The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Dance 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 between humans or animals (bee dance, mating dance), motion in inanimate objects (the leaves danced in the wind), and certain musical forms or genres. People who dance are called dancers and the act of dance is known as dancing. An event where dancing takes place may be called a dance. Choreography is the art of making dances.

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 contain dance disciplines while Martial arts 'Kata' are often compared to dances.


History of dance

Main article: History of dance

Throughout history, dance has been a part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations and entertainment. It is traceable through archeological evidence from prehistoric times to the first examples of written and pictorial documentation in 200 BC. Many contemporary dance forms can be traced back to historical, traditional, ceremonial, and ethnic dances.

Dance and music

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

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, techno 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 alone (Postmodern dance) 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.

See also: List of dances | Category:Musical genres

Choreography and notation

Main articles: Choreography, Dance notation

Choreography is the art of making dances and the generic name given to predetermined sequences of dance movement. People who choreograph are called choreographers and may develop their own dance techniques as a part of their choreographic work. Choreography and dance techniques can be written down as dance notation which is analogous to music notation.

The term choreogoraphy has a varied historical context, it is derived from the word chorea. chorea (χορεία) a Greek Circle dance accompanied by singing, derivatives of chorea are used to describe circle dances in other counties: Khorovod (Russia), Hora (Romania, Moldova, Israel), Horo (Bulgaria). Paracelsus used the term chorea to describe the rapid, jerking physical movements of medieval pilgrims traveling the healing shrine of St. Vitus giving rise to the term St. Vitus' dance.

Raoul Feuillet and Pierre Beauchamp used an adaption of the word chorea to describe dance notation. Feuillet's Chorégraphie (1700) set out a method of dance notation and established the term chorégraphie for the writing, or notating of dances. Thus a person who wrote down dances was a choreographer, but the creator of dances was still known as a dancing master (Le maître a danser) or in later years a ballet master.

Rudolf Laban extended the meaning and use of the word choreographie with his book Choreographie (1926) in which he detailed not only a new form of dance notation but also the principles and theory of a complete system of dance that would later become Laban Movement Analysis (LMA). Rudolf and Joan Benesh coined the term choreology to describe the aesthetic and scientific study of all forms of human movement by movement notation (1955) whilst Laban used the term choreutics to describe LMA.

The rejection of ballet vocabulary and terms by modern dance resulted in the term choreographer replacing Ballet Master and therefore choreography came to mean the art of making dances.

Dance studies

In the early 1920s dance studies (dance practice, critical theory, analysis and history) began to be considered a serious 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:

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:

These categories are not mutually exclusive and are context-dependent; a particular dance style may belong to several categories.

See also: List of dance style categories

John White's eye-witness interpretation of a dance at , , is affected by his knowledge of
John White's eye-witness interpretation of a Native American dance at Roanoke, Virginia, 1585, is affected by his knowledge of Elizabethan court dance

See also

Further reading

  • Adshead-Lansdale, J. (Ed) (1994) Dance History: An Introduction. Routledge. ISBN 041509030X
  • Carter, A. (1998) The Routledge Dance Studies Reader. Routledge. ISBN 0415164478
  • Cohen, S, J. (1992) Dance As a Theatre Art: Source Readings in Dance History from 1581 to the Present. Princeton Book Co. ISBN 0871271737
  • Charman, S. Kraus, R, G. Chapman, S. and Dixon-Stowall, B. (1990) History of the Dance in Art and Education. Pearson Education. ISBN 0133893626
  • Daly, A. (2002) Critical Gestures: Writings on Dance and Culture. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0819565660
  • Dils, A. (2001) Moving History/Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0819564133

External links

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