originated in the courts of Italy and France during the Renaissance, becoming primarily a
professional discipline by the late 17th century. Since that time, even though its style and
subject matter continue to evolve, it has remained a major art form of Western culture. In
the late 19th and early 20th centuries the American dancers Isadora Duncan and Ruth St.
Denis rebelled against ballet. In Europe the Swiss educator Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, the
Hungarian dancer Rudolf von Laban, and the German dancer Mary Wigman also
experimented with new ways of expression. The work of these modern dance pioneers led
to the development of important new dance idioms.
A participatory dance form, folk dance is usually traditional and performed by members of
a community. Although not easy to define, the term seems best to fit those dances
originated by agricultural peoples for secular and sometimes ritual purposes, in countries
that also have an art form of dance. The Balkan kolo, English morris dance, and North
American square dance are examples, as are Maypole dances and the different kinds of
sword dance. Folk dances are usually group forms that are passed from one generation to
another. Some folk dances, however, are not traditional; many Israeli folk dances, for
example, were choreographed in the 20th century in the style of European folk dances, to
serve similar purposes. Today, folk dances are frequently performed onstage, for which
they are usually adapted for presentation to an audience.
Popular or Social Dance
Some recreational dance forms, especially in industrialized societies, are termed popular dances or social dances. In that they are for participation, are relatively easy to learn, and generally originate from the people rather than from a choreographer, they resemble folk dances. Unlike most folk dances, these social dances tend to be couple dances and are popular only for a short time.
The social dances of the nobility in the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and baroque eras were derived from folk dances. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, with the growth of the middle class, social dancing expanded beyond the aristocracy and, as ballroom dance,
became popular in Europe and North America. The waltz and polka of the peasants, like dances of earlier eras, became transformed into social dances.
In the United States the interrelations among the various immigrant groups produced new forms of social dance and popular entertainment, such as square dancing and tap dancing. New ballroom dances, popularized by the American dancers Irene and Vernon Castle before World War I (1914-1918), swept Europe and America. The fox-trot and Latin American dances such as the tango, rumba, and cha-cha came into prominence. The syncopations and movements of Afro-American dance were integrated into popular social dance: about 1900 with the cakewalk and in the 1920s with the Charleston and black bottom; in the 1930s and 1940s with the big apple and the lindy; and eventually with the rock-and-roll dances of the 1950s and their successors in the following decades. In the 1960s the trend, exemplified by the twist, was to dance without touching one's partner. Couple dancing returned in the 1970s and 1980s with dances such as the hustle performed to disco rock music. In the mid-1980s break dancing, which had originated with inner-city children, became popular throughout the country. This highly acrobatic form of solo dancing was accompanied by heavy electronic “hip-hop” music.
The 20th-century social dances, as well as the innovations in ballet and modern dance, influenced the growth of dance in motion pictures and musicals. In Hollywood the American choreographer Busby Berkeley created elaborate group production numbers, and the American dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers combined ballroom and tap dancing. The groundbreaking dance sequences in Oklahoma! (1943), in which American choreographer Agnes de Mille integrated dance into the plot, inspired others to create a larger role for dance in musicals. In West Side Story (1957), choreographed by the American ballet master Jerome Robbins, dance was for the first time the vehicle through which much of the musical's plot was expressed. In the 1970s dance became even more important on Broadway in shows such as A Chorus Line (1975) and Dancin' (1978).
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