What Contemporary Design Can Learn From Contemporary Dance

Have you ever considered the similarities between contemporary design and contemporary dance? While one is made up of human bodies and the other is made with wood and paint and metal, they are both used to express an artist’s vision. Modern dance is able to take something as simple as a song, a space, and a few dancers, and create something with emotion and a message. All the elements of the dance put together - the staging, the moves, the lighting and costumes, and the general vision, make for something exquisite. 

modern dance


Contemporary design might not be as appreciated for its creative endeavors. This is due in part to the lessons these designers could take from dancers and choreographers. These are some of the biggest similarities between these two pieces of art, and reminders of how designers can make their creations more dynamic. 

Contemporary design is often known for its use of space. The place the dance is performed or how it is staged is as part of the performance as the actual dance moves. The placement of the dancers communicates a message to contribute to the art. The spacing of contemporary furniture is also important for the overall look. You could have beautiful contemporary pieces, but if they are not laid out correctly, it won’t have the same effect.


When designing a room with contemporary furniture and art, take a long look at the space before you put anything in it. Just like a choreographer might, take sketches of different ideas of how to arrange the room. It might help you come up with more creative ideas than would have first came to mind.

Both in dance and design, color plays an integral role. In contemporary dance companies’ performances, they use costumes and lighting to portray a mood. They'll use warmer tones for a softer feel, or colder tones for a stark, crisp look. Sometimes the dancers will all wear identical outfits, or perhaps will be in wildly different ensembles. It all depends on what the modern dance choreographer is trying to convey. If everyone is one color, and a single dancer is wearing a contrasting outfit, the audience will immediately understand something.

The same is true with contemporary furniture. If you want an interesting piece to stand out, it should be done in a color that pulls focus. A cool, colorful chair will be more noticed against a white wall, or surrounded by more subdued pieces of furniture. Even if the furniture is all different, if it's of similar design or in the same color family, it will feel cohesive.


Something unique to modern dance is the lines. The lines and shapes the dancers create with their bodies is often the defining feature between different forms of dance, i.e. jazz, hip hop, and ballet. The movements the dancers use communicate different emotions and messages. How the dancers move their bodies is key to the message of the performance as a whole, including how they move together.

The lines of furniture are just as important. Not only do they inform you the style and era of the furniture, it also makes you feel different ways. A big fluffy armchair might make you feel cozy and homey, while a thin metal dining chair feels cold and industrial. It all depends on what you want the message of your home or office design to be.

Dancers can’t help but be influenced by their past or what is around them. Their training will always play a role in how they move, and most classical training goes back hundreds of years. Modern dance choreographers pull together elements from history to make something new and exciting. They are inspired by dances of the past, and reshape them for a modern audience.

Contemporary furniture designers can use this as a lesson that they don’t always have to start from scratch. You can take the best parts of something old, and give it a modern twist. Maybe you like the fabric, textures, manufacturing technique, or the shape of an older design. You can take what you like, and replace what you don’t. You’ll be left with something just as thrilling, but without the need to reinvent the wheel.

Next time you need to design a room with contemporary furniture, try and think like a choreographer. Put on a song, think outside the box, and create something exciting!