9 Summary

Summary for Chapter 1: What Is Dance?

People have different ideas about how to define dance. One way to understand dance is to analyze its movement elements: body, energy, space, and time. We can also study dance in terms of its purpose. Religious dances serve to imitate animals or natural elements, to achieve healing, to commemorate an occasion, or to achieve spiritual connection. Social dances can serve in courtship or to find unity in work, unity in war, or camaraderie in the community. Performance dance is created and practiced for presentation to an audience. Western performance dance forms that have developed include ballet, modern dance, tap, jazz, musical theater, and hip-hop. Protest dance can be created to effect social change. One’s dance aesthetic is shaped and influenced by numerous factors. Family, media, personal response, and kinesthetic response are all contributors to a personal aesthetic.

Summary for Chapter 2: Elements of Dance

All dance forms share foundational concepts known as the Elements of Dance. The Elements of Dance are overarching concepts and terminology that are useful when observing, creating, analyzing, and discussing dance. Dance can be broken down into its primary elements : Body, Energy, Space, and Time. It can be easily recalled through the acronym B.E.S.T.

The body is the mobile instrument of the dancer and helps inform us what is moving. The body category includes shapes, actions, whole body, and body part movements. Energy is how the body moves. When speaking about energy, we can refer to effort or movement qualities. Space is where movement occurs and includes personal and general space, levels, directions, pathways and floor patterns, various sizes of movements, range of movement, and relationships. Time is when the dancers move. The time category includes pulse, speed, rhythmic patterns, natural rhythm, and syncopation.

As an observer of dance, it can be easy to allow our biases to influence how we perceive dance. By using dance vocabulary and stating what we observe, we can be more objective in our discussions of dance. Using the Elements of Dance, we can view dance through an unbiased lens to consider its structural elements to deepen our understanding and appreciation of dance as an art form.

Summary for Chapter 3: Ballet

Ballet is a Western classical dance form with a rich history—beginning in the Renaissance as a royal court entertainment infused with social and political purposes, eventually developing into a codified technique. Over time, ballet transformed, experiencing costume changes in the Enlightenment that led to dancers being able to express themselves without being confined to restrictive clothing. In the Romantic era, ballet d’action emerged, emphasizing emotions over logic to help communicate the ballet’s story. There were also technical elements such as flying machines that gave the impression of dancers floating onstage. The unique theater effects led to female dancers beginning to dance en pointe. During the classical period, Russia became the leader of ballet, with government support to establish ballet schools. Ballet shifted in pursuit of virtuosity, demanding greater technique from dancers. The Ballet Russes made a significant impact by modernizing ballets, bringing ballet to other world regions, and helping establish ballet in America, and a new ballet style was formed, neoclassical. Today, choreographers challenge the ballet traditions and embrace various dance genres to blend with ballet, creating contemporary dance.

Summary for Chapter 4: Modern Dance

Modern dance emerged as a contrast or rejection of the rigid constraints of ballet. From individual free expression to contemporary modern dance, modern dance is forever changing. Today, combining unifying elements of other genres of dance (African dance, ballet, jazz, hip-hop), modern dance is interested in the communication of emotional experiences through basic and uninhibited movement. Currently, through all of its variations, it has become whatever the choreographer would like it to be according to the artist’s background, teachings, technique, style, and imagination. Because it is so personal and individualistic, this art form will remain popular and viable for years to come.

Summary for Chapter 5: Tap, Jazz, Musical Theater, and Television and Film

From their early rhythmic roots in Africa to the transformations imposed by slavery, jazz and tap dance grew into some of the first uniquely American performance styles. As the country changed, adding immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, South America, and Ireland, social dances absorbed all these flavors and produced exciting new blended forms in early tap and jazz. These performing art dance forms evolved through early minstrel shows to vaudeville to nightclub entertainment to Broadway and Hollywood musicals. The musical theater dance style was designed to further the storyline of a musical production and help in character development, with exaggeration to reach the audience in large theaters. Eventually movies and television gave these dance forms more worldwide attention. With today’s computer technology outlets, tap, jazz, and musical theater dance remain viable, evolving, and essential.

Summary for Chapter 6: Religious and Social Dance

Religious dance is the use of dance in spiritual ceremonies and rituals, present in most religions throughout history and prehistory. Its connection with the human body and fertility has caused it to be forbidden by some religions. The social institution of dance provides an arena for people to communicate with each other through the use of non-verbal and culturally acceptable movements and gestures. Social dances have a social function and are participation oriented rather than performance oriented .

Summary for Chapter 7: Hip-Hop

Hip-hop is an energetic dance form that includes several sub-genres. Breaking, locking, and popping are the authentic forms of hip-hop dance created by marginalized African American and Latinx youth during the 1970s in response to socio-economic conditions. Hip-hop gained media attention in the 1980s, appearing on television, in music videos, and in movies. By the 1990s, hip-hop culture was popularized alongside rap music. Today, hip-hop dance forms continue evolving and blending with other styles that may use codified techniques. Through its progression, it is important to remember that hip-hop’s root lies in a cultural expression and lifestyle informed by shared lived experiences.

Summary for Chapter 8: Current Trends

Dance has gained popularity through the lucrative business of dance competitions. Studios enter their students/dances into categories divided by age, dance style, and group size to compete with other dance studios. Dancers are judged for their technical merits. The top-scoring dancers can receive prizes. In this respect, dance as competition can be viewed as a competitive sport. It is important to differentiate this type of dance from non-competitive or concert dance that seeks to promote dance as an art form for personal expression rather than technical excellence.

Dance is used in various settings to promote health. Emphasis is given to improving people’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional well-being. Today, fitness classes use dance-inspired movement to exercise while creating a fun and social environment for participants. Dance is also used in therapy and therapeutic settings to enhance people’s quality of life.

National and global dance events have connected people to the greater dance community. These initiatives seek ways to celebrate dance as an art form, honoring dance artists, fundraising, and spreading awareness on important issues.

Living in a multicultural world, embracing and celebrating the individual differences that make us unique is essential. Historically, dance has been rooted in Eurocentric values and traditions that have caused barriers in the profession. Dance educators, scholars, and artists are using their platforms to support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the dance field.


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So You Think You Know Dance? Copyright © 2022 by LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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