Dance is an art form in which main means for creating an artistic image are the movement and change of position of the human body. Dance is inextricably linked to music; it can be viewed as a non-verbal form of communication among people. It is interesting to know that dance is not just reserved for us, people, but is observed in animals too. For example many birds perform ritual dances to attract a partner.
Many sports such as gymnastics, synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, figure skating and other contain elements of dancing. The word can be used even in a figurative sense too – for example, the dance of tree leaves.
The definition of dance depends on the historical, cultural, aesthetic and moral traditions of a society. It can be a ritual, ceremonial, in front of an audience or for personal pleasure. It is characterized by grace, elegance, beauty, it is accompanied by rhythmic sounds and aims to tell a story or express feelings which are enhanced by pantomime, costumes, stage sets and choice of light. People who dance are called dancers. The art of creating dances is called choreography and the people who do this – choreographers.
History of dance
Dance leaves no clearly identifiable physical artifacts that can survive through the ages therefore it is not possible to estimate exactly when dance became part of human culture.
Dance is certainly an important part of ceremonies, rituals, celebrations and entertainment, even before the birth of the first human civilizations. Archaeological findings provide evidence for this claim – such as the 9000 years old paintings in Bhimbetka rock dwellings in India or in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from around 3300 BC.
One of the earliest structured uses of dances may have been in the performance and storytelling of myths. They are sometimes used to show feelings for the opposite sex, i.e they are related to the origin of ‘love making.’ Before the existence of written languages, dance was one of the methods used to pass these stories from generation to generation.
Another early use of dance is likely as a predecessor to trance in healing rituals. It is still used for this purpose by many cultures – from the Brazilian rainforest to the Kalahari Desert. In European culture, one of the earliest records of dancing is by Homer, whose ‘Iliad’ describes chorea (χορεία). Early Greeks transformed the art of dancing into a system expressing all different feeling and passions. The Greek philosopher Aristotle puts dance along with poetry and says that through rhythm and gesture some dancers can express manners, passions and actions. Most eminent Greek sculptors studied the behavior and attitude of the dancers in their art of imitating the passions.
In the early 1920, various dance exercises (training, critical theory, musical analysis and history of dance) began to be considered an academic discipline. Today these studies are an integral part of the curriculum of many universities for arts and humanities.
Choreography is the art of creating dance and ballet performances. In ballet the choreography combines into a single artistic concept the arts of dance, music and theater. It is synonymous with a dance composition. The word choreography literally means ‘dance-writing’ from the Greek “χορεία” (circular dance) and “γραφή” (writing).
Choreography can be planned to the smallest details thus not leaving much room for interpretation on the dancer’s part, but it can also be an improvisation, in other words a choreographer can only give general ideas and rules and leave the rest on the dancer.
There is a great variety of dances. Their classification can be done by these and other criteria:
According to the number of the dancers:
• individual (solo)
• with a partner (in pairs) – partners are generally men and women who normally remain together throughout the dance;
• a group dance – the groups can be formed of women only, men only or mixed; the moves are synchronized and usually participate in formations – line, circle and so on. Traditional folklore dances in many countries are group dances.
According to the purpose:
Dance sport is one of the types of dance. They are divided into two categories: Latin American (cha-cha-cha, samba, rumba, paso doble, jive) and standard (English waltz and Viennese waltz, tango, quickstep, foxtrot).