Dance

Dance

[dans, dahns]
Dance, George, the elder, 1695-1768, English architect. Among his public buildings in London, the most important is the Mansion House (1739-52), an example of the neo-Palladian style. He built the churches of St. Botolph, Aldgate, and St. Leonard, Shoreditch. His son, George Dance, the younger, 1741-1825, also an architect, studied in Italy. In 1768 he became one of the four original members of the Royal Academy. He was a powerful and inventive designer, as evidenced in his renowned Newgate Prison (1770-78). Among his many other London works were designs for Finsbury Square and for Alfred Place and Crescent. Sir John Soane was his pupil.

See study by D. Stroud (1972).

dance [Old High Ger. danson=to drag, stretch], the art of precise, expressive, and graceful human movement, traditionally, but not necessarily, performed in accord with musical accompaniment. Dancing developed as a natural expression of united feeling and action.

The Origins of Dance

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.

Ritualistic and Ceremonial Dance

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.

The Development of Dance in Europe

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.

Dance in the Americas

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.

Bibliography

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).

Connection is essential to all partner dancing. In Argentine Tango, Lindy Hop, Balboa, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Salsa, Contra dance, Modern Jive and other styles of partner dance, connection is the primary means to communicate synchronized dance movement between the lead and follow. Other forms of communication, such as visual cues or spoken cues, are often considered to spoil the dance, unless used in specific circumstances, e.g., practicing figures, or figures which are purposely danced without physical connection. Connection can be used to transmit power and energy as well as information and signals - some dance forms (and some dancers) are at one extreme of pure power, and others will be at the other extreme of pure signalling, but most are probably a mixture of both.

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.

Connection occurs in both open and closed dance positions (also called "open frame" and "closed frame").

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 an open position or a closed position without body contact, the hands and arms alone provide the connection, which may be one of three forms: tension, compression or neutral.

  • During tension or leverage connection, the dancers are pulling away from each other with an equal and opposite force. The arms do not originate this force alone: they are often assisted by tension in trunk musculature, through body weight or by momentum.
  • During compression connection, the dancers are pushing towards each other.
  • In a neutral position, the hands do not impart any force other than the weight of the follow's hands in the lead's.

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.

See also

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