Dance, patterned and rhythmic bodily movements, usually performed to music, that serve as a form of communication or expression. Human beings express themselves naturally through movement. Dance is the transformation of ordinary functional and expressive movement into extraordinary movement for extraordinary purposes; even a common movement such as walking is performed in dance in a patterned way, perhaps in circles or to a special rhythm, and it occurs in a special context. Dance may involve a fixed vocabulary of movements that have no meaning in themselves, as in much of ballet and European folk dance, or pantomime and symbolic gestures may be used, as in many Asian dance forms. Peoples of different cultures dance differently and for varying purposes; their varied forms of dance can reveal much about their way of life.
Dance and Human Culture Dance can be art, ritual, or recreation. It goes beyond the functional purposes of the movements used in work or athletics in order to express emotions, moods, or ideas; tell a story; serve religious, political, economic, or social needs; or simply be an experience that is pleasurable, exciting, or aesthetically valuable.
Dance and the Human Body
Dance and the Human Mind Besides giving physical pleasure, dancing can have psychological effects. Feelings and ideas can be expressed and communicated; sharing rhythms and movements can make a group feel unified. In some societies, dancing often leads to trance or other altered states of consciousness. These states can be interpreted as signaling possession by spirits, or they may be sought as a means to emotional release. A state of trance may enable people to perform remarkable feats of strength, endurance, or danger, such as dancing through hot coals. In some societies shamans dance in trance in order to heal others physically or emotionally. The modern field of dance therapy developed as a means to help people express themselves and relate to others.