How long has dance been around for

dance - Kids | Britannica Kids

Ancient Dance and Traditions

Paintings made in caves more than 10,000 years ago suggest that even the earliest peoples danced. The first written records of dance date back some 4,000 years to the ancient Egyptians. Dance was a crucial element in festivals for their gods. The ancient Egyptians also brought skilled dancers from central Africa to Egypt to provide entertainment.

Many cultures in Asia have a long history of formal, theatrical dance. In India the earliest book discussing dance is more than 1,500 years old. Bharata-natya is a classical dance form based on this book. The dances of the Japanese royal court are called bugaku. They were adapted from traditional dances of China, Korea, India, and Southeast Asia. Dance is also an important feature of traditional forms of Japanese drama.

For the ancient Greeks dance was an important part of religious ceremonies as well as everyday life. Dances at festivals to honor a god developed into Greek drama in the 400s bce. Later in ancient Rome religious festivals also featured dances.

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages (500–1500 ce) in Europe traveling acrobats danced to entertain crowds. Some festivals on Christian feast days also featured dancing. But some Christian leaders of the time thought dancing was sinful.

Social dancing became important to the nobles of the Middle Ages. The upper classes learned to move gracefully in formal dances for couples. The peasants had their own dances. They usually sang and danced in large lively groups.


During a period in Europe called the Renaissance (mid-1300s to 1500s) dancing became an art, not just an entertainment. The royal courts began to stage festive pageants that combined dance, music, and drama. Professional dancers began performing ballet in theaters in the 1660s. From then on ballet was a form of theatrical dancing separate from social dancing.

Theatrical Dancing

Professional dancers and teachers developed a formal ballet technique. It was based on basic poses and steps. Ballet became extremely popular in France in the 1700s. In the 1800s the French dancer Marius Petipa went to Russia. He helped make that country the center of the ballet world. In the early 1900s the Russian arts promoter Sergey Diaghilev helped spread ballet through Europe and the Americas.

At the end of the 1800s the American dancer Isadora Duncan started what is now called modern dance. She felt that the set steps and poses of ballet limited her ability to express herself. She created a new form of dance that was free-spirited and highly personal. Many other dancers developed their own styles of modern dance in the 1900s. One of the most influential was Martha Graham. Her company and school trained generations of important modern dancers.

The American choreographer Agnes de Mille made dancing an important part of musical theater. Her production of the musical Oklahoma! in 1943 mixed ballet, folk, and modern dance. The dances Jerome Robbins created for West Side Story (1957) brought a new edge to musical theater. Robbins influenced later Broadway choreographers such as Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett.

Social Dancing

Once ballet became a professional form, the dancing done in the European royal courts was social dancing. Starting in the 1700s dances were held in ballrooms and houses. That way more people could participate.

Over the years, various dance forms went in and out of style. Some of the most popular were the minuet (1600s and 1700s) and waltz (1700s and 1800s). As music became less formal in the 1900s, so did social dances. Popular music—from big band to rock and roll and house music—has continued to inspire new forms of social dancing.

Dance Facts and History

Dance is a form of art that is made by purposefully recreating selected sequences of human motion, which can be imbued with the values of aesthetic and symbolism that are acknowledged by both performers and observers from within the particular culture. The dance itself can be freeform or can have a predefined choreography that may or may not align with traditions of origin or historical period.

The dance can be performed to serve various functions (social, competitive, ceremonial, martial, erotic…) but it also has two distinct forms – theatrical dance in which dancers perform for an audience, and participatory social dance where dancing in a group is encouraged to anyone. Participatory dances are most commonly found at weddings, social gatherings, and festivals, and they can be enjoyed with folk music both alone or in a group (pairs, lines, chains or other forms).

Theatrical dance is known for having more elaborate choreography, planning, costume, scenery and other elements that make the entire production feel more professional. The performers of theatrical dance are usually professional “ virtuoso dancers”, who practice their craft over the years, and are often tasked to interpret the musical accompaniment with advanced dance moves or routines.

Origins and Early History

The dance has always been with us, even before the arrival of written language and modern history, when our earliest cultures evolved utilizing oral and performance methods to pass the stories from one generation to the next. Many historians believe that social, celebratory and ritual dances are one of the essential factors of the development of early human civilizations.

The earliest findings have pinpointed the origins of ancient dances in 9000-year-old India or 5300-year-old Egypt, but the records more common infusion of dance into a modern culture can be found from Ancient Greece, China, and India. All these old dances evolved, eventually morphing into a wide variety of Roman and European medieval dances, traditional Chinese dances, Hindi and other traditional dances, respectively.

After the arrival of European Renaissance, the history of music and dance exploded with the new additions to song and dance. Ease of travel and immigration to the new world brought these dances into the mix with many native cultures of the New World, forging countless new dance types that are still popular to this day.

Do you know these facts about dance?

  • First archeological proof of dance comes from the 9 thousand year old cave paintings in India.
  • One of the earliest uses of structured dance was introduced in religious ceremonies that told the stories of ancient myths and gods. Egyptian priests used this kind of visual storytelling in their rituals.
  • Ancient Egyptians used dancing for both entertainment and religion.
  • Dance represented important parts of many Greek and Roman religious ceremonies.
  • Ancient Greeks and Romans annually celebrated their wine gods Dionysus and Bacchus with several days long festivities filled with alcohol, song and dance.
  • History of European medieval dance is fragmented and limited, but is believed that simple folk dances were widespread among common and wealthy classes.
  • Modern dance history in Europe started with Renaissance, when many new dances were invented. After that, periods of Baroque, post French Revolution, Elizabethan era, World War 1, Prohibition, Ragtime and pre-WW2 brought many new waves of dance styles.
  • Waltz, one of the most popular dances today came into popularity in mid-19th century by the efforts of the famous composer Johann Strauss, but its origins can be traced even to the distant 16th century.
  • At first, waltz was performed with arm's length between male and female dances. The shocking transition to the close embrace happened only after English Queen Victoria fell in love with the dance and forced this change.
  • Around 30 thousand people are employed in UK dance industry today, maintaining around 200 dance companies.
  • Even people in wheelchairs can dance! Such dancing is very popular in Europe where there are even competitions in Latin dances with special wheelchair choreographies.
  • Professional dance is today regarded as one of the most demanding physical abilities and sports. According to studies, 80% of all professional dances have at least one major injury during their career and staggering 93% of all dance teachers were forced into that position after career ending injury.
  • High amount of injuries in professional dancing is induced by high levels of fatigue, little time for rest, inadequate healing techniques and high stress levels. All those factors can produce burn out periods when dancers have decreased strength, coordination, cognitive and immune functions.
  • Lion Dance is one of the most popular religious and ceremonious dances in China and surrounding countries of Taiwan, Korea and Japan. This dance can signify bringing of good fortune, ward of evil spirits and be an excellent showcase in martial arts proficiency.

After several thousand years, dancing managed to completely infuse itself into our way of life. Here you can find more information about this fascinating activity and the impact it can have on our lives.

Since the dawn of human civilization, dance remained in close connection with us. Here you can find out more about this fascinating part of our culture, all from its roots in ancient civilizations to the modern times.

Thousand years of innovations and evolution created modern dance that we all enjoy today. Here you can find out more about specific dance styles and the way they are implemented and created.

There are many specific dances which can be sorted into single dance styles or families of related dances. Here you can read more about specific dances and variants of a specific dance.

Facts about Dancing

  • Professional dances are today regarded as athletes.
  • Dancing is very beneficial to your health. It lowers the chances for heart and blood vessel diseases, improves posture and weight, reduces stress and tension, improve brain function because of constant presence of music, and can improve relationship between dance partners.
  • Because of the need to maintain strict head position while dancing, doctors often prescribe use of dance for those patients that need to develop their peripheral vision.
  • First balled dancer that used pointe shoes was Marie Taglioni in 1832 ballet "La Sylphide".
  • One tutu shoe cost up to $2000 dollars to be made, and one ballerina wears between 2 and three pairs per week.
  • Because of high physical demand on their bodies, most professional dances retire from dancing during their mid-30s.
  • Famous modern dance Cha-Cha originated from Cuba.
  • Famous energetic ballroom dance can-can (or cancan), which is performed by the row of female dances in long skirts originated form 1830s Paris ballrooms.
  • Origin of tap-dancing comes from the tribal dances of African slaves. Their arrival in North America introduced that dance to the western audiences.
  • Dancing with metal tap shoes became popular in United States during 1920s and 1930s. One of the most famous tap-dancing performers of that time were Nicholas brothers, who were instrumental into bringing that style of dance into Hollywood movies.
  • Famous movie stars such as Fred Astaire, Ray Bolger and Gene Kelley used tap-dancing to enchant the minds of the worldwide audience with great success.
  • Hindu religion has very close relationship to dance and music. This connection can most visible be seen in their countless Bollywood movies that all celebrate dancing.
  • One of the dances that managed to completely change the landscape of dance history is polka! This energetic dance that was focused for young women that liked to jump, hop and turn swept across the world in mid-19th century.
  • Dancing represent great physical exercise for the people of all age. It can be safely practiced from the age of 2 to 102!
  • Many historical waves of dances were perceived as the "destructors" of the old way of dance. Examples of that can be found in the 1920's Charleston and the era of Rock music.
  • First ballroom dance that was ever created is Italian Viennese Waltz.
  • One of the reason that ballroom dancing is starting to return into popularity is because famous TV competition show "Dancing with the Stars".
  • African slaves that were brought in Brazil 300-400 years ago were prohibited from practicing martial arts. Therefore, they developed the mix of dancing and fighting that is known today as capoeira.
  • Breakdancing was first created as a "less lethal" form of fighting between warring African-American street gangs in 1970s Bronx area of New York City. This form of dancing re-emerged into worldwide popularity during 1990s.
  • Dance marathon competition started as early as 14th century England. They reached height of their popularity in the bloom of US entertainment expansion during 1930s depression era. Some competitions were performed in the 22 day long marathons.
  • The most sensual dance of modern times is without a doubt a Tango. It originated from 1890s Argentina, but it quickly became very successful in Europe.

What does dancing look like in the universe?

What does dancing look like in the universe?

There are not many simple questions left in the world that have not yet been answered. People of different musical tastes are increasingly interested in dance for everyday life, but they cannot find what they need, because modern dance is focused on stage performances and is not prepared for solo improvisation.

Many people love to dance, but few can do it beautifully, because they do not understand what beauty is made of, although visually they immediately distinguish a beautiful dance from an ugly one. As a result, we have a gap between the desire to dance beautifully and the inability to learn it.

* * *

According to search engine statistics, millions of people on the Internet are looking for information on how to learn how to move, dance simply ... for themselves - and millions of sites offer their services. Do you know how many resources can really satisfy this request? Practically not much. Don't believe? Check it out! Try to find those who would suggest that you learn how to move freely to different modern music, without being tied to a particular style. You will be surprised. Do you know why? Because teaching modern dance comes down to the study of individual styles and there is no single base that would underlie modern dance. To date, there is no official "modern dance" at all. It is customary to understand modern dance as any modern dance production, i.e. any imagination of the author. If you come to a dance school to learn how to just move, without a style, they will tell you that this is impossible and the dance must have a basis, some kind of base that comes from one style or another, at least from choreography, hip-hop or breakdance . But is it? Is it true that modern dance is based on a certain style or choreography. Let's look into the past and see where the dance originates from...

I'm not talking about the dance performance, which is the show that we see on stage. And about the fact that we ourselves dance ... in life. Do you understand? Almost all schools teach dance based on stage productions, and not on how to simply move in life ... for yourself ... for the dance floor. Even many professional dancers cannot apply their skills outside the stage.

Few people know how to move, few people even understand what gives the impression of “beautifully moving”. We can easily distinguish whether someone is moving beautifully or not, but sometimes we are not able to adequately assess ourselves.
It feels like they gave us a body, but forgot to attach instructions to it. A musculoskeletal system without instructions is a useless machine that serves to carry its head. And for the most part, this completely exhausts the idea of ​​the human body. All most of us can do in terms of dancing is to bring our head to the bar.


How long do you think dance has existed?…

…It has existed for hundreds, thousands or even millions of years.

Do you think any dance style has been around for thousands of years? Style is just a product of human imagination. Initially, the dance is not based on style at all.

Dancing is a natural need, we have a dancing instinct. The instinct to just move to the music without being tied to a style. Everyone had a desire to dance when the music was playing ... And at this moment we feel the same as our ancient ancestors.

Initially, we all dance well, because instinct is in us. It is like black matter: we do not notice it, but it permeates the entire planet. It wakes up in each of us when we want to move to the music.

How to start dancing? By dance, many understand a certain performance, performance, but in fact it is the ability to move, it is mobility. Creativity is in each of us, but in addition to it, a tuned instrument, a prepared body is also required.


The more complete a person's understanding of his body, the more complete the dance becomes. A person who thinks he has two arms and two legs moves like an egg into which arms and legs are stuck. A person who understands how his body works moves differently.

Many people think that fashion determines how to move. In reality, it is not fashion that determines, but the structure of the body, physiology. The principles of movement are one, all living things move according to the same principles as a person.

The human body came to its modern form as a result of walking. It is perfectly adapted to compensate for the movements of body parts relative to each other, allowing it to move efficiently. Thanks to this principle, there is an even distribution of the load on the entire body. We can run fast, maintain balance precisely due to the compensation of movements within the body.

When you move instinctively, you move automatically. The most simple and convenient movements for us are cyclic, because they do not require attention and allow us to move without thinking for a long time. Any aerobic exercise is based on cyclic movements, this is a comfortable and natural mode for the body. Dance is no exception. Do you want to dance for a long time and relax at the same time? We need a cyclical dance based on repetitions.


Dance music is different in that it is mostly based on repetition. Cyclic repetitive movements - cause the instinct of movement. In order for movements to be automatic, they must be cyclic, so dance music is based on repetition, it is based on the cycle, the well-known musical square. Dance on the machine - this is the rest, when you do not have to remember anything and think about the movements.


The main function of our body is to save energy. We always strive to take the easiest path.
The best way to save energy is to move in a balanced way, evenly distributing the load, so you can dance for a long time and dynamically. The dynamics of the dance can develop according to your whim, but the energy must be kept to a minimum. The energy-saving movement mode is the optimal dance technique for relaxation: maximum pleasure and minimum fatigue.


There are movement techniques, they were not invented by us, they have always been. These are some principles on which different styles are based. Well, for example, shock, wave, resonance, isolation. The dance develops, it absorbs more and more techniques. In the future, the dance will take in all the basic techniques from different styles - this is inevitable, the dance becomes universal.

You can achieve the effect in the dance either through power movements (physical effort) or through techniques (principles of mechanics). Techniques allow you to save energy in the dance without making a lot of effort. If a person does not own technology, then he does not own a certain principle. This limits his ability to move. It is impossible to imagine the dance of the future without the use of techniques.


What's more, if we look at dance from a scientific point of view, we can safely say that there is only one way to move optimally. Our body also has optimal modes of operation. It is these regimes that our instincts dictate to us. Everyone who moves a lot inevitably comes to them, to ideal movements: comfortable, simple, effective.


Let's get the whole picture. The universal universal concept says: "The laws of physics and gravity are the same" (in the part of the universe accessible to us). And if there is a dance somewhere, it will be based on the same principles. By the structure of the skeleton, you can determine how the creature moves. If someone from another world wants to imagine how a person moves, he will proceed from the general laws of physics.

What should dance be like for life?

— it should be simple and comfortable, balanced for the body and universal for music, cyclic for relaxation, spectacular and varied, flexible and adaptable to different people and different tasks

What is the basis of the aesthetics of modern dance?

— not style or fashion determine the beauty of movement, but the nature of the structure of the human body, how we are arranged

What will dance be like in the future?

Today dance has taken its place as a kind of recreation, but has not been formed aesthetically. In the future, we will see the dawn of the age of dance among the masses. This will happen because information has become available, learning technologies have become simple and effective. And the abyss that used to separate needs and opportunities is disappearing.

In the future, dance for relaxation will come to a common, unified format that includes techniques from different styles. All of them will find their place in the unified system of the Modern Dance Base (Dance Body Soft).

Diana Stark & ​​Max Adams (c)

What is dance • Episode transcript • Arzamas

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CourseWhat is modern danceAudio lecturesMaterials

Contents of the first lecture from Irina Sirotkina's course "What is modern dance"

Although everyone has an idea of ​​dance, it is not easy to define it. Probably the most general definition of dance is the movement of a person, moving him in space to music or rhythm. But questions immediately arise. What movement? Moving where? And if this is a movement not of the whole body, but of one finger? Try moving your finger now. Will it be a dance? And with the whole hand? And if you move your shoulder a little, turn on the body and turn your head? You have probably already felt how difficult it is to draw a line and say where "just movement" ends and "dance" begins.

The second word in our definition is man. But can only humans really dance? And if, for example, autumn leaves are spinning on the path of the park, can it be called a dance?

And finally, is the presence of music in the dance obligatory? It is known that many modern dance artists preferred rhythm alone. For example, Mary Wigman's favorite musical instrument is the gong. Trying to make dance an independent, independent art, they tried to free themselves from music as from something imposed on the dance from the outside, and declared that they would dance "the music of their own body." And Alexander Sakharov, a dancer from the Russian Empire, who lived and worked in Munich at the beginning of the 20th century, participated in the Blue Rider art association, even danced paintings - abstract paintings by Wassily Kandinsky.

So, we return to the fact that it is hardly possible to give any formal definitions of dance that claim to be rigorous. However, you can try to answer the question "What is dance?" Not directly, but by pointing to the contexts in which it is included.

Definitely, dance is a part of the movement culture of mankind. Speaking of motor culture, we draw an analogy with visual culture, which everyone is familiar with: these are the visual images that we produce, among which we live, our man-made visual environment.

Aleksey Gastev, one of the founders of the so-called movement for the rationalization of labor, which developed in our country in the 1920s, spoke about motor culture. Motor culture Gastev called "the sum of the motor habits of the people", a set of "motor skills and abilities" available to a person. Gastev was himself a skilled worker at a metal plant, and he had in mind, first of all, the culture of labor movements. After the revolution, millions of soldiers, yesterday's peasants, poured into the city, and Gastev believed that they needed to be taught the culture of movements, and not only labor, but also everyday habits that were new to them, the skills of city life - to eat, sleep, wash.

Then, in Soviet Russia, they talked a lot about the creation of a "new man" - and so, the inoculation of a new culture of movements was a real way to create this new man. At the same time, the sciences of biomechanics appeared (the same Gastev helped its birth), the physiology of movements, and kinesiology. They - each in their own way - studied movement as a physical process: biomechanics - the structure and functioning of the motor apparatus; physiology - muscle fatigue, coordination and regulation of movements from the nervous system; Kinesiology is a practical discipline, the application of biomechanics and physiology to the goals of therapy and movement improvement.

The concept of “body technique” is close to the concept of motor culture. The French ethnographer and sociologist Marcel Mauss proposed in 1930 to refer to the ways in which people in different societies use their bodies: it is similar to what Gastev called "movement habits." At the same time, Moss (as one might expect from an ethnographer) cited as an example not only some exotic movements, but also body techniques of a contemporary person. He tells, for example, that when he was little, he was taught to swim breaststroke. And there was such a habit - to draw in water and spit it out, just like a paddle steamer does. So, Moss swam in this way until the end of his life and was never able to switch to a new, modern crawl. These body techniques are engraved in our body, we carry them in ourselves as part of our "I".

And one more concept, useful for those who want to understand what dance is: the concept of the modes of functioning of the body. I first heard about it from the St. Petersburg philosopher Alla Mitrofanova, but it appeared, most likely, earlier. In the work of the body, there can be different modes that a person can consciously switch, like speeds on a gearbox. For example, the body may be tense, tense, muscular, working, ready to make a physical effort. And it can be relaxed, resting, in a state of calm tone, without excessive stress. Choreographers have long noticed that these modes can be used to create different moods for the audience, different impressions of the dance. Recall, for example, the resting body of the faun Vaslav Nijinsky in his ballet The Afternoon of a Faun: this body is soft, relaxed, but ready for effort, for a jump, like that of an animal.

Faun's Afternoon. Choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, music by Claude Debussy. Charles Jude and Marie-Claude Pietragalla are dancing. 1970s

And the bodies of the dancers in the "Dances of Machines" are the finale of Fyodor Lopukhov's ballet "The Bolt", staged in the early 1930s on a production theme - tense, dynamic, high-speed.

Bolt. Choreography by Fyodor Lopukhov, revised by Alexei Ratmansky, music by Dmitri Shostakovich. 2006 No video recordings of Lopukhov's choreography have been preserved; this is Alexei Ratmansky's version staged at the Bolshoi Theatre, in which Ratmansky generally follows Lopukhov's idea.

In the last third of the twentieth century, a special discipline appeared - the anthropology of movement and dance. Returning to our question, what is dance: when anthropologists were faced with a variety of forms and types of dance, with very different movements, which in different cultures are classified as dance, they formulated the question in a different way. They began to ask not "What is dance?", but "What do people do when they dance?" For example, people can perform a ritual in this way. Or get acquainted. They can, if they are professional dancers, earn a living or participate in the creation of a performance. They can celebrate something, or they can grieve - for example, in archaic rites, where dances were part of the mourning ceremony and people danced not only at weddings, but also at funerals, saying goodbye to the deceased.

Around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a movement for the emancipation of the body began. In the 19th century, in a decent society, the body was not accepted not only to be shown, but it was impossible to mention it. If it was required, for example, to talk about the body and its parts, then instead of "legs" they came up with the euphemism "lower limbs", and the body itself was hidden under clothes - multi-layered, tight and clumsy. Women wore, among other things, a tight corset in which it was difficult to breathe, petticoats in which it was uncomfortable to walk and run, and men - high collars and a tie in which you couldn’t even turn your head. And when, say, a performance from the life of the ancient Greeks or Egyptians was going on in the theater, the dancers, instead of taking off part of their clothes and walking around like half-naked Greeks and Egyptians, on the contrary, pulled tights over their feet and drew toes on its fabric. The sight of bare feet, bare skin was considered indecent, and nudity in public places could only be imitated.

By the way, the clothing reform began with a dance, or rather with several dancers, one of whom is Isadora Duncan. She is called the founder and even the grandmother of modern dance  It is customary to call modern dance such areas of choreography of the twentieth century as modern, postmodern and contemporary dance (this term usually combines different currents of stage dance that developed in the second half of the century, primarily in Europe and North America, and incorporating elements of not only modern and postmodern, but also neoclassical ballet, jazz and other types of dance and movement culture). , but most of all she looks like a dance revolutionary. However, we will return to her dance revolution, but for now I will say that Isadora has greatly advanced the reform of clothing - not only in the theater, but also in life, everyday clothes. She herself abandoned the corset, shoes and stockings in life and on the stage and dreamed that people in the future would become free, with an absolutely free body - and return, already at a new stage, to the golden age of Antiquity, when happy humanity spent time in communication with nature and dancing in green meadows.

Isadora was wrong: it is impossible to return to the golden age. But she and her associates supported a very important movement for the culture of the body, the culture of the body. The creators of various gymnastics, athletes, vegetarians, "naturists", nudists, progressive doctors and physiologists who discovered the laws of self-regulation and wrote about the "wisdom of the body", and many others have already participated in this movement. At the beginning of the 20th century, dance joined this movement. Followers of Isadora even got the name "sandals". Now it seems natural for us not only to walk barefoot or in sandals and sandals, but also to take care of our body, its hygiene in general, to think about how to improve it or at least maintain its health and youthful forms. But let's not forget that all of this, including improved bodily health and increased (hopefully) longevity, is partly due to the new dance.

More to read:

Butterworth J. Dance. Theory and practice. Kharkiv, 2016 .
Sirotkina I. “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”: Anthropology of movement and dance. New Literary Review, No. 145, 2017 .
Williams D. Anthropology and the Dance: Ten Lectures. Urbana, 2004 .
What Is Dance? Readings in Theory and Criticism. Oxford, 1983 .

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