Dancing and building are the two primary and essential arts. The art of dancing stands at the source of all the arts that express themselves first in the human person. The art of building, or architecture, is the beginning of all the arts that lie outside the person; and in the end they unite. Music, acting, poetry proceed in the one mighty stream; sculpture, painting, all the arts of design, in the other. There is no primary art outside these two arts, for their origin is far earlier than man himself; and dancing came first.
Dance history is difficult to access because dance does not often leave behind clearly identifiable physical artifacts that last over millennia, such as stone tools, hunting implements or cave paintings. It is not possible to identify with exact precision when dance became part of human culture.
Dance has certainly been an important part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations andentertainment since before the birth of the earliest human civilizations. Archaeologydelivers traces of dance from prehistoric times such as the 9,000-year-old Bhimbetka rock shelters paintings in India and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from c. 3300 BC.
The ancient chronicle, the Sinhalese (Sri Lankans), the Mahavamsa states that when King Vijaya landed in Sri Lanka in 543 BCE he heard sounds of music and dancing from a wedding ceremony. The origins of the dances of Sri Lanka are dated back to the aboriginal tribes. The classical dances of Sri Lanka (Kandyan dances) feature a highly developed system of tala (rhythm), provided by cymbals called thalampataa.
As a method of healingay have been as a precursor to ecstatic trance states in healing rituals. Dance is used for this purpose by many cultures from the Brazilian rainforest to the Kalahari Desert. Medieval European danses macabres were thought to have protected participants from disease; however; the hysteria and duration of these dances sometimes led to death due to exhaustion.
Sri Lankan dance goes back to the mythological times of aboriginal yingyang twins and “yakkas” (devils). According to a Sinhalese legend, Kandyan dances originated 2500 years ago, from a magic ritual that broke the spell on a bewitched king. Many contemporary dance forms can be traced back to historical, traditional, ceremonial, and ethnic dances.
As a method of expression
One of the earliest structured uses of dances may have been in the performance and in the telling of myths. It was also sometimes used to show feelings for one of the opposite gender. It is also linked to the origin of “love making.” Before the production of written languages, dance was one of the methods of passing these stories down from generation to generation.
In European culture, one of the earliest records of dancing is by Homer, whose “Iliad“; describes chorea (χορεία khoreia). The early Greeks made the art of dancing into a system, expressive of all the different passions. For example, the dance of theFuries, so represented, would create complete terror among those who witnessed them. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, ranked dancing with poetry, and said that certain dancers, with rhythm applied to gesture, could express manners, passions, and actions. The most eminent Greek sculptors studied the attitude of the dancers for their art of imitating the passion.
Dance is a performance art form consisting of purposefully selected sequences ofhuman movement. This movement has aesthetic and symbolic value, and is acknowledged as dance by performers and observers within a particular culture.[nb 1]Dance can be categorized and described by its choreography, by its repertoire of movements, or by its historical period or place of origin.
An important distinction is to be drawn between the contexts of theatrical andparticipatory dance, although these two categories are not always completely separate; both may have special functions, whether social, ceremonial, competitive,erotic, martial, or sacred/liturgical. Others disciplines of human movement are sometimes said to have a dance-like quality, including martial arts, gymnastics, figure skating, synchronized swimming and many other forms of athletics.
Performance and participation
Participatory dance, on the other hand, whether it be a folk dance, a social dance, a group dance such as a line, circle, chain or square dance, or a partner dance such as is common in western Western ballroom dancing, is undertaken primarily for a common purpose, such as social interaction or exercise, of participants rather than onlookers. Such dance seldom has any narrative. A group dance and a corps de ballet, a social partner dance and a pas de deux, differ profoundly. Even a solo dance may be undertaken solely for the satisfaction of the dancer. Participatory dancers often all employ the same movements and steps but, for example, in the rave culture of electronic dance music, vast crowds may engage in free dance, uncoordinated with those around them. On the other hand, some cultures lay down strict rules as to the particular dances in which, for example, men, women and children may or must participate.
References to dance can be found in very early recorded history; Greek dance (horos) is referred to by Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch and Lucian. The Bible and Talmud refer to many events related to dance, and contain over 30 different dance terms. In Chinese pottery as early as the Neolithicperiod, groups of people are depicted dancing in a line holding hands, and the earliest Chinese word for “dance” is found written in the oracle bones. Dance is further described in the Lüshi Chunqiu. Primitive dance in ancient China was associated with sorcery and shamanic rituals.
During the first millennium BCE in India, many texts were composed which attempted to codify aspects of daily life. Bharata Muni’s Natyashastra (literally “the text of dramaturgy”) is one of the earlier texts. It mainly deals with drama, in which dance plays an important part in Indian culture. It categorizes dance into four types – secular, ritual, abstract, and, interpretive – and into four regional varieties. The text elaborates various hand-gestures (mudras) and classifies movements of the various limbs, steps and so on. A strong continuous tradition of dance has since continued in India, through to modern times, where it continues to play a role in culture, ritual, and, notably, the Bollywood entertainment industry. Many other contemporary dance forms can likewise be traced back to historical, traditional, ceremonial, and ethnic dance.