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History of Dance

Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION 3
WHAT IS DANCE? 4
TRIBAL RITUAL DANCES 8
FOLK & BALLROOM DANCING 12
THE CLASSICAL BALLET 17
MODERN DANCE 24
REFLECTION 29
BIBLIOGRAPHY 30
APPENDIX 32

Introduction

I have been introduced to this assignment and was given a freedom
to choose the topic on my own. I took advantage of this opportunity to research the
history, development and origin of dance. I have a great interest in this topic
because I am a professional Ballet dancer and Teacher with the Royal Academy of
Dancing. It is a British institute with offices all over the world. Dance constitutes a
very important part of my life, hence I found it important to study it more deeply.
Dance has many aspects: technique, style, meaning; which relate
directly to culture, place and time. My quest was to study the development of dance
from ancient times to our days. I hope to have learned many new things about
dance and perhaps the human drive behind it. I hope to have succeeded in
bringing all the information together clearly and well.
Enjoy your reading.

Chapter I

What is Dance?
Why do people take part in dancing?


Dance is defined “a graceful expression of human movement,
disciplined by rhythm” It is traditionally, but not necessarily, accompanied by
music. The word “dance” comes from Old High German “danson” meaning to
stretch or drag. There is little limitation as to how movement can take place, thus
dancing is a very vast art form. The origin of dance is very mysterious, since here
are not many sources available. Nevertheless ancient illustration and
archaeological artifacts relate dancing to agricultural societies and cultures as far
as 9,000 years back. Such evidence has been found in various locations from the
Danube Basin to modern-day Pakistan.
Our world is a world of motion and rhythm. The earth rotates and
circles the sun; water gush downwards if they are on top of an elevated place; the
wind carries with it sand, dust and clouds that bring rain; flames that flicker and
sway. Our world is very dynamic. The sky looks different every night and costal
lines change with the tides. All living creatures move about to assure their best
nourishment, security and habitat. Many animals also migrate regularly.
That is why many believe that movement is an instinct, that there’s
something in us that obliges us to communicate and express ourselves physically.
Our body language can state our affection or disgust and we often wave, gesture
and sign with our hands while we speak. We also jig about when we are
overwhelmingly happy or when we are in a great deal of physical pain (like when
one hurts one foot and jumps violently on the other, for instance).
Dance is divided into Ritual/Religious, Social and Theatrical dance.
All are driven by the same need we have to express ourselves. Religious or Ritual
dance is a primal form of dance meant to please the forces of nature. Social
dance, as it sounds, is an entertaining, communal activity one takes part in. It has
ethnical character as well as a social one. Theatrical dance is more sophisticated. It
is there to make you think of or realize something. Specific dance styles under
these categories are much younger than dance as a concept. They are constantly
changing and developing because Dance—like any other art—reflects on the
lifestyle, environment and mentality.
There are two reasons we enjoy watching people dance. First, we
relate to their emotion because body language is universal. Second, it is different
and new each time we see it. Just like it is watching it rain. Like a sports game, it is
interesting time after time because movement is never exactly identical. People
pay a lot of money nowadays to see dancing on stage because they enjoy
watching it! It succeeds in transferring very complex emotions, stories or messages
into comprehensible patterns of movement. It is very structured, elegant, graceful
yet simple and pleasant to observe.
Self-expression on stage also seeks acceptance and sympathy for
ones feelings. One also enjoys the freedom in expressing this way (if someone
objects to an idea, a more acceptable rational can be suggested to him or her
because what is understood by movement is individual). Once Theatrical dance
began, Choreography, the act of creating dances, became a profession. There was
suddenly a need for professional dancers and appropriate music, costumes and
d?cor. All of which together attributed to the atmosphere the choreographer wanted
to create. Bravo! A recital is born.

Chapter II


Tribal Ritual Dances
What did ancient men dance for?


It has been presumed that movement and dance were instinctive. But
if we were to assume it is not, humans must have learned to imitate it. It is the only
possible solution. Either way, they were aware of the forces of movement in
nature. They believed that by imitating, impersonating and mimicking what they
say around them they would perhaps understand it better or seize control over
these features that dictated what their lives were like. When they understood they
couldn’t, they sought to just please them forces. Man has created the Gods who
control his world and therefore control him. If the Gods move things around then
humans must also move around, dance. Since it is the language all the Gods
would understand, man learned to express his needs, wants and emotions
through dance.
Tribal dancing started to take shape. They started with turning and
swaying, stepping and stamping and created their own rhythms to please the
Gods. They later used more complex movement and played drums and whistles.
People would dance to plead for rain, love and fertility, to celebrate birth or
marriage or the life of a deceased. More and more complex needs and emotions
started to be expressed in these dances that became rituals.
Men would dance before major events such as farming, battles and
hunts. Their dancing told the story of succeeding that act. They knew they
depended on nature’s mercy. Therefore they would mimic what they wanted to
accomplish or have. Extravagantly exhibiting their needs and wants and repeating
the steps over and over like magical spells reassured them they would get what
they longed for. Dancing wasn’t important because it was beautiful, but because it
was meaningful to them and thought to be essential to their survival.
Each society grew its customs and dances according to their
lifestyles, needs and habitats. Their customs involved rituals to tell stories and
mythology, to exorcise evil spirits and celebrate harvest, puberty, tribal pride and
legacy. They were also used as marriage and initiation ceremonies. Some
civilizations would only allow men to dance, and the others only women. Some
would only use dance as a means of prayer to the Gods and reach religious
ecstasy and hypnosis while others would also practice forms of early social
dancing. They usually wore festive clothing for these rituals. They would cover
themselves in make up and jewelry. Use of fire was also common. They played
drums and whistles for the background rhythms that set the mood for the service.
Environment and geography also affected their dancing. A farmers’
society would have agriculture-related dances, while hunters’ or shepherds’
society would emphasize different things in their dancing. Walking—and
therefore also dancing—on the top of mountains differs from that on plains and
prairies. Therefore civilizations in flat regions use more space when they dance.
Others danced in circles or rows, some jumped and leaped in the air. Their sources
of food and preoccupations were very different. Therefore their needs, emotions
and the way they expressed themselves were different. Some Tribes dances on
their feet, some while sitting down or on their hands. Some used props and
accessories and others dwelled on simplicity and merely used their bodies.
Egyptian dance, for example was of religious character, while Greek was of a more
dramatic one. Indian dance, which emphasizes the hands and arms, was of
spiritual and mythological character. Overtime many of these very different dance
traditions have lost their religious character and became early social folk dancing.
Some tribal dances are still practiced today, almost the same they
have been for centuries. Examples are the Hawaiian Hula, which is still danced to
please the Goddess of the Islands, Hindu temple dancing such as the Bharata
Natya, and many African tribal dances such as the ones of the Bastari people that
dance for fertility and rain and hold initiation ceremonies for their adolescence.

Chapter III

Folk & Ballroom Dancing
How and why did dance develop
into a social culture and obsession?


Folk dancing is the survival of ancient ceremonies and ritual dances.
It gained a national and ethnic character as well as a very cheerful one. The early
Christian Church approved of dancing, and even approved of dance in some
masses and services. In the Middle Ages the ever-so-strong Church simply wished
to seize control over dance (the same way it did with art, science, and music) in
order to guarantee its authority and influence, so it was banned. The rational
behind the dance boycott was its connotation to pagan worship and corporeality,
but just as the Church failed to root out many other pagan customs, dance
remained popular. Sadly, it’s evolvement, due to the Church’s policy, throughout
the Middle Ages was very slow.
In the meantime, each European civilization has developed its
distinctiveness and unique dances based on lifestyle, geography and mentality.
Most people were poor and illiterate, stressed due to famines, plagues, sudden
deaths and war. They usually never met new people; and they could only step out
of their daily routine at the markets or during the festivals and carnivals they held
(which had, by the way, pagan or gypsy character, such as the harvest and fertility
festivals). All their social activity condensed into these events. It was their time of
recreation and celebration. They would dance and release stress and strong
emotion. They would sing and trade. It was their chance of finding a spouse or
meeting long lost friends in these carefree dances. Anyone could learn and join in.
This form of dance was important because it was stress relieving and fun, special
and lively. From place to place the common dancing was different and matched
people’s way of living. Examples of such dances are the Polish Krakowiak and
Mazurka, Ukrainian Gopak, Spanish Flamenco (based on the gypsy dances), the
Irish jig and line dances. They would play music with tambourines, flues, guitars,
and any other instrument they had. There would be singing and the rhythm of feet
stamping. They would wear their regular clothes: simple dresses and trousers (it
was all they had).
Royals and aristocrats also created their own dance culture. On the
other hand, the hysterical, excessively cheery peasant dances were inappropriate
for them. They lived a very different life. They were wealthy, educated, mannered,
classy and polite. But they also needed leisure, entertainment and a time and
place for socializing. The nobles held banquets and masks, lavishly showing off
their riches. Their ballroom dancing was based on the peasant folk dancing, but it
was much calmer. (For one, no tossing girls high up in the air!) The waltz for
instance was based on the Austrian Volta and the German l?ndler. Other such
dances are the Minuet and the Cotillion based on the B?ndle. Some ballroom
dances kept their original names like the Italian Tarantella, supposedly capable of
curing a tarantula’s bite; the Hungarian Czardas, which consist of sets of steps, the
first slow and the second fast; or the Polonaise, a dance of curtsies and bows.
Ballroom dancing became a trend. Composers and choreographs
were hired to write music and compose dances for these balls. Many famous
compositions and composers became infamous because of this (Bach, Mozart,
Chopin, Strauss and Schubert). And many beautiful dances became popular. The
music that has been written and the new dances and techniques were the
foundation of the birth of ballet. In time, kings requested training for dancers so
they could perform extraordinary elements as entertainment in the Royal courts.
Dance spectacles (Ballet recitals, Cancan performances, etc.) started to become
popular.
The world grew smaller as technology advances and any new trend
in music or dance was able to spread really quickly. In the nineteen hundreds
western people were liberated and were given basic rights. Tunes and rhythms
from all over the world came together. South African and Latin rhythms were
finally introduced (the people who knew them were slaves up until now). Their
beat was very close to its tribal ancestry. The slave’s work and religious songs
affected music and dance and boosted the popular styles. They used western
brass instruments and applied their rhythms to known tunes. Jazz, Blues and
Swing opened new options of movement (the Charleston, the Foxtrot, the swing,
Cakewalk, Tap dancing). The new pop-culture of social dance arrived: nightclubs,
rock and roll and the twist all started here. The Latin and African rhythms also
opened up a whole new world of ballroom dance: Tango, Lambada, Cha-Cha-
Cha, Salsa, Mambo, Conga and many more. Another form of dancing that
developed was tap, which soon became common in musical. Going out to night
clubs that feature dancing (either ballroom, Latin, swing, jazz, hip hop or just
regular dancing to pop-rock music) is a cheap, fun activity that’s very common.
Even today people still dance their old folk dances. In America barn
dancing is very popular, such as the Virginia reel or the Square dance. In Israel,
the Horrah circle dancing is still popular. It originates in biblical times, when the
Hebrews would circle the arc. Other traditional forms of dance are the Middle
Eastern belly dance and the Japanese Kabuki, which combines dance, drama and
vocals. All over the world people are trying to conserve ancient traditions. Folk
dancing is usually taught in schools (mainly in America) and in Europe Folk
dance spectacles for tourists are common. One can also take classes in almost
any form of ethnic dancing from belly dancing to flamenco. The Royal Academy of
Dancing Syllabus includes in its curriculum the study of the ancestors of ballet:
the Czardas, the Mazurka, the Polka, Krakowiak, Polonaise, Waltz and more.

Chapter IV

The Classical Ballet
How does a social activity become a performing art?


Ballet is the name given to a specific dance form and technique.
Dance works choreographed using this technique are called ballets and may
include: dance, mime, acting and music. Ballet is best known for its virtuoso
techniques such as Pointe work, Grand Pas de Deux and high leg extensions.
The Word Ballet comes from “ballare”, to dance in Italian. Ballet has its roots in the
Italian and French courts of the Renaissance.
In Europe of the Middle Ages noblemen entertained themselves and
socialized at the masks and banquets they held. At first they danced simple
ballroom dances, but it had became an obsession; they hired dance masters such
as Domenico de Piacenza and Antonio Cornazano to compose new dances to new
pieces of music for almost every such event. Their popularity was determined by
the success of the parties they held, and they each wanted to show off their riches
and glamour. In the fifteen hundreds the Royals chose to see the performances
rather than act them out themselves. They requested shows on specific subjects
and themes. These shows consisted of music or singing, drama and dancing
(Opera Ballet). These spectacles called “ballets” were very popular in the Royal
courts. The adolescents of the lower-ranked Royalty were invited to amuse and
perform to the guests of honor-the king and queen. The dances were amateur and
were not comprised of very sophisticated technique. They consisted mainly of
mythological or Christian scenes (due to the influence of the Renaissance). The
audience saw the spectacle from seats elevated above the court, so the dancing
used lots of space and geometrical shapes. The accuracy or grace of the
movement was not visible to the audience and therefore barely existed.
King Louis XIV was a dance enthusiast from a very young age. He
would perform in the courts and invent new dances and stories for his own
performances. He was a rising star as a youngster. Once his duties diverted his
attention to politics and government, he founded the first ever ballet school named
l’Acad?mie Royale de la Danse (1661). With Charles Beauchamp as headmaster
supervising 13 other dance masters and composers, the first ever documentation
of rules, basic positions and ballet technique was devised. Based on the Royal
ballroom dances, the dance masters at the school developed and pushed forward
ballet’s technical requirements and flawlessness. The school also introduces
ballet slippers, soft sole shoes with no heel that allow the foot to bend and Pointe.
It was Carlo Blasis who presented theories on classical ballet that enabled it to
become what it is today. By understanding the impact of weight, he found out how
to balance the body and shift weight in ways unthought-of up until then. His
breakthroughs carried out perfection and technique. Ballet continuously grew
more graceful and exact. It was important and popular because it was beautiful
and because not anyone off the street could perform the steps, and also because
everyone could relate to it.
The eighteenth century was a period of great advancement in the
technical standards of ballet and the period when ballet became a serious
dramatic art form. The movements of the dancers were now designed to express
character and assist in the narrative (Ballet d’Action). Hence, stories begin to be
performed rather than scenes from Roman or Greek mythologies. Romantic tales
of the north (Germanic and Norse legends) are being used, instead. The Classical
period ends and the Romantic one begins. The Romantic period in ballet roughly
corresponds to the Romanticism movements in art and literature. Like these
movements, Romantic ballets focused on the conflict between man and nature,
society and supernatural. Romantic ballets were usually set in two acts: the first
representing daylight and civilization, the second taking place at night in the
spiritual realm, and ending in tragedy. The Romantic era marked the rise of the
ballerina (previously men had dominated performances). This began when Marie
Taglioni (1804-1884) darned her slippers and created a hardened toe box and
became the first woman to perform en Pointe. She also shortened her skirt
revealing a ballerina's ankles for the first time, making it possible to dance better
and perform harder routines. Taglioni became the prototypical Romantic ballerina,
praised highly for her lyricism, use of upper back and soft, rounded arms. In
retrospect she was the one who raised the standards of technical proficiency and
presentation the most during the Romantic period.
Catherine the Great of Russia (1762-1796) took the French ballet to St
Petersburg, and hired Marius Petipa (1855-1881) to perfect the dance method and
create a strong, leading Russian ballet theater. His best-known works were The
Sleeping Beauty (1890) and Swan Lake both set to commissioned scores by
Tchaikovsky. In Russia, opera houses were under the direct control of the Tsar.
Hence productions were paid out of the Imperial budget. Prior to the Revolution,
Russian Ballet reflected the Tsar’s superiority and grandeur. This changed after
the revolution, allowing it only as long as it was light and uplifting. Petipa’s ballet
method was more robust and athletic, especially for male dancers. Petipa made
great use of the new Pointe shoe, and required his dancers to complete everything
en Pointes. This meant ballet shoes needed to be stronger. Harder shanks were
introduced with reinforced toe boxes to make the platform bigger. New shoes
meant dancers could extend their repertoire to do more on Pointe. By now the
Russian ballet had surpassed the French ballet and many Russian dancers had
become international stars. Probably the most notable ballerina of this time was
Anna Pavlova, (1881-1931). She maintained the ideal of balancing on the
smallest, pointiest tip. Sergei Diaghilev, (1872-1929) founded The Ballet Russes in
1909. This new company believed that d?cor costume and music were as
important as the dance itself. Diaghilev's company broke up with his death in
1929. His dancers and choreographers then joined companies in many parts of
the world, and strongly influenced ballet wherever they went.
One of these dancers was George Balanchine (1904-1983), who
established the School of American Ballet in 1934. Balanchine's influence on
American ballet is immense, both technique-wise and through some of his
innovations. He believed that costumes limited his dancers’ work, so he discarded
them. They danced in casual dance-class attire, which allowed the audience to
see the full dance. The choreographer gave his name also to the stereotypical s
lim-line body image we now associate with ballet dancers. Such figure looked
good on stage and enabled technical progress, but achieving the "Balanchine
body" has unfortunately led to many eating disorders in ballerinas. Balanchine
preferred to display dancing without a story--either as an expression of the music
or as a study in a particular style of movement. This resulted in a series of
collaborations with the Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky, which reached its
height in the masterpiece Agon (1957). Balanchine also created choreography for
more romantic music, such as Vienna Waltzes (1977). Sir Frederick Ashton of the
United Kingdom's Royal Ballet also choreographed nondramatic ballets, such as
Symphonic Variations (1946) and Monotones (1966).
Only In the last century did British Ballet become dominant. Adeline
Genיe of Denmark, Tamara Karsavina of Russia, Phyllis Bedells of England, Lucia
Cormani of Italy and Edouard Espinosa of France established the Royal Academy
of Dance in 1920. Once it received Royal charter, the British School grew in size
and influence to become the largest International dance academy. There are over
200,000 students and 15,500 members enlisted today in 82 countries. The school
introduced new and very specific syllabi for each age group. The method is built
for everybody, from very small children to adults, and produces strong dancers with
a sense of performance. Unlike many methods, it was planned to fit the dancers
body at each phase at his or her physical and technical development. Margot
Fonteyn and Alicia Markova are two graduates of this school and major dancers
who had the focus of world attention for almost thirty years.


Chapter V


Modern Dance
How does Classical ballet relate to the contemporary
dancing popular today?


Modern dance is a theatrical dance form that is distinct from ballet.
This doesn’t mean that technique and strength are not important anymore. On the
contrary, achieving movement in modern ballet could be even harder than the
classical. In it, most of the specific lines and story frames ceased to exist, but new
options for movement were found.
At about the same time that Russia became an Imperial producer of
ballet dancers and choreographies, an American woman was developing a
revolutionary concept of dance. Aesthetic dance Pioneer Isadora Duncan (1878-
1927) was trained in ballet but later found that these movements did not allow her
as much expression of herself as she desired. Her objection to them was so
downright that rather than modifying the conventional postures and steps Duncan
threw them away. Her new form of dance was spontaneous and highly personal
and let her feel that her spirit had been liberated. She shocked and delighted her
audience by baring her body and sole. Her movements were of natural lines, and
her clothes were simple tunics. Her improvisational technique was too personal to
be carried out as a method of teaching, though.
Because it was so personal, this new kind of dance was an art form
that could not be passed on to the next generation. Duncan, however, inspired
younger people also to express themselves through dance. This was the
beginning of the form now called Modern Dance. Other modern-dance pioneers
are Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, who specialized in highly theatric al and exotic
scenes, or stage pictures. Their improvising evoked of mystical feelings or ideas
like the dances of India and Egypt. Like the opera-ballets of the 18th century, their
pieces satisfied an audience's hunger for a glimpse of foreign people and places.
No modern dancer was as influential as the American Martha
Graham (1894-1991). A pupil of St. Denis and Shawn, she invented a style of
dance that did not just ignore traditional ballet steps but contradicted them
completely. Graham's revolutionary technique denied the primary importance of
the classical positions of ballet. For her the source of interest and energy was the
center of the body, not its boundaries. Graham saw the breath pulse the primary
source of dance. Exaggerating the contractions and expansions of the chest and
flexing of the spine caused by breathing, she devised a basis for movement that
she thought represented the human being's inner conflicts. Dance, just like
breathe, as a means of survival, like an instinct. Through her company and her
school, which trained successive generations of disciples, Graham influenced
every modern dancer of importance—Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, and Ohad
Neharin —and made America the center of creativity for modern dance.
Another dominant pioneer was Doris Humphrey (1895-1958). To her,
gravity was the source of the dynamic instability of movement; the arc between
balance and imbalance of the moving human body, fall and recovery, represented
one's conflicts with the surrounding world. Forsaking lyrical and imitative
movement and all but the most austere costumes and simplest stage effects,
Graham and Humphrey composed dances so stark, intellectual, and harshly
dramatic as to shock and anger audiences accustomed to being pleased by
graceful dancers. Graham explored themes from Americana, Greek mythology,
and the Old Testament. She viewed music merely as a frame for the dance.
Humphrey experimented more with sound; in a 1924 work she discarded music
altogether and performed in silence, and later she used nonmusical sound effects,
including spoken texts and bursts of hysterical laughter.
By the end of World War II, young choreographers had begun
breaking the rules of the modern dance establishment—creating dances that had
no theme, expressed no emotion, dispensed with the dance vocabulary of fall and
recovery, contraction and release. Merce Cunningham (1919--), for example freed
dance from spatial restraints, eliminating strong central focus from choreographic
patterns and devising dances that can be viewed from any angle. He also released
dance from traditional musical constraints by using electronic music. Here Modern
ballet becomes jazz. Many new forms of dance developed out of it. Street dancing
such as hip-hop that became popular, break-dance, and further use of Modern
Ballet and Jazz, such as contact improvisation.
Theatrical ballet’s purpose is the choreographer getting his or her
point across—a message, an emotion, sometimes a story. All these forms of
dance are a direct outcome of the development of technical Classical ballet and
the release and breaking away from its harsh lines. The characters of early social
and tribal dancing affected the development of dance then and now. Its shifting
and change throughout history is immense and impressive. All you have to do is
stay tuned for the next big break.


Reflection
This document presents the history and development of dance in a
chronological overview. It also presents the rational behind the development and
further explanations about the relationship between history, culture, social-
economic state and human nature to the dance. I tried my best to follow the
directions and do the research well.
I learned a lot in the process, and was surprised at some of the
discoveries. I never though of the psychological connection between dancing and
self-expression (“dance as an instinct”) nor did I relate geographical features to the
format of social or folk dance that’s common in that certain area. This research
project gave me a great understanding of the chronology and logic behind the
development in dance and ballet.
I hope you have gained from the reading as much as I have writing.
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