Who really knows the origins of classical or contemporary dance?
The evolution of dance is a must-have to study the history of art and prepare for official dance teacher competitions.
In addition to being useful for one’s studies as a dancer, the history of dance allows one to enrich one’s personal culture and to better understand the evolution of all dance styles.
The first dancers of prehistory
If the art of dance appeals so much to our compatriots, it is surely because dance is rooted in us!
The existence of dance even dates back to prehistoric times: in some European, African or Asian caves, we find drawings representing the first men practising this art. One of the best known examples is that of the Dancing Sorcer, which can be found in the French department of Ariège, in the Trois Frères cave.
Thanks to the meticulous work of contemporary archaeologists, tombs decorated with drawings of dancers have also been found in Egypt and even similar engravings on the rocks of Bhimetka in India, these stones being more than 30,000 years old!
These engravings are particularly valuable for art historians. Indeed, since dance is composed of abstract movements, it is complex to date its origin with precision.
Since the first men did not yet possess languages, it was the movement of the body that came into action in order to be able to communicate. The tribes were able to recognize each other and to form bonds of affection.
Dance in Antiquity
It is indeed during the period of Antiquity that dance gained momentum in ancient societies!
During the Egypt of the Pharaohs, drawing techniques evolved, allowing archaeologists to learn more about the practice of this art.At the time, Egyptian dancers showed flexibility by raising their legs very high to work on their body balance. Discover the evolution of dance over the centuries. Some Egyptian figures are the beginnings of what we would call today the whip.
The dancers of the Greek civilization practiced:
- Religious dances,
- The dramatic dances,
- Lyrical dances,
- Special dances etc.
In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer based himself on dances actually practiced by the Greek civilization, especially during the wedding rite. The dance is above all collective: men and women hold each other by the wrist while dancing in circles.
The most popular dance in Antiquity remains the Dionysian dance. Indeed, the art of dance was seen as a means of communication between mortals and immortals.
The dance had many functions for the ancient people:
- Communicating and making friends during social interactions,
- Praying to a god during official ceremonies and religious rituals,
- To heal a wound, especially during dances of death,
- Expressing your feelings to the opposite sex or your family.
Each ancient dance expressed a particular feeling. The emmélie and the gymnopédique were slow and serious dances that conveyed a tragic feeling. Pyrrhic and sicinnis, faster dances, expressed a satyric feeling. Finally, the cordace and hyporchem, playful and energetic dances, expressed the joy of the dancers.
Men, women and children did not always dance in the same styles. Indeed, dance was above all a means of distinguishing the social condition, sex, age and country of origin of the ancient dancers.
Dancing in the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages were a dark period for the beautiful art of dance! It is particularly complex to know the history of dance in the Middle Ages. During these centuries, only the most erudite (nobles or clergy) knew how to write and read. Therefore, there are only a few collections on the dance of the Middle Ages, since the dance was above all practised by the people.
Dance and music were two inseparable activities: the people took up the chorus of the singer (called the “chante-avant”) while dancing around him.
Discover the main dances of the medieval period:
- The carole,
- The sad one,
- The print,
- The ductia,
- The saltarella.
Even in the 21st century, it is quite possible to learn to dance medieval dances!
In dance schools, at the dance conservatory, during private dance lessons or in a national dance centre: many teachers master medieval dances. For an introduction to medieval dance, you don’t need to be a professional dancer, far from it!
Indeed, medieval dance is taught in a friendly and joyful atmosphere, during a dance for two or a dance class for children and teenagers. The medieval dance lesson allows you to revise your acrobatics and retain a choreography while discovering the magnificent history of France.
The art of dance in modern times
It was in the 18th century that a dance well known to professional dancers made its appearance: ballet! Ballet was particularly popular in France and Italy. Jean-Baptiste Lully contributed to this popularity through his compositions, which he performed both at the court of kings and at the Opéra national de Paris.
The dancers’ costumes helped the artists to feel freer, a feeling that is just as sought-after by today’s neophytes. Shoes and outfits helped accentuate the fluidity of the body and the famous half-point was born.
During these centuries, the ballerina dancer was an emblematic figure of French culture, sometimes to the detriment of male dancers!
At the same time, some dancers were discovering learned dances, made up of measured choreographies that were complex to remember.
On a fast tempo, the artists had to show intelligence and unfailing concentration to be able to execute the movements to perfection. The learned dances were, however, reserved for an elite; today they are accessible to all, thanks to private dance lessons with the best choreographers or to the number of annual festivals of learned dances!
Since the 20th century, dance schools have been teaching much more varied styles than in the past:
- Tap dance class,
- Sport dance classes (stretching classes, zumba line dancing classes, floor bar classes …),
- Argentinian tango lessons,
- Cuban salsa or Puerto Rican salsa classes,
- Hip hop dance class,
- Cha cha cha class,
- Swing class,
- Flamenco lessons,
- Bachata class,
- Oriental dance classes,
- Dancehall ragga classes,
- Ballroom dancing lessons etc.