|An Introduction to Dance
is a series of motions
and steps usually
performed with music.
It can also be described as bodily movements that
serve as a form of communication
are many different styles in dancing. There are Ballet,
Ballroom, Belly Dancing, Chinese Dance, Flamenco,
Indian Dance, Latin Dance, Modern Dance, Salsa, Swing
Dancing, Tango, Tap Dance, among others.
It is uncertain when people began to dance;
however, it is possible that dance developed along with the evolution of early man who
would have used rythmic movements as a
means of communicating their feelings.
Prehistoric cave paintings from more than 20,000 years
ago depict figures in animal costumes who seem to
be dancing, possibly
in hunting or fertility rituals, or perhaps merely
animals, like birds, perform dancelike movements in situations similar to human courtship and play.
during ancient civilisations, of the Mediterranean
region and the Middle East, written as well as visual
evidence of dance has survived. Dance was used in many agricultural and religious rituals.
Dance took on more formal patterns and was an important
form of worship in the temple of the ancient gods.
For example, religious dances,
especially those honoring Dionysus, the god of wine,
are believed to be the origin of the dance in Greek drama.
Dancing unlike every other art form can be included in every aspect of life.
Click icon to hear Tchaikovsky's
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies
Ballet is a theatrical art performed on stage for live performances. Ballet can be
traced to Italy during the times of the Renaissance
(1300 - 1600). Because the steps were first named
in France, French is the international language of ballet.
Ballet comprises of five specific, numbered positions of
the feet, which form the basis of almost all ballet steps. Corresponding positions exist for the arms,
which are generally held with gently curved elbows.
During the early 1800's dancers learnt how to dance on their toes and it was during this period that the
toe shoe was invented making it possible for ballerinas
to dance on their
Early ballet costumes
were simply the fashionable dress clothes of the time.
The tutus, a bell-shaped skirt of translucent fabric,
was popularized by Marie Taglioni in the ballet La
Sylphide (1832). It was shortened in the course of
the century and became the standard dress of the ballerina.
composed or existing music may be used in the ballet however, specially composed songs are expensive and
so music that exists already are more readily used,
usually a symphony or a concerto.
orchestra is a large group of musicians who play together
on various instruments, usually including strings,
woodwinds, brass instruments, and percussion instruments.
A symphony is an extended piece in three or more movements
for symphony orchestra.
|Ballroom dancing is any social dances in which couples, with the man holding the lady in his
arms, follow a pattern of steps. Ballroom
dancing can be broken down into two sections: Standard & Smooth Styles and International Latin.
& Smooth Styles
icon to hear Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Waltz
The Waltz was first
introduced in the 1840's and was considered a sinful dance because
the couples were pressed against each other. The waltz is danced to triple
meter, music with
3 beats to a measure. This is what gives Waltz its well-known 1-2-3 rhythm and flowing rise-and-fall movement. The rhythm and steps make it a dance which is easy to learn.
The dance music was influenced by the composers in that era like Chopin.
A lady's evening dress for that era consisted of a
high waisted gown, usually in soft fabric such as
chiffon or lightweight satin, often ornamented with
elaborate lace or beadwork. The full length skirt
would have had enough fullness for dancing.
In the 1860s women's dresses featured hoops, in the
1890s leg-of-mutton sleeves were in fashion, and in
the 1910s the style changed to loose fitted dresses
of light materials.
The evening clothes worn by men would have included
tail coats with white vests and ties. In the early
twentieth century dinner jacket tuxedos also began
to make their introduction, and although not historically
typical for attire for a formal ball, a modern tuxedo
will not be out of place.
icon to hear a Tango tune
Tango originated in the mid-19th century in Buenos Aires
and is still danced today as the "Argentine Tango".
The traditional Ballroom possesses the hourglass position, with partners close
at the waist and leaning outwards at the top. Argentinean Tango possesses
an 'A' shape of position where the partners are very
close together above the waist, and farther appart
at the feet, leaning inward. This 'A' shape is the
typical latin dance position, however, Europeans made the Tango into Ballroom Dance which is a more genteel form. The tango has no "rise and fall" like the waltz.
The couples portray sensuality and sexual interplay
women wear sleek glittering evening gowns and the
men wear tux and tails.
The variety of cultures combined to bring about a
new style of music,
formed from African beats, Indian rhythms, Latin influences,
and the popular music of the pampas (flatlands) in Argentina. This new music was dubbed "tango"
however, no matter where the name of the music came from; the important thing is that this "tango"
music quickly gave birth to "tango"
icon to hear a Foxtrot tune
The Slow Foxtrot is known as the "dancers' dance" because it allows you to float
smoothly around the floor, but also because it is
the most difficult to master and needs great balance
and control. The Foxtrot was actually introduced into the mainstream by Harry
Fox in 1913. It ultimately became the most popular
and lasting dance of the twentieth century, but not before going through
many stylistic changes.
icon to hear a QuickStep tune
The Quickstep requires a tremendous amount of energy and vitality. Quickstep is
well-liked because it is danced to music with
a quick tempo, and generally catchy tune. It alternates
slow 'steps' (steps which take two beats) with 'quick'
steps (a single beat per step), and this rhythm gives Quickstep its
quick choppy characteristic movement.
icon to hear a Viennese Waltz tune
|The Viennese Waltz was developed in Vienna, Austria under the influence
of a very popular waltz composer, Johann Strauss. The Viennese Waltz is considered the most difficult of the five Standard/Smooth dances because it
moves and spins very fast and requires good timing,
movements, excellent coordination with one's partner
good, and the ability to move and spin very quickly
without getting dizzy. It is a formal dance with few steps, but which must be danced with precision.
|Latin & American dances are danced to a
Latin-American beat. There are five International-style
Latin & American dances: the Cha Cha , Samba, Rumba,
Paso Doble and Jive. The costumes for these dances typically represent the sensual and hot-blooded nature
of the dances.
icon to hear a Cha Cha Cha tune
the Cha Cha Cha,
the woman represents a flirt that the man should never
really catch. It is an offshoot of the Mambo and the Rumba. It
includes small steps and swaying movements of the hips.
icon to hear a Samba tune
The Samba, which
originated in Brazil, is a lively dance distinguished by a downward or dropping action - called
In its native form, the samba beat is primarily based upon percussion beats with a
icon to hear a Rumba tune
In this Cuban dance,
most often called the "Dance
of Love", the dancers should represent sensual love and have their movements
demonstrate this. It involves complex footwork with
a pronounced movement of the hips.
icon to hear a Paso Doble tune
|The Paso Doble originated
in Spain around the year 1920. This Spanish dance is set in march time and often played at bullfights.
In the dance the
man is the matador and the lady is his cape as he fights
the bull. It is a difficult dance to learn as it is fast and has very complex patterns.
The Jive is an American dance of the
'40s and '50s that has been tamed by the British.
It needs plenty of energy.
icon to hear a Jive tune
icon to hear an arabian tune
term "Belly Dance",
was first used by the French when they saw the undulations
and the body isolations, "The
Dance of The Stomach". Also, it was
called "Danse Du Venture",
or the dance of adventure.
is believed by most experts that belly
dancing has its roots in ancient cultures
from the orient to India to mid-East however, the
original purpose of belly
dancing differs in different country.
the ancient Middle East/Mediterranean, the belly
dance was first performed as sort of a
birthing aid. Basically, the sisters of the women
giving birth, would aid the new mother by undulating
and rolling their bodies in natural, curvy snake-like
movements to help with the delivery of the baby. It
is a dance as
second nature as breathing, and it got its start not
as entertainment, but for childbirth.
in the ancient cultures of Greece, Persia, Palestine,
and North Africa the dance was used as a ritual. It was this sacred dancing that was a part of fertility rituals. This ritual dance was used
to placate gods, ensure crop fertility, and bring
glory to a city.
the late 19th century Persia, belly
dancing was performed only privately, among
women - generally during fertility rites or parties
preparing a young woman for marriage. In such ceremonies,
men were not present.
this Middle Eastern dance became more of an entertainment related art form.
This dance was
first brought to America just over 100 years ago at
the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893 by "Little Egypt".
scarves are essential to creating a belly
dance costume. This can be as simple as
a scarf tied around the hips. It should be positioned
below the hip bone. A triangular fringed shawl is
great for many ethnic looks. Coin hip scarves are
nice for the sparkle and noise. Scarves help bring
together the elements of the costume as well as accentuating
the hip movements during the dance.
Beads and coins are often used to decorate the costume.
Stringed beads can be loosely sewn across the bottom
of the bra to create a draped effect across the torso.
to the outfit are: harem pants, beledi dress, skirt
and veil (matching), triangular fringed shawl (1 or
2), smaller rectangular veils for head cover-up or
extra drapings, bra - covered or sports bra, tunic
kerchief, flat dance shoes.
The accessories include: bangles (lots), necklace
(coin recommended), earrings (coin recommended), head
pieces, hankies and scarves, hip poufs made with fabric
scraps.The dancer is also accompanied by small cymbals attached to the
index finger and thumb as well as tambourines.
icon to hear a flamenco tune
The Moors (Arabs),
and later the Gypsies had a lot to do with the development of Flamenco.
The Moors ooccupied Spain, and particularly
the south, for about 800 years, in a relatively civilized
manner and because of this, science, economy and culture
flourished. However, the original inhabitants converted
to Catholicism and wanted the Moors out. It took several centuries before the last stronghold
of the Moors,
the city of Granada in the southern province Andalucía,
the 14th century when Columbus set out to reach the
Indies, the Gypsies arrived in Spain bringing with them their own language and an oriental-based music. They where,
and are, very much into embellishment, improvisation
and virtuosity. In Andalucía they found a rich ground for their musicality, fertilized
by hundreds of years of high culture, where not only Moorish, but
also Jewish, Catholic and local musical influences
achieved a concrete form around the end of the 17th
century and was an expression of poverty, oppression and personal grief since at
that time the Gypsies were largely social outcasts, mistrusted and despised
the the 18th century the gypsies were acknowledged as having the same legal rights
as other Spaniards by King Carlos III. As the gypsies gained a greater degree of emancipation their financial
status improved somewhat, allowing them to acquire musical instruments previously beyond their reach. Thus, the guitar was added as an accompaniment to the cante in the
Though Flamenco still
deals only with unhappiness (death, lost love, hardship)
it also became a means of expressing happiness as it incorporated elements of Spanish music in lighter forms.
Flamenco comprises of three elements, the song (el cante), the dance (el baile) and the guitar (el toque) which serves either as an accompaniment
to the song and dance or, more
recently, as an art-form in itself.
The flamenco dance consists of highly coordinated hand and arm movements.
The dance is vigorous
and rhythmic with clapping and stamping of feet.
The dancer does
not begin immediately, but waits, absorbing the strumming, clapping and singing until
inspired to dance.
lady normally wears a long ruffled dress along with
shoes with very strong heels for stamping.
She may also dance with a pair of castanets or fans.
She is adorned with flowers and a comb in her hair.
man, on the other hand, wears a high waisted pants
along with a ruffled shirt and a hat at times.
icon to hear an indian tune
heritage of dance in India is at least 5000 years old. Various successive
south Indian dynaties have contributed to some measure
of patronage to this dance art.
the ninth and tenth centuries, there was a sudden
spurt of temple building which brought about an increase
of interest in temple arts.
It was during this time period that dances would have been used greatly as a vehicle of worship. Dance was also
an expression of emotions in India.
class of musicians and dancers known
as devadasis, female dancers who were attached to the temple hereditarily and dedicated
to the God since childhood, enjoyed high status and
prosperity at this time and were encouraged in their art (Dasi-attam).
Domingo Paes, a Portuguese traveler, visited India
in 1520-22 A.D. and left behind a vivid description
of the dancers he saw. He visited special dancing halls where young female dancers were given intensive training. The walls were decorated
with paintings depicting various dancing poses which helped
the dancers to
correct their steps. The king, at that time, took
very keen interest in their dance education and periodically visited these halls.
special festival celebrations the dance performances were given great importance. The dancers were adorned with innumerable ornaments, made out
of gold, pearls, and diamonds. The Devadasi system
is still prevalent in some states of India.
Indian dances consists of three distinct types. "Nritta"
is pure and simple dance with movements of body and limbs. "Nritya"
is linked with facial expressions, hand gestures and
symbolic body poses. "Natya"
has the elements of a drama which is introduced through
the use of spoken world. All the types involve the
use of "mudras",
which are well developed types of gestures during
the dance. The dancers use their
entire body to communicate with the audience.
major Indian classical dances are: Bharata Natyam, Kathakali, Kathak and Manipuri,
Kuchipudi, Odissi and Mohini Attam.
Natyam is one of the oldest dance forms of India. It has its origins in the manuscript
called the Natya Shastra which was written by Sage
Bharata around 4000 B.C. It was primarily conceived
out of the urge to express one's emotions and exuberance.
It was strictly prevalent in temples and was performed on religious and festive ocassions
is a dance for
a soloist and is a very difficult technique which
requires many years of practise. It brings every muscle
in the body into use, those of the face included. Bharata Natyam requires vigour and grace, balance and suppleness,
a great physical endurance and a faultless sens of rhythm. The movements
areample, precise, and always symetrical. Bharata-Natyam has disappeared from the temples and is now performed on the stage.
which dates from the 17th century, is a classical dance form from
Kerala. It is a group presentation, in which dancers take various roles in performances traditionally based
on themes from Hindu mythology, especially the two
epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
of the most interesting aspects of Kathakali is its elaborate make-up code. The faces are usually
painted with organically derived and organically coloured
materials. The dancers wear large head dresses and large skirts.
technique of Kathakali includes a highly developed language of gesture, through
which the artist can convey whole sentences and stories.
The body movements and footwork are very rigourous.
To attain the high degree of flexibility and muscle
control required for this art, a Kathakali dancer undergoes
a strenuous course of training, and special periods
of body massage.
orchestra of a Kathakali performance includes two drums known as the chenda
and the maddalam, along with cymbals and another percussion
instrument, the ela taalam. Normally, two singers
provide the vocal accompaniment.
Kathak is the major classical dance form of northern India which arose from the fusion
of Hindu and Muslim cultures. The word kathak means "to tell a story" and specialises
in recounting mythological and moral tales from the
scriptures. The emphasis shifted from the telling
of religious stories to one of entertainment.
Kathak is characterized by rhythmic footwork danced under the weight of more than 100 ankle bells, and
spectacular spins. The technique of Kathak today is characterized by fast rhythmic footwork set to complex time cycles and embellished
with hand gestures and facial expressions.
The footwork is matched by the accompanying percussion
instruments such as tabla and pakhawaj, and the dancer and percussionists often indulge in a virtuoso display
of rhythmic wizardry.
The dance movements
include numerous pirouettes executed at lightning
speed and ending in statuesque poses.
Male dancers perform in Persian costume of wide skirts and round
caps, while female dancers wear a traditional Indian garment called a sari.
Manipuri is the classical dance from the north East Indian state of Manipur. Its themes
are devotional and are performed on religious occasions
and in temples throughout the area even now. It relates the love
story of Radha and Krishna.
technique of Manipuri dancing is based
on an interesting principle of compensatory movement
with the objective of achieving rounded movements
and avoiding any jerks, sharp edges or straight lines.
If the right hand is outstretched towards the right,
for example, the body is tilted towards the left in
order to offset the right side thrust. The movement
towards the right has been balanced and subdued by
one towards the left. It is this aspect which imparts
a soft appearance. This impression of softness actually
hides a very tough regimen of body control.
the feet never strike the ground with a sound on impact,
as this would interfere with the delicate flow of
the body movements. The knees and ankles cushion the
landing so that no sound is made. The dancers do not even wear ankle bells so as to prevent any
The Manipuri dance costume is very colorful and attractive. The female dancers wear a dress called patloi. On the head,
covering the face, they wear a transparent odhni,
through which the expression and emotion on
the face of the dancer can easily he seen. The male dancer,
who is Krishna, wears a saffron dress.
than the instruments accompanying the dance,
the instruments used are the central part of the dance. Dances are very
much based upon the cymbals (kartal or manjira) and
the cylindrical drum known as Manipuri mridang or
pung. The pung and the kartal (manjira) are actually
used in the dance.
Kuchipudi is the classical dance form from the South-East Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
It derives its name from the village of Kuchelapuram.
From its origin, during the 3rd century BC, it has
remained a continuous and living dance tradition of this region. The genesis of Kuchipudi art as of most Indian classical
dances is associated with religions. For
a long time, the art was presented only at temples and only for annual festivals of certain temples in Andhra. It is famous for its grace, elegance, charm
and its strong narrative / dramatic character.
use of laya or rhythm,
thandava or foot steps and rhythm and abhinaya or expression is common with the Kuchipudi artist. But Kuchipudi is characteristic for its abhinaya or expressions.
very charming form of abhinaya is the satvikabhinaya
which includes three steps. It begins with facial expressions and
eye movements, followed by hand gestures and eventually
movements of the entire body.
proficiency of the artists in footwork and their perfect
control over their limbs is apparent since the dance is performed over the rim of a brass plate with a
vessel full of water on the head.
The Odissi (Orissi) dance is the
Indian classical dance from the Eastern state of Odissa where they were performed in the temples.
This dance form
dates back to either the 1st or 2nd century B.C. It
was brought to near extinction during the colonial
period and the dance performed today, had to be reconstructed during the
post-colonial era in the 20th century by a group of
scholars and dance practitioners/teachers, who formed
the group known as Jayantika.
in other dance forms, creative literature inspired Odissi dancers.
Gita Govinda, a love poem on Radha and Krishna. had
the strongest influence on Odissi. Gita Govinda was
written in 12th century in Samskrit by Jayadeva.
The Odissi dancers use their head, bust and torso in soft flowing movements
to express specific moods and emotions. The characteristic
feature of this style is a hip deflection giving raise
to the tribhanga or 3-bend posture of the body.
Attam is the feminine dance form of Kerala, a state in the south western most
part of India. It is danced by women and is known
for its very sensual themes.
performance is centred around the myth of Mohini.
According to the story, Brahma tells the other Gods
how they can obtain amrit which is a celestial ambrosia
that bestows immortality and great power. He informs
them that they can do so by churning the milky ocean
to get the nectar of immortality. Unfortunately, the
job is so great that the gods ar forced to seek the
assistance of the demons. The demons agree to help,
but are secretly plotting to keep it all for themselves.
finds out about the plot to steal the amrit. He knows
that it would be disastrous for the demons to obtain
such powers and so decides to take the form of a beautiful
celestial nymph (apsara), and by way of her amorous
charms, she distracts them from their plans. By means
of this distraction the amrit is given to the gods,
and the world is saved from the demons.
This dance commences
with an opening dance called Cholkettu. The dancer begins at an average tempo but gradually gains speed
with the passage of pure dance sequence leading to the climax containing interchanging
expressional and pure dance sequences to the accompaniment of vocal and instrumental
is a dance style
specially marked for its grace, fluidity, simple looking
footwork and rotating rhythmic movements. Everything
in this dance continues smoothly and softly to the accompaniment
of the cymbals, veena, maddala, and chenda. It is
a combination of Bharata
Natyam and Kathakali and is considered to be the youngest of all indian
costume is usually white or off-white comprising of
sari. Usually there is a gold brocade, possibly with
a border of red. One of the most characteristic signs
of the Mohini Attam dancer is the bun of hair worn
off-centre. Adornments include various ornaments and
ankle bells and garlands of jasmine in the hair.
icon to hear a Chinese tune
dance has a history over 5000 years. The art of Chinese
dance traces its origins to even before
the appearance of the first written Chinese characters.
classical dance traces its origin to celebrations
in the emperors court in ancient China. The dance is often
based on fairy tales and poetry. It is characterized
by subtlety, elegance and balance of masculinity and
femininity. In contrast, Chinese
folk dance originated in the villages.
The dance is often
about the lives of the average people and tends to
reflect the custom and belief of the time.
dance was divided into two types, civilian and military,
during the first millennium B.C. In civilian
dance, dancers held feather banners in their hands, symbolizing the
distribution of the fruits of the day's hunting or
fishing. This gradually developed into the dance used
in the emperor's periodic sacrificial rituals held
outside the city, and other religious rituals.
the large group military
dance, on the other hand, the dancers carried weapons in their hands, and moved forward
and backward in coordinated group motion. This later
evolved into the movements used in military exercises.
Chinese used choreographic movements of the hands and feet
to express their veneration of the spirits of heaven
and earth, to act out aspects of their everyday life,
and to give expression to shared feelings of joy and
delight. Dance was also a performing art that brought pleasure to
both the performers and the audience.
most three popular dances in China are: Aborigines
Dance, Tang Dance and Lion Dance.
The lion dance dates
back to the Han Dynasty (205 B.C. to 220 A.D in China)
and during the Tang Dynasty (716-907 A.D.) it was
at its peak. At that time, it was performed during
religious festivities. The traditional Chinese
Lion dance is usually that part of festivities
that is believed to bring happiness and luck, if well-performed.
Two dancers operate
each Lion during
the dance and
they are accompanied by rhythmic drumming. One handles
the head, made out of strong but light materials like
paper-mache and bamboo, the other plays the body and
the tail under a cloth that is attached to the head.
'animal' is accompanied by three musicians, playing
a large drum, cymbals and a gong. A Little Buddha
teases it with a fan or a giant ball. The head dancer can move the lion's eyes, mouth and ears for expression of moods. Fire
crackers are lit to scare away the evil spirits.
best occasions for performing the lion
dance include Chinese New Year, the openings of Chinese restaurants and sometimes marriages.
minority people or aboriginal group of China has its
own folk dance forms. The Miao, also known as Hmong, people of southwestern
China, for example, developed a lively form of singing
dances directly reflect the lifestyles
and customs of a people, and in addition to their
artistic value as dances,
they are a precious part of our cultural heritage.
Generally speaking, the aborigines tribes still retain
much of their primitive culture. This culture can
be seen every day in commercial tourist areas, such
as Wulai near Taipei, the Formosan Aboriginal Culture
Villagenear Sun Moon Lake, and the Taiwan Aboriginal
Culture Park in pingtung county.
The folk dances include
the Aborigines' Hair Swinging
Dance and the Handholding
The Aborigines' Hair Swinging
Dance is performed in Taiwan's aborigines'
rituals to welcome guests or to pray for rain.
The Handholding Dances are part of a harvest ritual.
China's Tang dynasty historically
had significant dances and music.
to the more stable political situation during the T'ang Dynasty,
dance in China entered into a period of unprecedented
brilliance. The T'ang Dynasty imperial court founded the pear Garden Academy,
the Imperial Academy,and the T'ai-ch'ang Temple, gathering
the top dancing talent of the perform the magnificent, stately and
incomparably lavish dance.
songs, a dramatic plot, and background music were
incorporated to create a comprehensive multimedia
production rich in content and fanfare.
This was a predecessor of modern Chinese opera.
the Feather Fan Dance feather
fans are used to illustrate the subtle feminiity and
light spirit flowing from the dancer.
the Sword Dance,
the dancer uses
a sword to demonstrate skill and warrior courage.