Dance is a known form of non-verbal communication. Its first appearance in society was in the prehistoric period leaving artifacts and cave paintings. The use of dance evolved from entertainment, graduating to artistic appeal. Though dance concerns more art than exerting direct influence to political and social spheres of a community, it often speaks of power in its movement. The cultural role of dance in ancient communities is in rituals, ceremonies and celebrations, mostly of entertainment. Sri Lankan dance have their Kandyan dances, which narrate a mythological story of the yingyang twins and yakkas (devils) (wikipedia.org, 2007).
As a form of non-verbal communication, dance became part of passing the oral tradition from generation to generation. Tribes, for example, still use dance to communicate to their audience some important stories of the elderly. Healing rituals pertain to dance as the predecessor in performing trance or ecstatic state such as the culture in the Brazilian rainforest at the Kalahari Desert. Truly, dance emerged from just a form of entertainment to an instrument used in affecting culture of some communities. Dance became a social importance in its character to express authority by elegance inspiring change in a culture of a community (wikipedia,org, 2007).
PRIMITIVE AND RITUAL DANCE
For tribal cultures, dance was a way of life. It presented the approach for survival and without noticing it, the dance of tribal members became an outlet for making strategies and thereby achieving an ecstatic state. Through dancing, characteristics of animals such as the snake and tiger identifies with the performer. Tribal members saw their peers with their individual powers flourishing. Two kinds of communal dance are the primitive and ritual dance. Although both have their say in tribal communities, dissimilarities seen between the two establishes their characteristics.
Primitive dance begins with the loss of self for the magical mystery on nature’s aspects. The repetition of monotonous movements on prolonged duration with sharp and powerful rhythm gives the ecstatic state an initiating effect. Drums accompany this form of movement presenting more indulgence to the nature of being unconscious. Hard stamping of feet on the ground with bent knees comes with the local tribal dance providing the universal aspects. Same with Shamanism, practiced not only by tribesmen but also of some philosophers, dancing to initiate the ecstatic state enables one to reach the supernatural depth (Anderson et al, 1994). In line with Shamanism, rattles and drums support the traveling of the spirit by becoming the horse (drumbeat) and map (images on the drum) to the participant. Healing with Shamanism is through psychologic effect not of physiological factor.
Upon discovery of this tribal dance, modern societies use tribal movements in recovering the lost soul of a person. Moreover, many people of today believe in the power of dance in Shamanism. Though it is not considered as a religion, using Shamanism in the modern age permits the soul of the dying person, for example in comatose, to know what the person needs. In more advanced form of tribal dance, re-creating the movements is acceptable but not of authentic conviction from which the dance transpired. Furthermore, practice of the tribal dance does not die with age as it still occurs in the form of Shamanism in psychological practice and traditionally on South Pacific Islands, Africa and Central and South America (Anderson et al., 1994).
Concerning ritual dance, it relies more on the mythological influence rather on the magical trance. It is a conscious dance, for it manifests its purpose, design and meaning. The ritual dance graces the public of the later civilization such as the Greeks and ancient Egypt. The Egyptian dance reveals a spectacle on austere angularity and linear representation. Movements imply drama, pageant and mystery play on the audience. Hence, this dance partook on communal festivities making an implication of mythological character (Anderson et al, 1994).
Ritual dance of Greek culture was one of glory and worship. Gentler movements combined with choral dance presents a procession of women with flower garlands. A Greek ritual dance resembles a more joyous expression presenting idolatry and harmony on natural rhythmic movement. Even Greek scholars Sophocles and Euripides choreographed the Greek ritual for plays. In summary, ritual dances of India, China, the Orient, Egypt and the Greco-Roman empire were the fundamental patterns of folkdances (Anderson et al, 1994).
DANCING AND KING LOUIS XIV
Dance in the 17th century performed as the template for social etiquette and political stability. To attest the 17th century dance in the form of hats and handkerchiefs is untrue. In fact, well-bred women looked more natural and well poised. Obeisance regards women at that time as depicting respect and nobility not servility. The Plie` which is the first step in proper bending or bow, dignifies of a lady’s courteous movement. As the woman bends carefully pursuing a lowered grace, the head must consistently have an upright position likewise her body. If a person of high position implies obeisance, the woman must do this in a lower manner while keeping an excellent balance. The minuet derived from Branle de Poitou of Lully in 1653 showed exuberance and energy but with control and correctness to keep visual good manners around an audience (blakeneymanor.com, 2007).
King Louis XIV, born within the presence of dance artistry, made his claim to the throne in 1644. He became a successor at a young age, thus, his mother Anne of Austria preceded as regent under Jules Mazarin. Many uprisings of nobles because of foreign authorities taking place, held Louis XIV escaping the palace to protect himself from threats to his life. With insurgencies around the palace, defense of the political and social stability happened to be in danger. In order to make reforms of the courts power, Jules Mazarin used Louis XIV’s talent in dancing by producing an aura of divinity through out the personage of the king. When Louis had his sovereignty in 1653, distrust towards all his subordinates made him pursue dancing as a form of making etiquette. He knew then that many nobles wanted his power and by using dance to influence the strict protocol in his palace, he prevented further rebellion.
He diverted the attention of nobles on their little competitions through maintaining harmony and power amongst them. Louis wrote, This community of pleasures that produces a courteous familiarity between our courtiers and ourselves strike them and charm them beyond words (blakeneymanor.com, 2007). King Louis cited as the “Sun King” or Le Roi Soleil because of his performance as Apollo the Sun god in Le Ballet de la Nuit, showed his character as the rising sun similar to pharaohs in dispelling darkness and being revered with virtues. He even identified his throne as the “Salon of Apollo.” King Louis saw dance as the future center of culture in France. He practiced his talent everyday with the most talented instructors and other artists to make his court ballets. In fact, his passion for dance even noticed more talent rather than social ranking. With exceptional ability in dancing, to dance beside the king was not impossible.
Furthermore, if a nobleman wanted to maintain his dignity, he has to excel in dancing. In the year 1661, King Louis wrote the Letters Patent for L’Academie Royale de Dance, which describes how noblemen incorrectly performed the dance technique. However, there are some presumptions of the Letter Patent as a political reform masked in by contents of dance critic. Truly, the influence of dance in the regime of King Louis made a promise of social and political power on all enemies and even his allies. After King Louis reigned, ballet dancing used as a political power turned out to be a singular art form. (blakeneymanor.com, 2007)
19th CENTURY DANCE
Classical ballet and waltz became partners during the early 19th century. Romantic movements of waltz favored changes in ballet. Ballet was more of a woman figure rather than the minuet in the 17th and 18th century. The changes in ballet indicated decline on the part of viewers because of alterations producing its stereotypical taste. However, ballet dancing recognized different talents changing from European to American. As always, dancing favored the love for art, not aristocracy. Later in the 20th century, American ballet produced the American Ballet Theatre showing the psychological age of the society (Ailey et al., 1994).
LATE 19th CENTURY
Western culture influenced the African-American and South American citizens. The dance of the African-American culture in the New World was the Dance for freedom. Laws banned “the beating of drums, blowing horns or the like” in order to prevent the blacks in arousing to insurgency and insurrection. With this prohibition, blacks danced to hand clapping joined by a banjo. From there, the emergence of tap dance in their community took place, which consisted of shuffling and tapping of feet. At first, this dance only used minstrel shows as their stage but later on recognized as an art form. In addition, the blacks contributed the cakewalk, which became a craze in America. This is a competition dance of a pair and the other by making higher kicks, faster steps, breathtaking leaps and intricate turns (Sorell, 1994). The cakewalk is the counterpart of cancan dance in the Spanish field.
Dance made societies emerge from their boring cocoons. It made societies defy their traditional customs and divert into a better entertaining art. Moreover, tribal dances proved to be of use on psychological healing even in the modern age. Thus, its importance outlasted the test of civilization. Ritual dance, on the other hand, made a mark on folkdance still existing this day. Dance formed narration into a more defined aspect with an in-depth analysis of the story. Even though dance in Royal kingdoms did not revere social ranking, this does not happen in tribal dances.
With movements imitating those of animals in the wild, segregation of tribesmen concerning their ability to make dance an innate power over their peers is a point of authority outside oneself. In addition, dance had the power to conquer even noblemen of high position. As seen in King Louis’ court life and governance to people of high rank, he much pursued dance (specifically ballet), in changing tables with nobles who plan to overthrow him through rebellion. He planned ballet movements to reside as a form of discipline in nobles and opportunity to other members of the society to dance beside him even of low rank.
From 19th century up to the present, dance preceded a dignifying stance in one nation. The community’s national dance denotes of its overall history in movement of passion and power. Undoubtedly, dance made changes in the course of history that even blacks under slavery with desire in dance created a way for them to experience art. They showed their intelligence in making dances such as cakewalk and tap dance. With dancing, they found freedom under the whites. This narrated the story of racial discrimination in a foreign land.