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Promoting Dance at All Developmental Levels

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

Dance is perhaps the most fundamental of all the arts, reaching back to prehistoric times. Providing movement activities at all developmental levels has valuable potential to engage students and promote confidence.

Experiencing Dance

Dance is one of the most basic forms of the arts, following the development of society and culture throughout history. There are basically three reasons that humans dance: to worship or perform rituals, to socialize and celebrate, and to perform for others. Even if you can't imagine performing as a dancer, dance can still bring fun and joy to your life. By exploring these three categories, we can gain understanding about how dance may fit into educational settings.

Natural Movement

The kind of dancing done by our ancestors, and some modern tribal people, used loosely organized movement to express devotion or kinship with objects and animals. They might be requesting help in the hunt, or prosperity for the family, or safe passage to the afterlife for a loved one. This type of movement grows out of the natural impulses of the body to move in a certain way corresponding to emotions. In other words, a celebratory dance probably included lively jumping and arm movements, because the dancers were expressing happiness. We make similar movements any time we ''dance for joy.'' A dance honoring a successful buffalo hunt might have heavy, running movements imitating the movement of the buffalo and fierce fighting moves of the hunters.

Social and Cultural Dancing

Many of us in Western Culture think of social dance as what we do when we ''go out'' to a party or club. And this is part of it. But there were all kinds of social dances practiced in earlier times, and in all parts of the world. We might also think of couples dancing together, like waltzing in a ballroom, or doing the tango in a Spanish nightclub. Again, not incorrect - just not complete. Many dances done for fun (or to recognize cultural affiliation) are done by groups of men or groups of women, or mixed groups. In Catalonia, a region in the north of Spain, the Soldana is danced to celebrate Catalonian history and pride. In frontier America, square dancing was a popular form of group entertainment. You have probably seen this lively kind of dance on an old television cowboy movie!

Dancing for Others

You may have heard of the ''Sun King'', Louis XIV, who ruled France for much of the 17th century and into the 18th. Louis loved dance, and created huge dancing pageants for his royal and noble guests. He performed in some of these himself. As the pageants grew more elaborate and required more difficult movements, Louis hired dancing masters to train the most talented dancers. This was the beginning in Western culture of the discipline of ballet dancing, and the idea of training certain people to be professional dancers.

Trained Dancers on Stage
dance performance

Of course, there are many forms of performance dance today, including tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, and hip hop as well as classical ballet. There is also dance for musical theater, an art form that combines acting, singing, and dance. Musicals are a popular type of show, from community theater to Broadway. Many of these forms often merge, such as contemporary ballets that use elements of jazz and modern dance. There are even a few dance companies who work with dancers with disabilities, creating fascinating and moving performances.

Axis Dance Company Rehearsing
Axis Dancers

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