Dance, put quite simply, is the art of moving to music. A dancer will take the rhythm and melodies of any given song and perform a routine of technical movements or steps that fit in with the tune, and tell a story.
Some of the earliest records of dancing come from tomb paintings in ancient Egyptian times, and it’s thought that dance was often used at this time in ceremonies and rituals across the world. Many modern ethnic dances have their roots in ancient traditions. Before written languages arrived, dance was also a way of telling myths and expressing feelings, something that is still the essence of dance productions today. Dance has evolved over hundreds of years, and there are now many different styles through which a dancer can tell a story, each with their own interesting history.
• Ballet: A classical form of dance that dates back to 1581 and the court of Catherine De Medici in France. It was then known as a ‘Court Ballet’ and all parts were originally danced by men. Ballets included trained women in 1681, and were first seen in public in 1708. French dancer and choreographer Pierre Beauchamps, invented the five basic positions for the feet, something now taught all over the world as part of basic ballet training. Along with France, the U.K, Russia, America, and Italy have strong links with ballet, and have produced many international stars.
• Tap: Performers dance in shoes with a metal piece attached to the heel and toes, which creates a clicking sound. Some of the earliest tap shoes were seen in Roman plays, where the dancers attached metal to their shoes to better be heard above the music. One of the most famous tap dancers of all time is Fred Astaire. Tap has also featured in many movies including 42nd Street, Billy Elliot, and Singing in the Rain.
• Ballroom: Broadly known throughout history as any type of social dancing involving a partner, Ballroom is now danced competitively all over the world. The Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Quickstep, American Smooth, and Viennese Waltz are all classified as Ballroom dances. These dances are known for their smoothness, poise, and precise positions/movements.
• Latin American: Latin American dances are known for their energy and passion. Cha Cha Cha, Salsa, Samba, and Jive are normally the up-tempo party/carnival dances, while the Rumba and Paso Doble are slower and have a strong story behind them. Latin American Dancing has its roots in South American countries, particularly Brazil and Cuba, who were influenced by Afro-Caribbean, and Spanish music. The dances became popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
• Hip Hop: Hip Hop is a combination of dance styles that originated from the streets of America in the 1970’s. Break Dancing, and funk styles such as body popping all evolved to become part of the hip hop culture. New dance routines/moves were developed to match the Hip Hop music of the time, leading to ‘old school’ and ‘new school’ classifications. Improvisation has always been an important part of Hip Hop, and dance teachers often combine it with other styles such as Street Jazz.
Professional dancers often start at a very young age and begin with ballet training, said to be a good lead in to other dance styles. Some of these may end up in well known dance schools/companies touring the world with their productions, but dance is an inclusive sport and there are plenty of other opportunities for everyone to get involved. Dance classes are available at gyms and studios across the country, and social dancing, particularly in Latin American styles is still popular. Those wanting to take a trip back in time can also go to a traditional tea dance, held at venues such as the famous Tower Ballroom in Blackpool.