We present an account of the state of the art in the fields explored by the research community invested in "Modeling and Observing DEnse STellar systems". For this purpose, we take as a basis the activities of the MODEST-17 conference, which was held at Charles University, Prague, in September 2017. Reviewed topics include recent advances in fundamental stellar dynamics, numerical methods for the solution of the gravitational N-body problem, formation and evolution of young and old star clusters and galactic nuclei, their elusive stellar populations, planetary systems, and exotic compact objects, with timely attention to black holes of different classes of mass and their role as sources of gravitational waves.Such a breadth of topics reflects the growing role played by collisional stellar dynamics in numerous areas of modern astrophysics. Indeed, in the next decade many revolutionary instruments will enable the derivation of positions and velocities of individual stars in the Milky Way and its satellites, and will detect signals from a range of astrophysical sources in different portions of the electromagnetic and gravitational spectrum, with an unprecedented sensitivity. On the one hand, this wealth of data will allow us to address a number of long-standing open questions in star cluster studies; on the other hand, many unexpected properties of these systems will come to light, stimulating further progress of our understanding of their formation and evolution.