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History of Dance

Sophie Y. (rising 5th grader)

Have you ever wondered about the history of dance? Imagine sitting quietly in the audience waiting for the ballet to start; when you finally see the curtains open, the orchestra begins and ballerinas pirouette on the stage. Dance is a human movement created and expressed for an aesthetic purpose. From celebrations to religious ceremonies, dancing can be traced back millennia as holding great importance in human history. Dance is defined as a performing art form consisting of purposefully selected sequences of human movement. These movements have aesthetic and symbolic value and are acknowledged as dance by performers and observers within a particular culture. Dance can be categorized and described by its choreography, by its repertoire of movements, or by its historical period or place of origin. However, an important distinction is to be drawn between the contexts of theatrical and participatory dance, although these two categories are not always completely separate; both may have special functions, whether social, ceremonial, competitive, erotic, martial, or sacred/liturgical. Many people say dance started from the royals or from France, but no one is really sure. But truly, where did dance come from? Well, because dance was used in ancient times in various cultures, it cannot be credited to the contribution of a specific person or culture. Dance was first used in ancient cultures in ritualistic practices. For example, in Egypt, Greece, and India, dancing before a god was an important part of temple worship. Ancient Egyptians used dance to convey a god's story or mime the rhythmic pattern of day and night. Dancers were also featured at funerals to convey the feelings of those who were in mourning. Additionally, the games at the Olympia in the 8th century showcased the dancing of temple virgins in which a dance circle was often formed, called a choros, to honor one of the gods. By the sixth century, the choros was the hallmark of theatre arts in Greece. How many forms of dance are out there? How many dances are used for traditions and culture? These questions usually come to mind while I am dancing. The first region that comes to mind is Africa. Dance in Africa is deeply integrated into society and major events in a community; significant events are frequently reflected in dances: dances are performed for births and funerals, weddings, and wars. Traditional dances impart cultural morals, including religious traditions. Dance gives space to vent repressed emotions, such as grief, motivate community members to cooperate, whether fighting wars or grinding grain or enacting spiritual rituals to promote social cohesiveness. Dance is central to Latin American social life and culture. Brazilian Samba, Argentinian Tango, and Cuban Salsa are internationally popular partner dances, and other national dances—Merengue, Cueca, Plena, and others—are important components of their respective countries' cultures. Traditional South American Carnival festivals incorporate these and other dances in enormous celebrations. To me, dance is something I use to express how I feel. Have you ever heard the saying, “Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.”? Well dance can be traced back millennia for a reason. All dancers know that their movements are an expression of human history. Dance is universal and is a timeless art form used to express people's feelings.
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