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Dance: An Expression of Art
Dance has been apart of the world's history for many centuries, dating back to Ancient Egypt, Greece, and India. On this page, you will learn about different types of dance and the history of dance. You will also learn how dance relates to art.
n this section, you will learn about dancing in ancient civilizations such as Egypt, India, and Greece. You will also get a brief overview about great dancers such as Alvin Ailey and Natalia Makarova. There will also be information about the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Dancing in Ancient Civilizations
In many ancient civilizations, dancing was very important and included in many ceremonies and activities. In Egypt, dance was an important part of celebrations, rituals, and festivals dedicated to gods. Priests and priestesses made movements that mimed important events in the stories of the gods. They also imitated different patters. At funerals, Egyptian women danced to show the sadness and grief of the family and friends whose loved one died. Most dances were names after the motion they made such as "the leading of an animal", "the taking of gold", and "the successful capture of the boat". Dance was also used by hunters to help them find prey and for good hunts in the future.
In India, dancing is at least 5,000 years old. Most dances developed out of religious themes and many forms have a story behind them. India has eight major dance forms: Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniaattam, Sattriya, Kathakali, and Kathak. Various hand movements of priestesses in Hindu temples were eventually turned into the form of classical dance, Bharatanatyam. These hand
A bharatanatyam dancer
movements are from as early as 1st century AD. Bharatanatyam, starting in Tamil Nadu, is one of the oldest dance forms and one of the five major dance styles fire because the dancers resemble the movements of flames. In ancient times this dance was performed by Devadasis, or temple dancers. These temple dancers danced in temples to offer thanks to gods and goddesses.
In Greece, dance dates back to prehistoric times. Ancient Greeks believed that dancing was invented by the Gods and that the Gods offered the gift of dance to only a select few of mortals and they then taught others. They also believed that dancing helped to form the body and soul. In the education system dance was very important along with writing, music, and exercise.There are many types of dance. Some of them include: Ierakio, a women dance used to honor the goddess Hera, Emelia, the dance of tragedy, and Imeneos, the dance of marriage. Dance was also used in war, the Spratans danced before battles and fought with rhythmic movements. There was a Dionysiac dance of ancient Greeks. This is when villagers stomp and do many other movements to celebrate after harvesting their grapes. In the ancient civilization Crete, the Minoan civilization developed around 3000-1400 BC, they used dance as apart of their religious life and for entertainment. Other Cretan cultures dances were preformed in open or closed circles. They danced around trees, an altar, or mystical objects to be free from any evil.
Great People in Dance:
Natalia Makarova is an outstanding Russian ballet dancer. She was born in 1940 in Leningrad, now known as St. Petersburg. At age 12 she studied at the Leningrad Choreographic School. After graduating in 1959 she pursued a career there from 1959 until 1970. During her career she danced in ballets like the Giselle, probably one of her most famous performances, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. In 1970 she joined the American Ballet Theater in New York where she danced both contemporary and classic styles. In 1983 Natalia won the Tony Award for her Broadway debut in the musical On Your Toes. From 1980-1981 she directed her own ballet company.
Another great dancer in Alvin Ailey. Alvin was born in Rogers, Texas in 1931 and died in 1989. Once Alvin realized his
passion for dance he appeared on and off Broadway and film as an actor, dancer, choreographer, and a director. In his choreography, which he is known for best, he used techniques from ethnic African and Afro-Caribbean. His choreography was also greatly influenced by the choreographer Lester Horton. In 1958, Alvin formed the famous Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In 1979 he was awarded the Spingarin Medal of the NAACP. Alvin Ailey has created 79 ballets in over his lifetime.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater:
This dance theater is sometimes referred to as the"America's cultural ambassador to the world".The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) was founded in 1958 by Alvin Ailey. Alvin and a group of young black modern dancers first performed as apart of AAADT in New York in March of 1958. The company is diverse but the members are mainly African-American. The dance theater has performed for about 21 million people in 48 states and 71 countries on 6 different continents. To learn more about the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater go to
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater website
There are various types of dance. In this section, you will learn about the dance styles of hip hop and contemporary.
This form of dance ,also known as modern dance, started in the 20th century. It emerged as a reaction to the strict techniques of ballet. Its main focus is on inner emotions and natural, free flowing movement, as shown in the video below. This style is used to tell stories like personal experiences or comments about the society. Facial expressions also help to tell stories and imitate the mood of the dance.
The video to the left is taken from an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater production "Revelations", it features the song 'Wade in the Water'. Contemporary dance
show the connection between the mind and body and explores many different emotions such as happiness, sadness, and peacefulness. This modern dance is very flexible and can be danced to any style of music and with other dance forms. It involves a lot of experimenting with balance, floor work, and fall and recovery techniques. Body techniques such as yoga and Pilates are also seen in the dance. Contemporary dance has four main techniques, Cunningham, Graham, Limon, and release.The Cunningham technique is named after the teacher and choreographer Merce Cunningham. It focuses on the body's structure and change in direction. The technique also work with the body's "line of energy" so that the body has an easy and natural movement. The Graham technique is named after the contemporary dancer Martha Graham. This technique is used to show body contractions of the chest or the upper body and the pelvis, release, and fall and recovery. Named after Jose Limon, the Limon technique works with weight in fall, rebound, and recovery movements. This means that it is supposed to help the dancer to fall more gracefully and to be more light on their feet. The release technique is used to try to get rid of tension and tightness in the body by being more relaxed. It also focuses on using energy and breath correctly. In other words, it helps the dancer to save their energy and have controlled breathing, which can help to release body tension.The video below, from the production "Reflections in D", demonstrates modern dance's free flowing and natural movement. In the photograph below, the dancer has a very powerful expression. What feeling do you think she is trying to convey?
Linda Celeste Sims of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Hip Hop Dance
ip hop began with African-Americans and Hispanics in the Bronx, New York in the 1970s. Hip hop is based on rhythmic patterns and singing. The dancing represents body movements that go with the beat and rhythm of hip hop music. Hip hop culture has many different styles such as break dancing, popping, and krumping.
B-boy Claude dances in front of the Eiffel Tower
Break dancing started around the 1960s and the 1970s but was most popular in the 80s. It is a type of acrobatic dance that uses quick and short movements followed by flowing, wave like motions. A break dancer must have good balance if they do movements on the floor such as spinning on their head, shoulders, and stomach. They also need balance when performing moves on their hands. Break dancing music is electronic combined with "scratching". Another dance style is popping. Popping was started during the mid 1970s in Fresno, California. It was partly inspired by locking, another dance style.Popping movements consist of contracting and releasing the muscles often in the arms, shoulders, legs, backs, chests, and neck. These jerks in a dancer's body are referred to as a pop or a hit. Sam Solomon, sometimes called Boogaloo Sam, was founder of the popping group, Electric Boogaloo. Every time he would flex his muscles he would say the word "Pop,". This eventually led for the dance to be called popping. Krumping, started in the African-American community of South Central Los Angeles, California, has become a major part of hip hop culture. Free and expressive, krumping is a positive way to let out anger. Frequently used in hip hop battles, krumping looks like a fight to outsider because it usually involves physical contact with other dancers, but to the dancers it's just apart of the dance. Krumping is very energetic and involves the dancers arms, head, legs, chest, and feet. The aggressive arm gestures are called flares. Many krumpers paint their faces, the designs can symbolize ceremonial African wars.
Krumpers in Los Angeles, California
Dance Related to Art
Is dance related to art? Yes, in some ways dance is very alike to art. They can both tell a story. In ancient Egypt and India, most dances had a story behind them. In artwork, many scenes tell a story or explain an event that happened.In many art pieces, the artist may try to capture a certain feeling or mood. Similar to this, modern dancers usually use different body motions and facial expressions to portray a certain feeling or tone. In other words, dance is like taking a feeling and making it "come to life". Both dance and art are ways for people to be creative and express themselves .
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