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Dance, the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and

within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion,


releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself.
Dance is a powerful impulse, but the art of dance is that impulse channeled by
skillful performers into something that becomes intensely expressive and that
may delight spectators who feel no wish to dance themselves. These two
concepts of the art of dance—dance as a powerful impulse and dance as a
skillfully choreographed art practiced largely by a professional few—are the
two most important connecting ideas running through any consideration of the
subject. In dance, the connection between the two concepts is stronger than
in some other arts, and neither can exist without the other.

Although the above broad definition covers all forms of the art, philosophers
and critics throughout history have suggested different definitions of dance
that have amounted to little more than descriptions of the kind of dance with
which each writer was most familiar. Thus, Aristotle’sstatement in
the Poetics that dance is rhythmic movement whose purpose is “to represent
men’s characters as well as what they do and suffer” refers to the central role
that dance played in classical Greek theatre, where the chorus through its
movements reenacted the themes of the drama during lyric interludes.

A truly universal definition of dance must, therefore, return to the fundamental


principle that dance is an art form or activity that utilizes the body and the
range of movement of which the body is capable. Unlike the movements
performed in everyday living, dance movements are not directly related to
work, travel, or survival. Dance may, of course, be made up of movements
associated with these activities, as in the work dances common to
many cultures, and it may even accompany such activities. But even in the
most practical dances, movements that make up the dance are not reducible
to those of straightforward labour; rather, they involve some extra qualities
such as self-expression, aesthetic pleasure, and entertainment.

History of dance

From the earliest moments of known human history, dance accompanied


ancient rituals, spiritual gatherings and social events. As a conduit of
trance, spiritual force, pleasure, expression, performance and
interaction, dance became infused into our nature from the earliest
moments of our existence - from the moment when first African tribes
covered themselves in war-paint to the to the spreading of music and
dance across all four corners of the world. Without a doubt, dancing
remains one of the most expressive forms of communications that we
know.
The oldest proof of existence of dancing comes from the 9000 year old
cave paintings that were found in India, which depicts various scenes of
hunting, childbirth, religious rites, burials and most importantly,
communal drinking and dancing. Since dancing itself cannot leave
clearly identifiable archeological artifacts that can be found today,
scientist looked for secondary clues, written word, stone carvings,
paintings and similar artifacts. Period when dancing became widespread
can be traced to the third millennia BC, when Egyptians started using
dance as integral parts of their religious ceremonies. Judging by the
many tomb paintings that survived the tooth of time, Egyptian priests
used musical instruments and dancers to mimic important events -
stories of gods and cosmic patterns of moving stars and sun.
This tradition continued in ancient Greece, where dance was used very
regular and openly to public (which eventually brought the birth of the
famous Greek theatre in 6th century BC). Ancient paintings from 1st
millennia clearly speak of many dance rituals in Greek culture, most
notably the one before start of each Olympian Games, precursor to the
modern Olympic Games. As centuries went on, many other religions
infused dance in the core of their rituals, such as Hindu dance "Bharata
Nhatyam" which is preformed even today.
Of course, not all dances in those ancient times were intended for
religious purposes. Ordinary people used dance for celebration,
entertainment, seduction and to induce the mood of frenzied
exhilaration. Annual celebration in honor of Greek god of wine Dionysus
(and later Roman god Bacchus) included dancing and drinking for
several days. 1400BC year old Egyptian painting showed the group of
scantily dressed girls who danced for the wealthy male crowd, supported
by the several musicians. This kind of entertainment continued to be
refined, until medieval times and the start of the Renaissance
when balletbecame integral part of the wealthy class.
European dances before the start of Renaissance were not widely
documented, any only few isolated fragments of their existence remain
found today. The most basic "chain shaped" dance practiced by
commoners was most widespread across Europe, but the arrival of
Renaissance and new forms of music brought many other styles in
fashion. Renaissance dances from Spain, France and Italy were soon
surpassed by Baroque dances which became widely popular in French
and English courts. After the end of French Revolution, many new types
of dances emerged with focused on less restrictive woman clothing, and
tendency for skipping and jumping. These dances soon became even
more energetic in 1844 with the beginning of so called
"international polka craze" which also brought us the first appearance of
famous waltz.
After the short period of time when great ballroom masters created wave
of complicated dances, the era of modern day 2 person dance started
with the careers of famous ballroom dances Vernon and Irene Castle.
After those early years of 20th century many modern dances were
invented (Foxtrot, One-Step, Tango, Charleston, Swing, Postmodern,
Hip-hop, breakdancing and more) and the expansion of musical brought
those dances into worldwide popularity.

Purpose of dance
Dance as ritual

In most ancient civilizations, dancing before the god is an important element in temple
ritual. In Egypt the priests and priestesses, accompanied by harps and pipes, perform stately movements
which mime significant events in the story of a god, or imitate cosmic patterns such as the rhythm of
night and day.
At Egyptian funerals, women dance to express the grief of the mourners.

Sacred occasions in Greek shrines, such as the games at Olympia from the 8th century BC, are inaugurated
with dancing by the temple virgins. The choros is originally just such a dance, performed in a circle in
honour of a god. In the 6th century it becomes the centrepiece of Greek theatre.

In India the formalized hand movements of the priestesses in Hindu templesare described in documents
from as early as the 1st century AD. Each precise gesture is of subtle significance. A form of classical
dance based upon them - known as Bharata Nhatyam - is still performed by highly skilled practitioners
today.
Dance as ecstasy

Any sufficiently uninhibited society knows that frantic dancing, in a mood heightened by pounding
rhythm and flowing alcohol, will set the pulse racing and induce a mood of frenzied exhilaration.

This is exemplified in the Dionysiac dances of ancient Greece. Villagers, after harvesting the grapes,
celebrate the occasion with a drunken orgy in honour of Dionysus, god of wine (whose Roman name is
Bacchus). Their stomping makes a favourite scene on Greek vases; and dancing women of this kind,
whose frenzy even sweeps them into an act of murder, are immortalized in a tragedy, the Bacchae,
by Euripides. Short of this unfortunate extreme, all social dances promise the same desirable mood of
release and excitement.

Dance as entertainment, dance as display

Egyptian paintings, from as early as about 1400 BC, depict another eternal appeal of dancing. Scantily
clad girls, accompanied by seated musicians, cavort enticingly on the walls of tombs. They will delight
the male occupant during his residence in the next world. But dancing girls are for this world too. From
princely banquet to back-street strip club, they require no explanation.

Entertainment, and the closely related theme of display, underlies the story of public dance. In the
courts of Europe spectacles of this kind lead eventually to ballet.