formal like jazz, but not as formalized at ballet," Duncan said. \nHamm said that's what normally attracts students to modern dance; they associate it with hip-hop or an MTV-style dance. Instead, students find that modern dance "tends to challenge the viewer, and elicits a response, be it positive or negative," Hamm said. \nThe modern technique involves being aware of the body; students plie in second position, but they also duck their heads and carve the air with their hands and arms. These movements are precise and round without being stiff. The first half of the class is spent stretching and warming up while inspirational music plays in the background. Students are encouraged to dance barefoot. \n"The teacher wants to see all the movement, so most of us don't wear shoes," said sophomore Jill Seger, a student in beginning modern dance.\nWhile this style of dance mimics ballet in moves such as pirouettes, chaine turns and plies, students are never on pointe, which reduces the risk of injury, Seger said.\nHamm begins class with a series of stretches and continues to comment, if necessary, to individual students about technique. \nShe said the benefits of modern dance are plentiful.\n"You're taught to use visual, auditory and spatial perception and you develop cognitively," Hamm said. "Through dance, one learns to appreciate cultures that are different from their own."\nDuncan said he agrees that dancing provides him with more than just a good workout, but also something that allows him to be himself.\n"It's something I enjoy, and that shows when I dance," he said. \nOff campus, modern dance classes are available at Windfall Dancers Inc., a local dance studio at 118-120 S. College Ave. Windfall offers beginning, intermediate, advanced and experimental modern dance classes to students ranging from toddlers to senior citizens. \nArtistic Director Dana Dyer Pierson agreed that modern dance offers many benefits for the mind and body. Compared to other classes, Pierson said modern is not as rigid and has more room for personal expression. \n"Often students come into the class with weird movements; this way, you can hold your own," Pierson said. "Modern dance gives you more confidence"
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