Mc Neal has studied many dance forms and his expertise covers a vast array of world dance and music traditions. His experience includes; Afro-Cuban, Jazz, Tap, Ballet, West African, and several folkloric styles including Israeli, Russian, Polynesian, and Scottish Country Dancing. His performing credits include dramatic stage work, film, television and live musical theater.
For more on his international cultural experiences, check out his blog here.
Dance can mean to move the body with rhythmic steps and motion. Dance can also mean a certain set of steps and motions, usually made in time to music. And a dance can also mean a party at which the people dance.
More Complex –
Dancing is the act of moving the body in rhythm, usually in time to music. It seems natural for people to express themselves through rhythmic movement. Young children jump up and down when they are excited and sway gently when content or at rest.
Dancing is both an art form and a form of recreation. Dance as art may tell a story, set a mood, or express an emotion. Some dances consist of symbolic gestures that tell a story completely through movement. As recreation, dancing has long been a people’s source of fun, relaxation, and companionship. In earlier times, square dances gave families a welcome chance to socialize. Today dancing at a party or other gathering remains a popular way for people to enjoy themselves and to make new friends.
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 1/99,Updated, 1/01. Update Nancy Smith 9/02
Dance generally refers to movement used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting. Dance is also used to describe methods of non-verbal communication between humans or animals and even certain musical forms or genres.
Definitions of what constitutes dance are dependent on social, cultural, aesthetic, artistic and moral parameters and range from pedestrian movement (such as Folk dance) to virtuoso techniques such as Ballet. In sports, gymnastics, figure skating and synchronized swimming are dance disciplines while Martial arts like Capoeira are often compared to dances.
Dance can be participatory, social or performed for an audience. It can also be ceremonial, competitive or sometimes erotic. Dance movements may be without significance in themselves, such as in ballet or European folk dance, or have a gestural vocabulary symbolic system as in Hawaiian and Pacific Island dances. Dance can embody or express ideas, emotions or tell a story. Choreography is the art of creating dances, and the person who does this is called a choreographer.
Dance does not leave behind clearly identifiable physical artifacts such as stone tools, hunting implements or cave painting. It is not possible to say when dance became part of human culture. Dance has certainly been an important part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations and entertainment since before the birth of the earliest human civilizations. Archeology delivers traces of dance from prehistoric times such as Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from circa 3300 BC and the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka paintings in India.
One of the earliest structured uses of dance may have been in the performance and telling of stories and myths. Before the introduction of written languages, dance was one of the important methods of passing these stories down from generation to generation.
Another early use of dance may have been as a precursor to ecstatic trance states in healing rituals. Dance is still used for this purpose by cultures from the Brazilian rain-forest to the Kalahari Desert.
Folk dances are dances that share some or all of the following attributes:
- Dances performed at social functions by people with little or no professional training, often to traditionally based music.
- Dances not generally designed for public performance or the stage, though they may later be arranged and set for stage performances.
- Execution dominated by an inherited tradition rather than innovation (though folk traditions change over time)
- New dancers often learn informally by observing others and/or receiving help from others.
More controversially, some people define folk dancing as dancing for which there is no governing body or dancing for which there are no competitive or professional institutions. The term “folk dance” is sometimes applied to dances of historical importance in European culture and history; typically originating before the 20th century. For other cultures the terms “ethnic dance” or “traditional dance” are sometimes used, although the latter terms may encompass ceremonial dances.
There are a number of modern dances, such as hip hop dance, that evolve spontaneously, but the term “folk dance” is generally not applied to them, and the terms “street dance” or “vernacular dance” are used instead. The term “folk dance” is reserved for dances which are to a significant degree bound by tradition and originated in the times when the distinction existed between the dances of “common folk” and the dances of the “high society”. A number of modern ballroom dances originated from folk ones.
The terms “ethnic” and “traditional” are used when it is required to emphasize the cultural roots of the dance. In this sense, nearly all folk dances are ethnic ones. If some dances, such as polka, cross ethnic boundaries and even cross the boundary between “folk” and “ballroom dance”, ethnic differences are often considerable enough to mention, e.g., Czech polka vs. German polka.
Not all ethnic dances are folk dances; for example, ritual dances or dances of ritual origin are not considered to be folk dances. Ritual dances are usually called “Religious dances” because of their purpose.
Sword dances include Longsword dances and rapper dancing. Some choreographed dances such as contra dance, Scottish country dance, and modern Western square dance, are called folk dances, though this is not true in the strictest sense. Country dance overlaps with contemporary folk dance and ballroom dance. Most country dances and ballroom dances originated from folk dances, with gradual refinement over the years.
People familiar with folk dancing can often determine what country a dance is from even if they have not seen that particular dance before. Some countries’ dances have features that are unique to that country, although neighboring countries sometimes have similar features. For example, the German and Austrian schuhplattling dance consists of slapping the body and shoes in a fixed pattern, a feature that few other countries’ dances have. Folk dances sometimes evolved long before current political boundaries, so that certain dances are shared by several countries. For example, some Serbian, Bulgarian, and Croatian dances share the same or similar dances, and sometimes even use the same name and music for those dances.
International folk dance groups exist in cities and college campuses in many countries, in which dancers learn folk dances from many cultures for recreation.
Balfolk events are social dance events with live music in Western and Central Europe, originating in the folk revival of the 1970s and becoming more popular since about 2000, where popular European partner dances from the end of the 19th century such as the schottische, polka, mazurka and waltz are danced, with additionally other European folk dances, mainly from France, but also from Sweden, Spain and other countries.