Dance is a performing art form consisting of purposefully selected sequences of human movement. This movement has aesthetic and symbolic value, and is acknowledged as dance by performers and observers within a particular culture. It can be categorized and described by its choreography, by its repertoire of movements, or by its historical period or place of origin.
An important distinction is to be drawn between the contexts of theatrical and participatory forms, although these two categories are not always completely separate; both may have special functions, whether social, ceremonial, competitive, erotic, martial, or sacred/liturgical. Other forms of human movement are sometimes said to have a quality, including martial arts, gymnastics, cheer leading, figure skating, synchronized swimming, marching bands, and many other forms of athletics.
Origin of Dance
Archeological evidence for early forms includes 9,000-year-old paintings in India at the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures, dated c. 3300 BC. It has been proposed that before the invention of written languages, dance was an important part of the oral and performance methods of passing stories down from generation to generation. The use of dance in ecstatic trance states and healing rituals (as observed today in many contemporary “primitive” cultures, from the Brazilian rain forest to the Kalahari Desert) is thought to have been another early factor in the social development of dance, and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures, dated c. 3300 BC.
References can be found in very early recorded history; Greek dance (horos) is referred to by Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch and Lucian. The Bible and Talmud refer to many events related to dance, and contain over 30 different dance terms.
During the first millennium BCE in India, many texts were composed which attempted to codify aspects of daily life. Bharata Muni’s Natyashatra (literally “the text of dramaturgy”) is one of the earlier texts. It mainly deals with drama, in which dance plays an important part in Indian culture. It categorizes into four types – secular, ritual, abstract, and, interpretive – and into four regional varieties. The text elaborates various hand-gestures (mudras) and classifies movements of the various limbs, steps and so on. A strong continuous tradition of dance has since continued in India, through to modern times, where it continues to play a role in culture, ritual, and, notably, the Bollywood entertainment industry. Many other contemporary forms can likewise be traced back to historical, traditional, ceremonial, and ethnic forms.
When was it invented?
Although a culture might have developed a certain style of dancing, that isn’t the same as inventing dancing. The very first records of dancing are found in India and Egypt in c. 3300 BC, but it would be far-fetched, even inaccurate, to say that Indians or Egyptians invented dancing.
Dance and music
It is generally, though not exclusively, performed with the accompaniment of music and may or may not be performed in time to such music. Some forms (such as tap dance) may provide its own audible accompaniment in place of (or in addition to) music.
Many early forms of music and dance were created for each other and are frequently performed together. Notable examples of traditional dance/music couplings include the jig, waltz, tango, disco, and salsa. Some musical genres have a parallel dance form such as baroque music and baroque dance; other varieties may share nomenclature but developed separately, such as classical music and classical ballet.
Do you know these facts about dance?
- First archeological proof of dance comes from the 9 thousand year old cave paintings in India.
- One of the earliest uses of structured dance was introduced in religious ceremonies that told the stories of ancient myths and gods. Egyptian priests used this kind of visual storytelling in their rituals.
- Ancient Egyptians used dancing for both entertainment and religion.
- Dance represented important parts of many Greek and Roman religious ceremonies.
- Ancient Greeks and Romans annually celebrated their wine gods Dionysus and Bacchus with several days long festivities filled with alcohol, song and dance.
- History of European medieval form is fragmented and limited, but is believed that simple folk dances were widespread among common and wealthy classes.
- Modern dance history in Europe started with Renaissance, when many new forms were invented. After that, periods of Baroque, post French Revolution, Elizabethan era, World War 1, Prohibition, Ragtime and pre-WW2 brought many new waves of styles.
- Waltz, one of the most popular dances today came into popularity in mid-19th century by the efforts of the famous composer Johann Strauss, but its origins can be traced even to the distant 16th century.
- At first, waltz was performed with arm’s length between male and female dancers. The shocking transition to the close embrace happened only after English Queen Victoria fell in love with the dance and forced this change.
- Around 30 thousand people are employed in UK dance industry today, maintaining around 200 preforming companies.
- Even people in wheelchairs can dance! Such dancing is very popular in Europe where there are even competitions in Latin dances with special wheelchair choreographies.
- Professional dance is today regarded as one of the most demanding physical abilities and sports. According to studies, 80% of all professional dancers have at least one major injury during their career and staggering 93% of all dance teachers were forced into that position after career ending injury.
- High amount of injuries in professional dancing is induced by high levels of fatigue, little time for rest, inadequate healing techniques and high stress levels. All those factors can produce burn out periods when dancers have decreased strength, coordination, cognitive and immune functions.
- Lion Dance is one of the most popular religious and ceremonious dances in China and surrounding countries of Taiwan, Korea and Japan. This form can signify bringing of good fortune, ward of evil spirits and be an excellent showcase in martial arts proficiency.
- Dancing is very beneficial to your health. It lowers the chances for heart and blood vessel diseases, improves posture and weight, reduces stress and tension, improve brain function because of constant presence of music, and can improve relationship between the partners.
- Because of the need to maintain strict head position while dancing, doctors often prescribe use of dance for those patients that need to develop their peripheral vision.
- First balled dancer that used pointe shoes was Marie Taglioni in 1832 ballet “La Sylphide”.
- One tutu shoe cost up to $2000 dollars to be made, and one ballerina wears between 2 and three pairs per week.
- Because of high physical demand on their bodies, most professional dancers retire from dancing during their mid-30s.
- Famous modern form Cha-Cha originated from Cuba.
- Famous energetic ballroom dance can-can (or cancan), which is performed by the row of female dancers in long skirts originated form 1830s Paris ballrooms.
- Origin of tap-dancing comes from the tribal dances of African slaves. Their arrival in North America introduced that dance to the western audiences.
- Dancing with metal tap shoes became popular in United States during 1920s and 1930s. One of the most famous tap-dancing performers of that time were Nicholas brothers, who were instrumental into bringing that style of dance into Hollywood movies.
- Famous movie stars such as Fred Astaire, Ray Bolger and Gene Kelley used tap-dancing to enchant the minds of the worldwide audience with great success.
- Hindu religion has very close relationship to dance and music. This connection can most visible be seen in their countless Bollywood movies that all celebrate dancing.
- One of the dances that managed to completely change the landscape of its history is polka! This energetic form that was focused for young women that liked to jump, hop and turn swept across the world in mid-19th century.
- Dancing represent great physical exercise for the people of all age. It can be safely practiced from the age of 2 to 102!
- Many historical waves were perceived as the “destructors” of the old way of dance. Examples of that can be found in the 1920’s Charleston and the era of Rock music.
- First ballroom dance that was ever created is Italian Viennese Waltz.
- One of the reason that ballroom dancing is starting to return into popularity is because famous TV competition show “Dancing with the Stars”.
- African slaves that were brought in Brazil 300-400 years ago were prohibited from practicing martial arts. Therefore, they developed the mix of dancing and fighting that is known today as capoeira.
- Breakdancing was first created as a “less lethal” form of fighting between warring African-American street gangs in 1970s Bronx area of New York City. This form of dancing re-emerged into worldwide popularity during 1990s.
- Dance marathon competition started as early as 14th century England. They reached height of their popularity in the bloom of US entertainment expansion during 1930s depression era. Some competitions were performed in the 22 day long marathons.
- The most sensual dance of modern times is without a doubt a Tango. It originated from 1890s Argentina, but it quickly became very successful in Europe.