What is dancing?

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
The body can perform such actions as rotating, bending, stretching, jumping, and turning. By varying these physical actions and using different dynamics, human beings can devise an infinite number of body movements. Out of the range of movements that the body is capable of performing, every culture emphasizes certain features in its dance styles. The ordinary potential of the body can be expanded in dance, usually through long periods of specialized training. In ballet, for example, the dancer exercises to rotate, or turn out, the legs at the hips, making it possible to lift the leg high in an arabesque. In India, some dancers learn to choreograph their eyeballs and eyebrows. Costuming can extend the body's capabilities. Toe or pointe shoes, stilts, and flying harnesses are a few of the artificial aids employed by dancers.
The primary elements of dance include (1) the use of space—floor patterns, the shapes of the moving body, and designs in space made by the limbs; (2) the use of time—tempo, the length of a dance, rhythmic variations, and the attitude toward filling time, from taking one's time to making quick stops and starts; (3) the use of the body's weight—overcoming gravity to execute light, graceful movements, surrendering to gravity with heavy or limp movements, or exerting the body's weight against gravity with strength; and (4) the use of energy flow—tense, restrained, or bound movements or freely flowing motion.

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.

Background provided by:

Back to Let's