2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Recreation

Dance (from Old French dancier, perhaps from Frankish) generally refers to human movement either used as a form of expression or presented in a social, spiritual or performance setting.

Dance is also used to describe methods of non-verbal communication (see body language) between humans or animals ( bee dance, mating dance), motion in inanimate objects (the leaves danced in the wind), and certain musical forms or genres.

Choreography is the art of making dances, and the person who does this is called a choreographer.

Definitions of what constitutes dance are dependent on social, cultural, aesthetic, artistic and moral constraints and range from functional movement (such as Folk dance) to codified, virtuoso techniques such as ballet. In sports, gymnastics, figure skating and synchronized swimming are dance disciplines while Martial arts ' kata' are often compared to dances.

Origins of dance

Unlike some early human activities such as the production of stone tools, hunting, cave painting, etc., dance does not leave behind physical artifacts. Thus, it is impossible to say with any certainty when dance became part of human culture. However, dance has certainly been an important part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations and entertainment since the birth of the earliest human civilizations. Archaeology delivers traces of dance from prehistoric times such as Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from circa 3300 BC and the Bhimbetka rock-shelter paintings in India.

One of the earliest structured uses of dance may have been in the performative retelling of mythological stories. Indeed, before the introduction of written languages, dance was one of the primary methods of passing these stories down from generation to generation.

Another early use of dance may have been as a precursor to ecstatic trance states in healing rituals. Dance is still used for this purpose by cultures from the Brazilian rainforest to the Kalahari Desert.

Origins of Sri Lankan dances goes back to immemorial times of aboriginal tribes and "yakkas" (devils). According to a Sinhalese legend, Kandyan dances originate, 2500 years ago, from a magic ritual that broke the spell on a bewitched king.

Many contemporary dance forms can be traced back to historical, traditional, ceremonial, and ethnic dances.

Dancing and music

Although dance and music can be traced back to prehistoric times it is unclear which art form came first. However, as rhythm and sound are the result of movement, and music can inspire movement, the relationship between the two forms has probably always been symbiotic.

Many early forms of music and dance were created and performed together. This paired development has continued through the ages with dance/music forms such as: Jig, Waltz, Tango, Disco, Salsa, Electronica and Hip-Hop. Some musical genre also have a parallel dance form such as Baroque music and Baroque dance where as others developed separately: Classical music, Classical ballet.

Although dance is often accompanied by music, it can also be presented independently or provide its own accompaniment ( tap dance). Dance presented with music may or may not be performed in time to the music depending on the style of dance. Dance performed without music is said to be danced to its own rhythm.

Genres and music forms used for dancing


  • Ballet
  • Classical dance
  • Country line
  • Disco
  • Funk
  • House music
  • Hip hop dance
  • Jazz
  • Lyrical
  • Modern
  • Tap
  • Techno
  • Contemporary dance
  • Irish Step
  • Competitive dance
  • hip hop


  • Rock and Roll
  • Punk rock & hardcore punk (see mosh & hardcore dance}
  • low-tempo ( slow dance) songs...
  • film soundtracks

Dance in India

Dance in Indian canonical literature

In the first millennium BCE in India many canonical texts were composed which sought to codify the rules of social management, private life, linguistic discipline, public finance, state policy, poetics, and dramatics. In the matter of dance, Bharata Muni's Natyashastra (literally "the art of dance") is the one of the earlier texts.

Though the main theme of Natyashastra deals with drama, dance also finds mentions at considerable length. It elaborates various gestures of hands and classifies such gestures and movements as either graceful or vigorous, defining the lalita form of dance - lasya; and the vigorous form ' tandava'.

Dance is classified under four categories and into four regional varieties. Natyashastra names these categories as secular, ritual, abstract, and, interpretive. Regional geography has altered since ancient India's time and so have regional varieties of Indian dances. Dances like "Odra Magadhi", which after decades long debate, has been traced to present day Mithila- Orissa region's dance form of Odissi, indicate influence of dances in cultural interactions between different reigons.

Indian dance-styles have experienced states of dormance and resurgence many times. The roots of the present day Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Mohini Attam and Kuchipudi are found in ancient Indian civilization. Abstractness is now the feature of almost all classical Indian dance forms.

Devil Dances in Sri Lanka

The devil dances of Sri Lanka or "yakun natima" is a carefully crafted ritual with a history reaching far back into Sri Lanka's pre-Buddhist past. It combines ancient "Ayurvedic" concepts of disease causation with deft psychological manipulation. The dance combines many aspects including Sinhalese cosmolgy, the dances also has an impact on the classical dances of Sri Lanka.

Classical Indian dance since 1947

During the reign of the last Mughals and Nawabs of Oudh dance fell down to the status of ' nautch', an sensuous dance of courtesans.

Later, linking dance with immoral trafficking and prostitution, British rule prohibited public performance of dance. Many disapproved it. In 1947, India won her freedom and for dance an ambience where it could regain its past glory. Classical forms and regional distinctions were re-discovered, ethnic specialties were honored and by synthesizing them with the individual talents of the masters in the line and fresh innovations emerged dance with a new face but with classicism of the past.

Archaeology delivers traces of dance from prehistoric times such as Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from circa 3300 BC and the Bhimbetka rock-shelter paintings in India.

Performance Dance in Europe and North America

As European culture became more cosmopolitan, dances from various areas were practiced outside of those areas, on the one hand, and new dances began to be invented, especially in Italy. As dances began to be performed outside of their cultural context, instruction manuals were now required. Ballet, the reigning dance form in Europe, developed first in Italy and then in France from lavish court spectacles that combined music, drama, poetry, song, costumes and dance. Members of the court nobility took part as performers. During the reign of Louis XIV, himself a dancer, dance became more codified. Professional dancers began to take the place of court amateurs, and ballet masters were licensed by the French government. The first ballet dance academy was the Académie Royale de Danse (Royal Dance Academy), opened in Paris in 1661. Shortly thereafter, the first institutionalized ballet troupe, associated with the Academy, was formed; this troupe began as an all-male ensemble but by 1681 opened to include women as well.

During the 18th century, ballets were still primarily composite productions, performed alongside opera or poetry, but the idea of dance performance as separate from sung or spoken word began to be experimented with. Mime, instead, was used to tell the stories of these ballets. Female professional dancers began to take their place onstage, having previously been hampered by social norms; they performed in high-heeled shoes and long, full skirts.

During the Pre-Romantic era in ballet, the art form changed rapidly. Costume reforms were made, especially for women; these reforms were in part a result of the French Revolution. Heeled street shoes were replaced by slippers, and corsets and heavy petticoats were discarded, and tights were invented. Simple en pointe work was introduced by ballerinas such as Fanny Elssler and Marie Taglioni, who heavily darned their slippers in order to be able to rise up briefly on their toes. The seven movements of dance (to bend, to rise, to stretch, to glide, to jump, to turn, and to dart) were codified in 1796.

The period of time between 1830 and 1870 is classified as the Romantic era of ballet. A format developed for ballets crafted in this period: the first act was set in the real world and the second in a supernatural or otherwordly setting. Most ballerinas portrayed creatures such as wilis, sylphs and nymphs wearing long white skirts, today called Romantic tutus. Ballets choreographed during this time period included Giselle in 1841, La Sylphide in 1832, and Coppelia in 1870. The Romantic Era came to a close when ballet lost popularity in Western Europe due to competition by music halls and a lack of strong male dancers and choreography.

St. Petersburg became the centre of ballet during the second half of the 19th century; the art form was supported by the patronage of the czars and the success of the Imperial Ballet, its school (forerunner of the Kirov Ballet) and the talent of Marius Petipa. Hard or blocked pointe shoes were introduced during this period, as were short tutus (today known as classical tutus, these skirts take their name from this era, which was the Russian Classical). Many story ballets ( The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Le Corsaire) were produced during this period. Although the coming of the Russian Revolution boded ill for the art form, Nicholas Sergeyev, last régisseur of the Imperial Ballet, smuggled the choreographic notation documenting the Imperial Ballet's repertory out of Russia and into the West. Hence many of the ballets survived, and are still performed today.

The Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev was instrumental in bringing ballet back to Western Europe and allowing for its evolution into a 20th century art form. Although not a dancer nor a choreographer, Diaghilev was an avid dance and music patron. He assembled a troupe of Russian composers, dancers, choreographers and designers; as the Diaghilev Ballet Russes, this troupe toured Europe and the United States. Diaghilev was one of the foremost influences upon ballet in the new century, and he helped to launch the careers of such artists as Anna Pavlova, Michel Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, and George Balanchine, among others. After Diaghilev's death, the company disbanded. Many of his dancers settled in Western Europe and the United States. Michel Fokine joined American Ballet Theatre in 1940 as its resident choreographer; George Balanchine also came to America and founded the New York City Ballet in 1934. It was Balanchine who developed what is now known as the "neo-classical" style of ballet.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there was an explosion of innovation in dance style characterized by an exploration of freer technique. Early pioneers of what became known as modern dance include Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Mary Wigman and Ruth St. Denis. The relationship of music to dance serves as the basis for Eurhythmics, devised by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, which was influential to the development of Modern dance and modern ballet through artists such as Marie Rambert.

Eurythmy, developed by Rudolf Steiner and Lori Maier-Smits, combines formal elements reminiscent of traditional dance with the new freer style, and introduced a complex new vocabulary to dance. In the 1920s, important founders of the new style such as Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey began their work. Since this time, a wide variety of dance styles have been developed; see Modern dance.

Dance studies

In the early 1920s dance studies (dance practice, critical theory, Musical analysis and history) began to be considered an academic discipline. Today these studies are an integral part of many universities' arts and humanities programs. By the late 20th century the recognition of practical knowledge as equal to academic knowledge lead to the emergence of practice-based research and practice as research. A large range of dance courses are available including:

  • Professional practice: performance and technical skills
  • Practice-based research: choreography and performance
  • Ethnochoreology, encompassing the dance-related aspects of Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, Area studies, Postcolonial theory, Ethnography, etc.
  • Dance-Movement Therapy.
  • Dance and technology: new media and performance technologies.
  • Laban Movement Analysis and Somatic studies

A full range of Academic degrees are available from BA (Hons) to PhD and other postdoctoral fellowships, with many dance scholars taking up their studies as mature students after a professional dance career.

Categories of dance

Dance can be divided into two main categories that each have several subcategories into which most dance styles can be placed. They are:

  • Concert dance / Performance dance
    • 20th century concert dance
    • Competitive dance
  • Social dance / Participation dance
    • Ceremonial dance
    • Traditional dance

See also: List of dance style categories

Dance as an occupation

In the U.S. many professional dancers are members of unions such as the American Guild of Musical Artists, the Screen Actors Guild and Actors' Equity Association. The unions help determine working conditions and minimum salaries for their members.

Dancers may receive other benefits from their jobs such as room and board (for touring production). Professional dancers often have the opportunity to teach as well.

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