How ‘Bout a Dance?

 
 

Samhbavi Sudhakar details the origins and evolution of dance into the art form we know today.

Dance as we know it today is one of the most celebrated of the performing arts. It has gained immense prominence in popular culture with the aesthetic value it adds to cinema and the widespread popularity of dance shows. However, its origin as a form of art is deeply rooted in ancient traditions.

Tomb paintings of ancient Egypt depict the employment of musical instruments and dancers to present mythological and cosmic events.

Early dance form played an important part in societal interactions. It served as a tool of facilitating effective conversation. Dance was often used as a medium of expression in the oral tradition of relaying folktales. Additionally, dance was instrumental in celebratory practices such as crop harvests and weddings, and other religious ceremonies. Tomb paintings of ancient Egypt depict the employment of musical instruments and dancers to present mythological and cosmic events. Similarly, in ancient Greece, jubilant celebrations in honour of the God of wine Dionysus involved dancing and drinking.

The cultural dimension of dance is constant across various ancient civilizations. The tradition of dance in ancient Greece was instrumental in the birth of Greek theatre in the 6th century BC. The Indian treatise on dance and drama, the Natyasastra, suggests that dance was the quintessence of theatrical performance.

A number of periodic changes influenced the emergence of dance as a performing art. This is particularly true in the European context, whereby the Renaissance had a significant impact on the emergence of ballet amongst the upper classes. Soon, the Baroque style became widely prevalent in the English and French courts. Following the French Revolution, there was a cultural shift which enabled a diverse range of dance forms to gain momentum.

A rebellion against classical forms of dance in the Modernist period gave rise to theatrical dance performances in the west. Throughout the 20th century, various socio-political upheavals served as the backdrops for the advent of a multitude of dance forms. To quote an example, the 1960s Rock n’ Roll style was in opposition to the American government engaging in warfare.

The creation of MTV and novel technology towards the end of the 20th century gave dance the platform to expand multidimensionally in the form of albums, theatrical shows, and cinematic performances. Hence, it is a highly consumer-driven, digital space that has allowed dance to hold the stance it has in popular media in contemporary times.

 

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