Dance is one of the oldest forms of art known to man. There are glyphs of people dancing that were painted over 11,000 years ago. Primitive dances still exist today, and are used for ceremonial, religious, and healing purposes. Many of these dances tell a story – myths, legends, and histories of a cultures. Dance is also an integral part of gymnastics and martial arts.
Kinds of Dance
Dances can be categorized by the number of dancers - solo, partner, or group – and by the style of dance:
Ballroom dance: Ballroom dance and balls come from the Italian word for dance, ‘ballare’. They originated from folk dance, but became more formal as entertainment in kings’ courts. Ballroom dance evolved with classical music. Typical dances during the renaissance were the basse dance, branle, pavane, and the galliarde. The minuet was introduced in the 17th century, and the waltz, polka, and mazurka started in the 19th. The waltz was innovative in that it wasn’t a “sequence dance”, meaning each couple could dance independently of the others. The waltz was controversial because the partners held each other so close.
Ballroom dance transformed in the 20th century due to several factors. World Wars 1 & 2 ended many older social customs. Jazz music led to dance crazes that created new dances, made popular by films with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And, new dance schools led to competitive dancing.
Standard Ballroom Dances today include: Slow Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Quickstep.
American “Nightclub Dances” include: Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Two Step, Hustle, Salsa, Merengue, Bolero, and Mambo.
Latin Ballroom Dances include: Samba, Cha-cha-cha, Rumba, Paso Doble, and Jive.
Ballet: Ballet is a performance dance that tells a story. It’s a very technical dance with its own vocabulary, and it takes many years to master. It’s theatrical, with costumes, sets, and is closely related to opera. Many early operas contain ballet scenes. Ballet first developed in
and became very popular in ,
as court entertainment for kings. The word comes from the Italian ‘balletto’
meaning a little dance. The Académie Royale de Danse, the first ballet
academy, opened in Paris
in 1661, and began the first ballet troupe – this is when ballet first
separated from ballroom dance. In the 19th century, ballet
became less popular in Paris France,
but Russians took it very seriously, and reintroduced it to just
before WWI, while fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution. Ballet has been very
influential in the development of modern dance and music. Many famous ballet
composers are Russian, like Tchaikovsky,
who wrote the Nutcracker, and
Modernist composers like Stravinsky,
Prokofiev, Shostakovich. The most famous French composer of ballet is Maurice Ravel, and in France , Aaron Copland. America
Folk dance: There are many kinds of folk dance, coming from different countries, villages, and cultures around the world. Many are hundreds of years old. Different kinds of folk dance include polkas, which vary from country to country, square dancing, barn dancing, step dancing, clogging, Greek and Turkish dances, sword dancing, etc.
Ritual dance: is any dance performed as part of a ritual, or religious ceremony. Many of these originate in Polynesia, on islands like
Hawaii, and . The Maori of New Zealand perform Haka warrior dances, meant to intimidate their enemies. Buddhist dance tells a story, with
every movement and gesture telling a word. Hawaiian
dance also tells stories. New
Breakdancing: Also called B-boying, is a form of street dancing that began in NYC in the 1970’s. It’s now spread worldwide. Common elements of breakdancing include toprock, downrock, powermoves, and freezes.
Modern dance: is an expressive, formal dance similar to ballet, but breaking many of its rules. There are many styles.