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Dance is the art of movement of the body, usually rhythmically and to music, using prescribed or improvised steps and gestures. "A dance" is any one prescribed sequence of such movements, or the music to which it is performed, or an event at which it takes place. Dance may also be regarded as a form of nonverbal communication recognisable in other animals; in bee dances and behaviour patterns such as mating dances.
Dance can be categorized and described in various ways. It may be analysed purely by its choreography, its repertoire of movements, or it may be classified according to its time or place of origin. Yet study reveals many generic similarities in many different times and places.
An important distinction is to be drawn between theatrical and participatory dance. Nevertheless, these two categories are not completely separate. Each may borrow from the other. Social dancers may become professional or competitive dancers, may be watched by millions. Both may also have special functions; they may be ceremonial dances performed only at one time of year, they may be intended as an erotic dance, a war dance or a sacred or liturgical dance. Such dances allow both emotional expression and invocation.
Theatrical dance, also called performance or concert dance, is intended primarily as a spectacle, usually a performance upon a stage by virtuoso dancers. It often tells a story, perhaps using mime, costume and scenery, or else it may simply interpret the musical accompaniment, which is often specially composed. Examples are western ballet and modern dance, Classical Indian dance and Chinese and Japanese song and dance dramas. Most classical forms are centred upon dance alone, but performance dance may also appear in opera and other forms of musical theatre.
Participatory dance, on the other hand, whether it be a folk dance, a social dance, a group dance such as a line, circle, chain or square dance, or a partner dance such as is common in western Western ballroom dancing, is undertaken primarily for a common purpose, such as social interaction or exercise, of participants rather than onlookers. Such dance seldom has any narrative. A group dance and a corps de ballet, a social partner dance and a pas de deux, differ profoundly. Even a solo dance may be undertaken solely for the satisfaction of the dancer. Participatory dancers often all employ the same movements and steps but, for example, in the rave culture of electronic dance music, vast crowds may engage in free dance, uncoordinated with those around them. On the other hand, some cultures lay down strict rules as to the particular dances in which, for example, men, women and children may or must participate.
Dance does not leave behind clearly identifiable physical artifacts such as stone tools, hunting implements or cave paintings. It is not possible to say when dance became part of human culture, but archeological evidence indicates dance has been an important part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations and entertainment since the earliest human civilizations. Examples of such evidence include 9,000 year old paintings in India at the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures, dated c. 3300 BC.
One of the earliest structured uses of dances may have been the telling of myths. Before the invention of written languages, dance was one of the methods of passing stories down from generation to generation. Dance was also used to show feelings for one of the opposite gender. Another early use of dance may have been as a precursor to ecstatic trance states in healing rituals; dance is still used for this purpose by many cultures from the Brazilian rainforest to the Kalahari Desert.
Many contemporary dance forms can be traced back to historical, traditional, ceremonial, and ethnic dance. For example, some Sri Lankan dances are related to aboriginal, mythical devils known as "yakkas", and according to local legend, Kandyan dance began as a ritual that broke the magic spell on a bewitched king.
During the first millennium BCE in India, many texts were composed which attempted to codify aspects of daily life. In the matter of dance, Bharata Muni's Natyashastra (literally "the text of dramaturgy") is one of the earlier texts. Though the main theme of Natyashastra deals with drama, dance is also widely featured, and indeed the two concepts have ever since been linked in Indian culture. The text elaborates various hand-gestures or mudras and classifies movements of the various limbs of the body, gait, and so on. The Natyashastra categorised dance into four groups and into four regional varieties, naming the groups: secular, ritual, abstract, and, interpretive. However, concepts of regional geography has altered and so have regional varieties of Indian dances. Dances like "Odra Magadhi", which after decades long debate, has been traced to present day Mithila, Odisha region's dance form of Odissi (Orissi), indicate influence of dances in cultural interactions between different regions.
From these beginnings rose the various classical styles which are recognised today. Therefore, all Indian classical dances are to varying degrees rooted in the Natyashastra and therefore share common features: for example, the mudras, some body positions, and the inclusion of dramatic or expressive acting or abhinaya. The Indian classical music tradition provides the accompaniment for the dance, and as percussion is such an integral part of the tradition, the dancers of nearly all the styles wear bells around their ankles to counterpoint and complement the percussion.
The Punjab area overlapping India and Pakistan is the place of origin of Bhangra. It is widely known both as a style of music and a dance. It is mostly related to ancient harvest celebrations, love, patriotism or social issues. Its music is coordinated by a musical instrument called the 'Dhol'. Bhangra is not just music but a dance, a celebration of the harvest where people beat the dhol (drum), sing Boliyaan (lyrics) and dance.It developed further with the Vaisakhi festival of the Sikhs.
The devil dances of Sri Lanka or "yakun natima" are a carefully crafted ritual with a history reaching far back into Sri Lanka's pre-Buddhist past. It combines ancient "Ayurvedic" concepts of disease causation with psychological manipulation. The dance combines many aspects including Sinhalese cosmology, the dances also has an impact on the classical dances of Sri Lanka.
Ballet developed first in Italy and then in France from lavish court spectacles that combined music, drama, poetry, song, costumes and dance. Members of the court nobility took part as performers. During the reign of Louis XIV, himself a dancer, dance became more codified. Professional dancers began to take the place of court amateurs, and ballet masters were licensed by the French government. The first ballet dance academy was the Académie Royale de Danse (Royal Dance Academy), opened in Paris in 1661. Shortly thereafter, the first institutionalized ballet troupe, associated with the Academy, was formed; this troupe began as an all-male ensemble but by 1681 opened to include women as well.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there was an explosion of innovation in dance style characterized by an exploration of freer technique. Early pioneers of what became known as modern dance include Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Mary Wigman and Ruth St. Denis. The relationship of music to dance serves as the basis for Eurhythmics, devised by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, which was influential to the development of Modern dance and modern ballet through artists such as Marie Rambert. Eurythmy, developed by Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner-von Sivers, combines formal elements reminiscent of traditional dance with the new freer style, and introduced a complex new vocabulary to dance. In the 1920s, important founders of the new style such as Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey began their work. Since this time, a wide variety of dance styles have been developed; see Modern dance.
African American dances are those dances which have developed within African American communities in everyday spaces, rather than in dance studios, schools or companies and its derivatives, tap dance, disco, jazz dance, swing dance, hip hop dance and breakdance. Other dances, such as the lindy hop with its relationship to rock and roll music and rock and roll dance have also had a global influence.
Many early forms of music and dance were created for each other and performed together. This paired development has continued over time, producing paired dance/music forms such as the jig, waltz, tango, disco, and salsa. Some musical genres have a parallel dance form such as baroque music and baroque dance; others, such as classical music and classical ballet, developed separately.
Although dance is often accompanied by music, it can also be performed without music, or it may provide its own audible accompaniment as in tap dance. When performed with music, dance may or may not be performed in time to the music (synchronous to the music's time signature).
Dance education emerged as an academic discipline in the early 1920s, and by the late 20th century, recognition of the academic value of practical knowledge led to the acceptance of practice research in academic dance education programs. Today dance studies are offered through the arts and humanities programs of many higher education institutions, leading to Bachelor of Arts and higher academic degrees. A dance study curriculum may encompass a diverse range of courses and topics, including dance practice and performance, choreography, ethnochoreology, dance notation, and dance therapy.
Professional dancers are usually employed on contract or for particular performances or productions. The professional life of a dancer is generally one of constantly changing work situations, strong competitive pressure and low pay. Consequently, professional dancers often must supplement their incomes to achieve financial stability. In the U.S. many professional dancers belong to unions (such as the American Guild of Musical Artists, Screen Actors Guild and Actors' Equity Association) that establish working conditions and minimum salaries for their members.
Dance teachers typically focus on teaching dance performance, or coaching competitive dancers, or both. They typically have performance experience in the types of dance they teach or coach. For example, dancesport teachers and coaches are often tournament dancers or former dancesport performers.
Dance teachers may be self-employed, or employed by dance schools or general education institutions with dance programs. Some work for university programs or other schools that are associated with professional classical dance (e.g., ballet) or modern dance companies. Others are employed by smaller, privately owned dance schools that offer dance training and performance coaching for various types of dance.
Choreographers are often university trained and are typically employed for particular projects or, more rarely may work on contract as the resident choreographer for a specific dance company.
A dance competition is an organized event in which contestants perform dances before a judge or judges for awards, and in some cases, monetary prizes. There are several major types of dance competitions, distinguished primarily by the style or styles of dances performed. Major types of dance competitions include:
Today, there are various dances and dance show competitions on television and the Internet.
As with other forms of entertainment, dance is sometimes performed to raise awareness of social issues. For example, dance performances have been used to raise awareness of diabetes, violence against women, protecting water resources, Alzheimers, and breast cancer.
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