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1 What Is Dance?

Decorative image using word art

Learning Objectives

With this chapter, you will begin working toward:

  • Demonstrating a culturally informed dance aesthetic.
  • Identifying the purposes of dance.

Introduction

Greyscale image of a dancer

There are many definitions of dance, with people defining dance in their own way. In this chapter, you will consider your personal definition of dance. You will learn the purposes of dance. You will reflect on your experiences and upbringing to determine their influence on your dance aesthetic.

  • Poetry, prose, and music are arts that exist in time. It is through the manipulation of rhythm and tempo that these arts are created.
  • Painting, sculpture, and architecture are arts that exist in space. It is through the design of space that these arts are created.
  • Dance is the only art that is a creation in both time and space.

How do you define dance?

Elements of Dance

Dance can be studied in terms of its raw materials. We can describe movement thoroughly by breaking dance down into its basic components. A complete understanding of the building blocks of dance allows us to analyze, interpret and speak about dance in a thorough and understandable way. To increase dance literacy and appreciate dance as an art form, we must look at the elements of dance. Through the manipulation of these elements by the human body, dance happens. The elements of dance will be discussed in more detail later in Chapter 2. To describe dance, it is useful to analyze it in terms of these Elements of Dance:

Purposes of Dance

Color image of two dancers working together.

Dance can be studied in terms of its purpose and function within a culture. Cultures impact how people engage with the world, as environmental influences, societal behaviors, and attitudes are intertwined within the development and shaping of dance forms. In this respect, dance is a carrier of culture. The purposes of dance include:

  • Religious Dance / Dance to Please the Gods
  • Social Dance / Dance to Please Ourselves
  • Performance Dance / Dance to Please Others

Religious Dance

The earliest dances were likely religious in nature. Some religions embrace dance and use it as a part of their rituals. Other religions have eschewed dance or banned it for a number of different reasons.

The ancient Greeks and Africans used to dance to solidify their community. Ancient Greek dance, as well as ancient African dance, was divinely inspired. Everyone participated in religious ceremonies as cultivated amateurs and upstanding citizens. A big part of the program was processions and circle dances. The realities of the cosmos ruled the symbolism of the dances, and references to the sun, moon, and constellations figured into the movements.

Types of Religious Dance

Dances of imitation, medicine dances, commemorative dances, dances for spiritual connection.

Particularly in primitive and indigenous cultures, dances of imitation are performed. Dancers imitate animals and natural phenomena to embody specific qualities, like channeling the prowess of an animal. The dances serve various purposes, often promoting favorable outcomes, such as good weather and hunting.

Shamans, as spiritual leaders, serve as intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds. Both men and women may be Shamans. The religion is animistic (attributes a spirit to all things), and rituals address medicine, religion, a reverence for nature, and ancestor worship. On the summer solstice, Shamans perform a fire ritual at night. The Shaman drums carry the ancestral spirits of the Shaman.

Dances are created to remember a special day, event, or meaningful moment. Some commemorative dances are very old. Maypole dances have early pagan roots. It is a celebration of the rebirth of spring. The Second Line is a West African form of dance that is a ritual to celebrate the life of the recently departed. After the slaves were brought to the New World, this dance became more of a celebration for parties and Mardi Gras festivals.

In some cultures, the dancers seek to suppress their ego to find oneness with God. In others, dance may be used to connect with dead ancestors spiritually. Some religions use dance to tell their origin stories and preserve their heritage.

Social Dance

Color photograph of a couple casually dancing.

In social dance, we establish a connection with others. Social dance can be sorted into four general categories based on the purpose of the dance.

Types of Social Dance

Courtship dances, work dances, communal dances.

In cultures where marriages are arranged, men and women do not engage in courtship dances. In other cultures, dance may serve as simple flirtation or involve more complex rituals.

Some dances are centered around the work that groups perform. Dances that mimic work routines were used in past times to help build unity and continuity among the crew.

Color image of a war dancer from South Nias

Dance has always been used in conjunction with training for war. Several cultures throughout history used dance as grounds for war preparation. The Greeks participated in pyrrhic dances and used weapons to mimic war tactics in preparation for battle. Capoeira was created by enslaved Africans in Brazil, using dance as a guise for practicing fighting. The Māori of Aotearea/New Zealand dance the Haka as an intimidation tactic that instills warriors with ferocious energy. In South Africa, the Indlamu dance was inspired by Zulu warriors during the Anglo-Zulu wars, was derived from the war dances of amabutho (warriors), and was mainly used to motivate the men before they embarked on their long marches into battles barefoot. Today, cultures continue to pass down these traditions to new generations as tradition.

Communal dances are often a part of festivals and parties. Dances like springtime’s Maypole dance and the Jewish hora bring a whole community together to share happy times. Communal dances also can be a way for a community to share grief and memories, like the Table of Silence performed at Lincoln Center every year to commemorate 9/11.

Performance Dance

Performance dances are presentational and often are entertainment for an audience. Some amateur dancers put on shows, but there are also professional dancers with highly polished techniques.

A color image of a ballet dance troupe

Types of Performance Dance

  • Musical Theater, Film, and Television

Dance Aesthetic

A color image of dancers on stage

Your aesthetic is that which you find pleasing or beautiful. It includes your tastes and preferences, your “likes” and “dislikes.” Your perception of dance will be informed by your aesthetic, which might result in subjective judgments about the dances you see. Therefore, it is essential to acknowledge when these biased opinions emerge to be receptive to the dances you are witnessing and objectively respond to them. By keeping an open mind, we can better our understanding of the uniqueness of each dance as an art form.

Cultural Traditions

Culture is made up of the shared values, beliefs, and customs among a group of people and contributes to a person’s dance aesthetic. The rhythms of West Africa or Argentina that you grew up listening to can also play a part in shaping rhythmic tastes. Dance is an important way that the lore and traditions of a culture are preserved over time as they are passed down from generation to generation.

Different religions incorporate dance into their worship. Some religions include it as an intrinsic part of their ritual and even link dance to the spiritual experience. Other religions eschew dance altogether. Your religious upbringing and experiences may influence your dance aesthetic.

The program on safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in formal and non-formal education is a UNESCO initiative that recognizes that

  • education plays a key role in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.
  • intangible cultural heritage can provide context-specific content and pedagogy for education programs and thus act as a leverage to increase the relevance and quality of education and improve learning outcomes.

UNESCO considers dance an intangible cultural resource. UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage division recognizes the following in its summary report on education : “The creative process of intergenerational transmission is at the center of intangible cultural heritage safeguarding.”

Family Influence

Different generations may prefer different dances. The dances your parents and their friends do are probably different from what you and your friends like. Maybe you have a grandparent who can teach you some older dances.

Do you watch dance on television, in movies, online, in live concerts and shows, at half-time? The many factors of your experiences influence your dance aesthetic.

Personal Response

You will also have a personal response to dance. Do you prefer to move fast or slow, bouncy or gliding, all over the room or just a little bit? Do you want your dance to demonstrate emotion, or do you prefer a show of virtuosity?

Kinesthetic

Grey scale image of traditionally costumed dancers.

Consider your physical response to dance as you think about your dance aesthetic. Dance is capable of eliciting joy, sorrow, and a wide spectrum of emotions. What aspect of the dance spoke to your personal experiences?

Dance is a beautiful and meaningful stand-alone art. It can be performed without any ancillary arts. But it is also an art that partners successfully with other arts. Costume, scenery, poetry, drama, and music are often a part of the spectacle. As you watch dances this semester, be aware of the music, costumes, and staging that help to lend color and meaning to the dance.

In preserving a culture’s dances, one is able to preserve its stories and other art forms as well.

People have different ideas about how to define dance. One way to understand dance is to analyze its movement elements: body, energy, space, and time.

We can also study dance in terms of its purpose. Religious dances serve to imitate animals or natural elements, to achieve healing, to commemorate an occasion, or to reach spiritual connection. Social dances can serve in courtship, to find unity in work, unity in war, or camaraderie in the community. Performance dance is created and practiced for presentation to an audience. Western performance dance forms that have developed include ballet, modern dance, tap, jazz, musical theater, and hip-hop. Protest dances can be created to effect social change.

One’s dance aesthetic is shaped and influenced by numerous factors. Family, media, personal response, and kinesthetic response are all contributors to a personal aesthetic.

Check Your Understanding

  • What is your definition of dance? Explain your response. How does your definition differ from those in the textbook?
  • What factors influence your dance aesthetic?

Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in education, UNESCO, https://ich.unesco.org/en/education-01017

So You Think You Know Dance? Copyright © 2022 by LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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NOTES ON THE PERFORMING ARTS

SEMİH FIRINCIOĞLU

Tag: Presentational Dance

19. the rationale of dance.

One or more human beings do the bodily movements they call “dance” to be watched (on the spot or eventually) by one or more human beings. Why?

The answer is obvious and pretty simple: to communicate, to transmit meaning. The fundamentals of semiotics are fully applicable here too. The dancing body constitutes a sign.

Then, why does one want to communicate through movements recognized as “dance” instead of using other means such as speech, writing, gestures? Are we talking about certain types of messages that cannot be communicated in other ways? If so, what are they? When we look at the answers given to such questions, we see that several people have come up with rather speculative (many of them enigmatic and somewhat mystical) answers, mostly with his/her area of interest in mind.

Dance consists of purposeful movements and the purpose is to send visual signals to receivers, who may be viewers or fellow dancers. In the Darwinian assessment of the origins of dance and music, the signal conveyed the physical fitness and competency of the dancer, to be chosen for mating and reproduction. (Miller, 2000)

… the suspicion does not appear improbable that the progenitors of man, either the males or females, or both sexes, before they had acquired the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm. (Darwin, 337)

One can possibly detect the original sexual agitation and selection motive in all forms of dance to a certain degree but, since we have acquired several other means of expression, including “articulate language,” we need to look for broader motives when evaluating the practice. As commonly done, I examine dance under two basic categories:  (1) participatory dance, and (2) presentational dance. This categorization is defined by the response to the signal, fundamentally based on the position and behavior of the audiences.

It is important to note that in smaller and closed societies these categories as well as their subordinates tend to be separated with strict borders and, therefore, are easily differentiable. As a result, categorizations are usually based on studies (ethnochoreology) in such societies. Differentiation becomes more difficult in complex and open cultures where categories often overlap, particularly as a result of the multi-disciplinary practices in the past sixty or so years.

1. Participatory Dance

This category covers a wide range, from waltzing couples at a ball to dancing at a disco, jig dancing at an Irish wedding, ritual dances of Native Americans, line dancing in a Turkish village, etc. The common denominator among them is the physical participation of those present in the event to the mostly repetitive bodily movements, usually synchronizing with the rhythm set by sound. The main point in this type of dancing is the attainment of participation and synchronization, at least at a minimal level.

Spontaneity, that is, the lack of planning and rehearsal, may be the most typical characteristic of this type of dance. Even when learned moves (steps) are performed simultaneously by numerous participants, the focus tends to be on the execution rather than the mechanics of the moves or the identities of the participants. These dances are open to communication among the participants through gaze, touch and speech.

Why is it so common in participatory dances everywhere for two or more people to execute the same moves at the same time? The first answer that I can think of is the confirmation of affiliation with a certain segment of society at a certain setting: everyone there knows, performs and enjoys the steps. This is typical of almost all rituals of popular culture. The second answer may be the feeling of security, invulnerability and relief resulting from synchronization and unification (may be viewed as serenity achieved from ritual). Thirdly, it may serve the purpose of skill display by showing that the person has learned and is capable of performing the particular steps. (The exactitude in the execution of the same moves at the same time by numerous people is often found to be “beautiful,” which I believe is a topic with militaristic connotations that deserves in-depth reflection.) 

I indicated that the primary agitative motive in these dances is the attainment of participation but that does not mean that the participants do not have the desire for bodily exposition or that their moves do not have symbolic dimensions. It is impossible to keep out the elements of skill display and erotic agitation whenever the action is seen by others.

2. Presentational Dance

“Presentational dance” is a term used to indicate dances presented in designated spaces where an audience watches passively (“performance dance,” “concert dance” and “theatrical dance” are the substitutes). Artistic dance forms (ballet and modern/contemporary dance), folk-dance performances and entertainment dances are commonly considered under this category. We should broaden the range and include all forms of dance aimed at display, such as erotic dances and break dancing. 

There is always an “I am different” dimension in presentational dances, justifying the presentation. The act shows that the dancer is able to move in unusual ways, which is often referred to as “skill display.” This is usually the openly frontal aspect submitted for appreciation in entertainment dances but it is maintained to have an insignificant position (behind the choreography) in artistic dances.

While participation dances intend to evoke a physical response from the viewers and/or participants, artistic presentational dances are often said to communicate mentally. In this view “mental” implies that emotional responses are induced through the movements. 

Such views on the perception of dance moves tend to be quite similar to those about the perception of uncoded, nonverbal sounds (triggering emotions or not). Since such sounds do not constitute symbolic signs (like in language), they are perceived through connotations and associations. Yet, sounds follow us around, there are always sounds in our daily lives which we continuously associate with the visuals and actions. This is not true for uncoded, abstract body movements, they basically do not have associative functions outside of the dance milieu.

It has been agreed upon in cognitive studies that a listener tracks the progress (the timeline) in music by developing a series of expectations which are either fulfilled or unfulfilled. Where do those expectations come from? The expectations are generated by the previous musical or general life experiences that have planted information in our memories. 

Then, how does one track a presentational dance performance when it consists of uncoded movements, that is, movements that can be designated as “dance moves” only, without making allusions to coded gestures? Can one develop expectations from one moment to another of a dance performance as in music? 

I think the “method” one uses to watch a dance performance is the same. However, the expectations mostly stem from information one has obtained about forms. In addition to the knowledge about the physical abilities of the human body, formal information learned from assemblages and arrangements of bodies and objects in space that one has witnessed determine the expectations. We can add to these the innate tendencies to perceive forms in particular ways, as were observed by Gestalt researchers. Basically, the audience tracks the formal choices of the planners of the performance – of which total constitutes the composition. In that respect, it is not possible to transmit content with dance moves, narrative or not.

The audiences of presentational dances are usually in the position of consumers. In artistic dances, they are expected to assess the consumption-worthiness of the product according to the choreography. Unless coded and recognizable gestures are incorporated into the work, audiences tend to have a hard time in “reading” and tracking the sequence of formal choices. They almost inevitably assess the value according to the build and physical ability of the performers, complexity and difficulty of the movements, uniformity between the steps performed by two or more dancers, perfection of lines and symmetries, amount of labor put in the production, and, at times, originality of the presented forms. As they get repeated, these experiences give way to definitions, standardization and the formation of rules and conventions.

For example, when folk dances are taken out of their origins and put on stage, their identity changes drastically, they turn into anthropological presentations and/or extravaganzas that exhibit skill and practice. The original process, indexed to participation, turns into a planned, rehearsed and performed product. For instance, uniformity in the movements of multiple dancers, which creates the sense of unity in participation dances, turns into a yardstick to measure the level of quality, skill and attainment on stage.

The “dance theater” ( Tanztheater ) concept was and is an effort to expand the communicative features of modern dance by incorporating familiar, coded movements and gestures from daily life. I am not talking about the limited use of pantomimic gestures as in ballet to help narrate a story. Dance theater creates the action directly out of the familiar, recognizable movements. Although not expressionistic, experiments by those involved in New York’s Judson Dance Theater in the early 1960s also aimed at including all types of body movement in presentational dance as an opposition to form-based approach.

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Mirko Gozzoli & Edita Daniute: Our Vision For The Presentation Before The Dance

what is presentation on dance

In our online course with Dancesportlife Academy , we have touched a lot of important subjects in the ballroom dancing world. We shared our vision starting from personal posture to couple’s hold and going to key principles and choreography. But we also discussed one topic that is not often explained by teachers: the presentation before the dance. 

How important is the presentation before the dance?

The answer is: very important!

At the competition, before we start the dance we need to introduce ourselves. It’s very important even how we walk onto the dance floor, let alone how we present our partner in the correct place!

So here are a few things that you need to check if you want to have a good presentation on the dance floor.

First of all, you need to decide on which side, corner or space of the floor you need to start. But be careful: you also need to be flexible to change your spot if there are too many couples in your spot. 

How you walk on the floor is one of the most important aspects. You need to take your time so that it doesn’t look like a race for the most wanted space of the floor.

Walk with confidence and show yourself to everyone! Then you select your corner and wait patiently while the MC/Chairman counts the couples.

The invitation

We are ballroom dancers, thus an elegant attitude is a must! The man is wearing a tail suit and the lady is wearing an exquisite dress: we need to invite her in an appropriate way. 

The man’s invitation should be in relation to the music. So, if I have a waltz, the invitation will be on the first bar of music. Once the partner arrives, we take our hand position. We should take the hand position in relation to the preparation step, like this will all look very natural and not mechanical. 

Everything should blend and be in harmony! 

The connection

Be also careful with the space between the man and the lady ! If you stand too close, you may end up looking a bit panicked as if you would need each other’s protection. 

The connection is very important, as there are many couples that too far away from each other and they look like they don’t even dance together. Furthermore, it will be unclear for the lady how exactly she should be positioned.

The bow at the end of the dance

This is also a very important part, as it the last impression that you leave to the audience and the adjudicators. 

We suggest that you bow in the same direction and, if possible, have an underarm turn and then a bow. Never leave your partner alone! 

Mirko Gozolli & Edita Daniute: Our Vision For The Presentation Before The Dance

The small details are the ones that make a difference and always remember to take the appreciation of the public and not ask for it!

If you want to have access to all the episodes from our online courses make sure you go to Dancesportlife Academy and check the available packages.  

what is presentation on dance

Mirko Gozzoli & Edita Daniute

Mirko Gozzoli & Edita Daniute are one of the most renowned names in ballroom dancing. They have been both World Champions and European Champions and have been dancing for both WDC and WDSF. The couple started dancing together in 2009 and have ended their competitive career in 2014 by winning the World Title at the WDSF PD World Championship.

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Contemporary Dance : What is it ?

Jan 31, 2017

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If Ballet is the heart of dance, Contemporary is the soul. Contemporary dance combines a variety of dance techniques such as ballet, modern, jazz and lyrical to create a beautiful style of dance filled with emotion.

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Presentation Transcript

Contemporary Dance: What is it ? www.dancersgallery.com

Contemporary Dance: What is it?

Contemporary Dance: What is it? • If Ballet is the heart of dance, Contemporary is the soul. Contemporary dance combines a variety of dance techniques such as ballet, modern, jazz and lyrical to create a beautiful style of dance filled with emotion. • It incorporates a lot of floor woark and although technique is important, contemporary dance is more of a free form than the disciplined style of ballet. Contemporary dance is often raw and thought provoking taking the audience on an emotional journey.

Contemporary Dance: What is it? • Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Isadora Duncan are a few of the great contemporary dancers that have helped develop the style into what it is known as today. Contemporary dance is a true expression of emotion through movement. • Contemporary dance has exploded in the last decade and is often the style of choice for performances and competitions alike. • Dancer’s Gallery is proud to offer Contemporary dance classes in the Cooper City, Davie, Pembroke Pines area.

Contemporary Dance: What is it? • The amazing instructors teach students how to dig deep to turn their emotions into movement in a unique way. • The performance and competition teams at Dancer’s Gallery receive intense training in the style along with ballet, jazz and tap. Acro skills can also be useful in Contemporary.

Contemporary Dance: What is it? • Call Dancer’s Gallery today at 954-437-9910 to try a class or come take a tour of the amazing 10,000 sq ft studio complete with an in-house theatre.

Contact Us ------------- Address: 12323 SW 55th St, Cooper City, FL 33330 Phone: 954-437-9910 Email: [email protected] Website:www.dancersgallery.com

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Event details.

Join us for a special presentation and conversation with poet, performance and visual artist Manu Tzoc Bucup. 

The Performance as Public Practice Fridays@2 community is hosting a presentation and conversation with Manu Tzoc Bucup about their work " Mobile Bodies: Object and Word/Language and Artifact." This presentation is thanks to the 2024 Lozano Long Conference: Indigenous Lands, Resisting Sexualities in Abiayala, held on April 18-19, 2024 and organized by Performance as Public Practice faculty member Enzo Vasquez Toral and Native American and Indigenous Studies Director and Spanish and Portuguese faculty member Luis Cárcamo-Huechante.

A graphic for an artist talk with Manu Tzoc Bucup about their work MOBILE BODIES: OBJECT AND WORD/LANGUAGE AND ARTIFACT

About Manu Tzoc Bucup

Manu Tzoc Bucup is a poet and self-taught visual artist of Maya K’iche’ descent who has perfected his craft through workshops, diplomas and readings of contemporary art and literature. His work consists of metaphorizing social realities of intersectional identity through poetry and art. Consistent topics in his work include gender, identity, body, origin, memory, language, sexual dissidence and all possible hybridizations. Bucup’s literary work has appeared in magazines and literary anthologies throughout Latin America, in Spanish, English, Tsotsil, French and K’iche’. He has been featured in national and international poetry festivals and art exhibitions.

April 23, 2024 at 5:00 p.m. WIN 2.112

The presentation will be in Spanish with consecutive interpretation provided by PPP students.

This event is free and open to the public. Snacks will be provided.

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Ballet Dance Appreciation

Ballet dance appreciation presentation, free google slides theme and powerpoint template.

Ballet is one of the most technical varieties of dance, but also one of the most beautiful. If you want to show your appreciation for ballet, download this new customizable template for Google Slides and PowerPoint. The visuals are very elegant thanks to the pictures of ballet dancers and the use of a hand-written typography for the titles. The palette plays a part too, with a combination of white, gray and cream.

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