See study by D. Stroud (1972).
The earliest history of human dance is a continuing mystery. From the evidence of illustrated ceramic fragments, some archaeologists have speculated that dance originated some 5,000 to 9,000 years ago in early agricultural cultures located in a swath running from modern Pakistan to the Danube basin. Others, however, have expressed caution regarding the reconstruction of social behavior from such sources. Speculation aside, specific knowledge of prehistoric dances is lacking, and thus many experts have extrapolated dance history from the preserved ritual dances of various preliterate societies.
Native American dances illustrate most of the purposes of dance that is of a ritualistic or ceremonial nature: the war dance, expressing prayer for success and thanksgiving for victory; the dance of exorcism or healing, performed by shamans to drive out evil spirits; the dance of invocation, calling on the gods for help in farming, hunting, the fertility of human beings and animals, and other tribal concerns; initiation dances for secret societies; mimetic dances, illustrating events in tribal history, legend, or mythology; dances representing cosmic processes; and, more rarely, the dance of courtship, an invocation for success in love. The dance of religious ecstasy, in which hypnotic or trancelike states are induced (a characteristic phenomenon of Southeast Asia and Africa), was represented in America by the remarkable Ghost Dance.
Native American dancing is always performed on the feet, but in many islands of the Pacific and in Asia some of the dances are performed in a sitting posture, with only the hands, arms, and upper parts of the body used. Ancient Egyptian dances, often of a religious character, were derived from earlier African forms. In Greece the choral dance in honor of Dionysus played a part in the development of the drama and in religious worship. Many early religious or celebratory dances have survived in the folk dance of modern times.
In India dance and drama have usually been related, both generally having religious significance. An elaborate code of movements of the arms and hands (mudras), expressive use of the face and especially of the eyes, and a sinuous posturing of the body are important features of Indian classical dancing, among the best-known examples being Kathakali and the Bharata Natyam, both of S India. The early dances of Japan, probably influenced by ancient Chinese forms, became institutionalized with the establishment of a national school of dancing in the 14th cent. Soon the dance became associated with the famous No drama (see Asian drama). Secular dances are performed by the geisha.
In medieval Europe the repeated outbreaks of dance mania, a form of mass hysteria sometimes caused by religious frenzy and usually associated with epidemics of bubonic plague, are reflected in the allegory of the dance of death (see Death, Dance of). Dancing as a social activity and a form of entertainment is of relatively recent origin. During the Middle Ages, especially in France, dancing was a feature of the more enlightened and convivial courts. Some medieval dances, such as the volta, precursor of the waltz, became the sources of modern dance steps. In the 16th cent. two types of dance were popular, the solemn and stately dances performed at the court of Charles IX and the lively peasant dances.
The ballet first appeared in Italian courts in the 16th cent., and it became popular in France, especially during the reign of Louis XIV. Among the formal dances of the 17th cent. were the courante, saraband, pavan, minuet, gavotte, quadrille (or contredanse), and cotillion. Music, which had developed to accompany dancing, had, by this time, evolved many forms and rhythms no longer associated with the dance. French dances made their way to England in the 17th cent. where variations of the morris dance were frequently performed in villages and small towns.
Popular national dances include the mazurka and polonaise from Poland; the czardas from Hungary; the fandango, bolero, seguidilla, and flamenco from Spain; the tarantella and saltarello from Italy; the waltz and galop from Germany; the polka and schottische from Bohemia; the strathspey and Highland fling from Scotland; the hornpipe from England; and the jig from Ireland.
The United States initiated the barn dance, Virginia reel, clog dance, cakewalk, and Paul Jones in the 19th cent., the two-step c.1890, the turkey trot (one-step) c.1900, and the fox-trot c.1912. The popularity of jazz in the early 1920s produced a number of new social dances, of which the most popular was the charleston. From South America came the Argentine tango and the Brazilian maxixe and samba; from Cuba, the rumba, conga, and mambo.
Since the 1920s the United States has seen a wave of dance crazes, among them the Lindy Hop of the 1930s, the boogie woogie and jitterbug of the 1940s, the cha cha and rock 'n' roll of the 1950s, the twist, frug, and various frenzied discothèque and go-go dances of the 1960s, the disco dances of the 1970s, and in the 1980s hip-hop, which was tied to rap music and evolved into an energetic style of street dancing, called break dancing. Tap dancing and ballroom and adagio dancing have won wide popularity as entertainment and have been featured frequently in musical stage shows and movies.
See also modern dance.
See L. Kirstein, Book of the Dance (rev. ed. 1942); C. Sachs, World History of the Dance (tr. 1937, repr. 1963); W. Sorell, The Dance through the Ages (1967); A. Chujoy and P. W. Manchester, ed., The Dance Encyclopedia (rev. ed. 1967); W. Terry, The Dance in America (rev. ed. 1971); G. Vuillier, A History of Dancing from the Earliest Ages to Our Own Time (1898, repr. 1973); P. Magriel, Chronicles of the American Dance (1978); J. H. Mazo, Prime Movers (1977, repr. 1983); F. Bijester, Dancing Is Pleasure for Two: The Story of Ballroom and Social Dance (1985); S. Barnes, Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-Modern Dance (1987); S. J. Cohen, ed., International Encyclopedia of Dance (6 vol., 1998); D. Craine and J Mackrell, Oxford Dictionary of Dance (2000); N. Reynolds and M. McCormick, No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century (2003).
Style of American theatrical dance using precise rhythmical patterns of foot movement and audible foot tapping. It is derived from the traditional clog dance of northern England, the jigs and reels of Ireland and Scotland, and the rhythmic foot stamping of African dances. Popular in 19th-century minstrel shows, versions such as “buck-and-wing” (danced vigorously in wooden-soled shoes) and “soft-shoe” (danced smoothly in soft-soled shoes) developed as separate techniques; by 1925 they had merged, and metal taps were attached to shoe heels and toes to produce a more pronounced sound. The dance was also popular in variety shows and early musicals.
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Folk dance by men, with swords or two-handled blades, expressing themes such as human and animal sacrifice for fertility, battle mime, and defense against evil spirits. It originated in Greek and Roman times. A sword dance appeared in Germany in 1350 and later was part of the court ballet when mock battles were staged. The Scottish sword dance is a descendant of the early crossed-sword dances, and the Morris dance retains remnants of the sword dance. Outside of Europe, such dances are found in India, Borneo, and the Balkans.
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Most important religious ritual of the Plains Indians of North America. Ordinarily held by each tribe once a year in early summer, it is simultaneously an opportunity to reaffirm basic beliefs about the universe and the supernatural through rituals and a highly sacred event through which personal sacrifice is undertaken for the general well-being of the community and the individual. The ritual originated long ago and has been widely adopted by indigenous Plains peoples from Saskatchewan, Can., to Texas, U.S. The central rite involves male supplicants who, in order to fulfill a vow, to seek spiritual energy and insight, and for the health of the community, pledge to dance for several days without stopping for food, drink, or sleep, their ordeal ending in exhaustion. Among some tribes, piercing and sun gazing are practiced.
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Dance for sets of four couples standing in square formation. The most popular type of U.S. folk dance, it derived from the quadrille and was originally called a square dance to distinguish it from the contra, or longways, dance (for a double line of couples) and the round dance (for a circle of couples). The U.S. square dance progresses through specific patterns called or sung out to the dancers by a caller and accompanied by lively music played on instruments such as fiddle, banjo, accordion, guitar, and piano.
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Ritual folk dance mainly danced in rural England from about the 15th century. The name, a variant of “Moorish,” possibly arose in reference to the dancers' blacking their faces as part of the ritual disguise. It is principally a fertility dance, performed especially in the spring. Danced by groups of men often dressed in white and wearing bells on their legs, the steps are varied and intricate and are maintained in a jog-trot while handkerchiefs are waved in both hands. It calls for individual characters such as a hobbyhorse and a fool.
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Theatrical dance that developed in the U.S. and Europe in the 20th century as a reaction to traditional ballet. Precursors included Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan. Formal teaching of modern dance began with the establishment of the Denishawn schools by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn in 1915. Many of their students, principally Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham, further contributed to modern dance's definition as a technique based on principles of fall and recovery (Humphrey) and of contraction and release (Graham). Movement often stressed the expression of emotional intensity and contemporary subjects rather than focusing on the formal, classical, and often narrative aspects of ballet. Later developments included a revolt in the 1950s against Graham's expressionism, led by Merce Cunningham, whose choreography included ballet technique and the element of chance. Seealso Agnes de Mille; Hanya Holm; José Limón; Alwin Nikolais; Anna Sokolow; Paul Taylor; Twyla Tharp.
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Dance that has developed without a choreographer and that reflects the traditional life of the common people of a country or region. The term was coined in the 18th century and is sometimes used to distinguish between dances of the people and those of the aristocracy. Courtly and formal dances of the 16th–20th centuries often developed from folk dances; these include the gavotte, gigue, mazurka, minuet, polka, samba, tango, and waltz. Seealso country dance; hula; morris dance; square dance; sword dance; tap dance.
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Set of instrumental dances or dancelike movements. The suite originated in the paired dances of the 14th–16th centuries (pavane-galliard, basse danse-saltarello, etc.). In the 16th–17th centuries German composers began to write sets of three or four dances, as in Johann Hermann Schein's Banchetto musicale (1617). In the late 17th century a basic ordering of four dances—allemande, courante, sarabande, and gigue—became established as standard; other dances came to be interpolated between the sarabande and gigue. In the 19th century suite came to refer to sets of instrumental excerpts from operas and ballets.
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Medieval allegorical concept of the all-conquering and equalizing power of death, expressed in the drama, poetry, music, and visual arts of western Europe, mainly in the late Middle Ages. It is a literary or pictorial representation of a procession or dance of both living and dead figures, the living arranged in order of their rank, from pope and emperor to child, clerk, and hermit, and the dead leading them to the grave. It was given impetus by the Black Death and the Hundred Years' War. Though depictions declined after the 16th century, the theme was revived in literature and music of the 19th–20th centuries.
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Comparison of the Laban and Benesh systems. (A) Stand with the feet together. (B) Step forward on elipsis
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Form of expression that uses bodily movements that are rhythmic, patterned (or sometimes improvised), and usually accompanied by music. One of the oldest art forms, dance is found in every culture and is performed for purposes ranging from the ceremonial, liturgical, and magical to the theatrical, social, and simply aesthetic. In Europe, tribal dances often evolved into folk dances, which became stylized in the social dances of the 16th-century European courts. Ballet developed from the court dances and became refined by innovations in choreography and technique. In the 20th century, modern dance introduced a new mode of expressive movement. Seealso allemande; ballroom dance; country dance; courante; gavotte; gigue; hula; jitterbug;
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Type of social dance for couples, popular in the 17th century. Derived from English folk dance, the country dance is performed in one of three forms: circular or round; “longways,” with rows of couples facing each other; and geometric, in squares or triangles. The main source of country-dance steps and songs is John Playford's The English Dancing Master (1650). The dance was the basis for the 19th-century quadrille. It was taken by colonists to North America as the Virginia reel and, in modified form, as the square dance. There was a modest revival in the 20th century.
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European and American social dancing performed by couples. It includes standard dances such as the fox-trot, waltz, polka, tango, Charleston, jitterbug, and merengue. Ballroom dance was popularized by Vernon and Irene Castle and Fred Astaire and, later, by Arthur Murray (1895–1991), who established ballroom dance studios throughout the U.S. Ballroom dance contests, especially popular in Europe, feature both amateur and professional dancers.
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Nineteenth-century Native American cult. It represented an attempt by Indian peoples in the western U.S. to rehabilitate their traditional cultures. The Ghost Dance arose in 1889, when the Paiute prophet-dreamer Wovoka announced the imminent return of the dead (hence “ghost”), the ousting of the whites, and the restoration of Indian lands, food supplies, and way of life, all of which would be hastened by dances and songs revealed in Wovoka's spiritual visions. The Ghost Dance spread rapidly. It coincided with the Sioux outbreak of 1890, which culminated in the massacre at Wounded Knee, where the “ghost shirts” failed to protect the wearers as promised by Wovoka. The cult soon became obsolete.
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Following and leading in a partner dance is accomplished by maintaining a physical connection called the frame that allows the lead to transmit body movement to the follow, and for the follow to suggest ideas to the lead.
In closed position with body contact, connection is achieved by maintaining a frame, a stable structural combination of both bodies maintained through the dancers' arms and/or legs. The follow moves to match the lead, maintaining the pressure between the two bodies as well as the position.
In swing dances, tension and compression may be maintained for a significant period of time. In other dances, such as Latin, tension and compression may be used as indications of upcoming movement. However, in both styles, tension and compression do not signal immediate movement: the follow must be careful not to move prior to actual movement by the lead. Until then, the dancers must match pressures without moving their hands. In some styles of Lindy Hop, the tension may become quite high without initiating movement.
The general rule for open connections is that moves of the leader's hands back, forth, left or right are originated through moves of the entire body. Accordingly, for the follower, a move of the connected hand is immediately transformed into the corresponding move of the body. Tensing the muscles and locking the arm achieves this effect but is neither comfortable nor correct. Such tension eliminates the subtler communication in the connection, and eliminates free movement up and down, such as is required to initiate many turns.
Instead of just tensing the arms, connection is achieved by engaging the shoulder, upper body and torso muscles. Movement originates in the body's core. A leader leads by moving himself and maintaining frame and connection. Different forms of dance and different movements within each dance may call for differences in the connection. In some dances the separation distance between the partners remains pretty constant. In others eg Modern Jive moving closer together and further apart are fundamental to the dance, requiring flexion and extension of the arms, alternating compression and tension.
The connection between two partners has a different feel in every dance and with every partner. Good social dancers adapt to the conventions of the dance and the responses of their partners.