Tapping Through Time: A Look Back at Dance Evolution
The dance moves of the past have influenced our current trends like never before. From the iconic hip-swiveling of Elvis Presley to the groovy disco moves of the 1970s, the evolution of dance has led to some of the most groundbreaking and beloved performance styles the world has ever seen. Now, let’s take a look back at the fascinating history of dance, and explore how we’ve come to be tapping our way through the modern era.
1. Early Origins of Dance
From the dawn of human existence, dancing has been part of the human condition. We can only guess at the earliest forms of dance, but primitive cultures have revered the art of movement for centuries. Whether for communication, religious purposes, or entertaining expression, early forms of dance are foundations of today’s modern performances.
The evolution of dance through the centuries has been exceptionally interesting. Let us tap through time and trace the history dance has taken:
- Ancient dance – Originally, many of these dance forms served communication purposes, as opposed to mere entertainment. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all practiced various kinds of dance.
- Court dances – During the Middle Ages, courtly dance grew into a sophisticated art form in England. The establishment of courtly dances provided a way for individuals to express themselves, but they were also surprisingly politically focused.
- Social dances– During the Renaissance period, forms of social dances rose to popularity, such as the pavanne, minuet, and alman. These dances were centered around expression and cultural links.
- Modern dance – Today, society is blessed with an ever-increasing variety of dance styles connected to all kinds of music. We have now witnessed many cross-cultural interactions, motifs, and forms appearing in our popular dances.
The earliest evidence of dance, although debated, has been recorded by cave paintings over 9000 years old. We know the history of dance has been monumental, and appreciating the evolution of dances adds to the joy and understanding of today’s performances. All movements are a part of today’s dance forms & the latest trends certainly come with all kinds of surprises.
2. Developments in Style and Technique
Exploring Unity Through Diversity
As dance continues to evolve, so does the growing complexity of its elements and the diversity of styles. Throughout the years, many forms of tap dance, for instance, African-American hoofers, have mixed and melded together, creating a formidable dance style of its own. By incorporating elements from jazz, flamenco, Latin, and even hip-hop, tap dance has demonstrated the beauty of diverse voices and their capacity to unite.
Technical Innovations Advance Performance
Innovations in tap dance technique over the years have actively contributed to its success as an art form. From the development of new steps and intricate rhythms to the incorporation of new instruments into performances, tap dancers have continued to revolutionize the genre. Additionally, the rise of technology advances in the technology industry have enabled dancers to access new tools for creativity, as well as the opportunity to share their talent with the masses.
Advances Produce a Well-Rounded Education
Today, tap is widely recognized for its potential to be used as an educational tool. In many countries, tap and other forms of dance have been incorporated into public school curriculums. Such developments give students the chance to learn about various forms of dance, including tap, and to learn new creative skills. Tap has also proven to be valuable in physical education, helping dancers build strength, coordination, and flexibility.
3. Dance as a Cultural Tool
From ballroom waltzes to street hustles, dance has been used around the world for centuries to tell stories, express emotions, foster social relationships, and to unify entire communities through participation. It is an ever-evolving form of communication that has deep historical and cultural roots.
Seeds of Dance
- Dance is believed to have been an important factor in some of the earliest spiritual practices and even in ice-age rituals as far back 40,000 years ago.
- In traditional cultures, dance was often tied to a tribal group’s identity. It was also used to create spiritual connections with ancestors who have passed on.
- Ancient Egyptians are said to have used religious dance as a form of honor and worship for the gods.
- Over the centuries, many cultures blended together to form new hybrid styles of dance.
- The first time a stylized type of dance was known to use elements of ballet was during the Baroque era of western classical music in the late 16th century.
- England saw the introduction of English country dance around the 17th century, with Scottish, French, Spanish and Italian roots.
- In the 20th century, dance not only became a hobby activity, but also a professional performance art.
- Contemporary dance forms of hip-hop, breakdancing, and turbo-folk have sprung up, lifting spirits through sound and motion.
- Modern dancers can be found in everything from Broadway shows to street performances.
From its primitive roots to present day, dance has been, and continues to be, a powerful cultural tool, weaving its way through generations with its unique and captivating energy.
4. The Influence of Technology and Media
It can be argued that the advancement of technology and media in the past decades has been directly correlated to the ongoing evolution of dance. From the era of grand ballroom performances to the days of quick-paced MTV breakdancing, media has been a major influence on popular dance trends.
- 1980s Movies & Music Videos – In the 80s, movies and music videos were a pop culture force that drove many dance trends. Those classic John Travolta moves in Saturday Night Fever or the pop and lock movements from Michael Jackson’s seminal music video Thriller became instant success stories that inspired many to try out the moves.
- Flashmob Phenomenon – The 1990s saw the emergence of the “Flashmob” phenomenon, as synchronised dance routines were broadcast on television and shared via social media. Suddenly, it wasn’t just professionals showcasing their choreography on-screen- now, everyday people were bringing dances that started off as internet fads, into their local towns and high streets.
- Social Media Apps - With the rise of mobile apps and streaming services, new dance trends have spread even more quickly – apps such as TikTok in particular making them accessible even to those with two left feet. Whether, it’s the popular #voguemovement, or the more quirky #obamadance, social media has given people the platform to create easily shareable and instantly recognisable dance moves.
Throughout the past century, the evolution of dance has been intertwined with the story of technology and media. It’s amazing to look back and see how these forces have unravelled and evolved, and how they have influenced the way we express ourselves in movement today.
5. Modern Movements and Trends
Dance is an art form that has been enjoyed and practiced for centuries, with some of the earliest known dance rituals believed to have been practiced in ancient times. Despite its long history, dance is not static, and it has continued to evolve over the centuries. Here are five that have shaped the world of dance and revolutionized the art form.
- Street Dance: Street dance is a collective term for the many styles of dance that take their inspiration from dance battles, televised dance competitions, and musical performance styles such as hip-hop, funk, and soul. It’s a vibrant, dynamic form of creative expression that has had a huge influence on the development of modern dance.
- Contemporary Dance: Contemporary dance draws from many different styles and directions, and the movement is constantly evolving. It’s focused on interweaving various techniques such as ballet, improvisation, contact improvisation, release techniques, floorwork, and many other techniques to create and explore movement through collaboration and self-expression.
- Live Music Performance: Live music performance has been used in dance since the beginning of time, and modern dancers often have live musicians to accompany them. The combination of live music and dancing creates a powerful energy and dynamic that can’t be replicated with pre-recorded tracks.
- Aerial Dance: Aerial dance is a style of dance that utilizes suspended equipment such as silk, trapeze, and hoops to create stunning visuals woven into complex movement sequences. The practice combines physical technique, creative expression, and acrobatic elements to create a unique type of performance art.
- Video Games: As video game technology evolves, the ability to control characters’ movements with controllers or body movements through VR and motion controls has made video games a popular source of inspiration for modern dancers. Videogames have also been used to showcase and teach various dance styles.
These , combined with the fundamentals of classical and traditional dance forms, have created a world of dance that is endlessly fascinating and evolving. Through experimentation and collaboration, dancers continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with the human body.
6. Reflecting on Dance Evolution
From the ancient cultures to contemporary times, dance has made its journey through history. What began as a way of expressing emotion has evolved and been transformed over time, developing into the intricate and beautiful art form it is today. Here’s a brief look back at what brought us up to present-day innovations.
- Ancestral Movements: Dance really can be traced all the way back to the Stone Age. While the ancient civilizations may not have known any sort of formal choreography, they still used rhythmic movement and emotion-filled expressions to communicate that were formative to where we are today.
- Dance of the European Middle Ages: The Middle Ages represented a key transition point as a large variety of formal dances emerged, including the famous court dance from this period—the minuet. It was often accompanied by an orchestra of violins and either gender could perform, helping usher in a more egalitarian approach to dance.
- Romanticism: This period was a culmination of movements in Europe and saw the emergence of ballet as a profession. Dancers now had the opportunity to perfect their discipline through individual training, and many choreographers even began to teach their craft in schools.
- The Twentieth Century: This period marked a pivotal moment for modern dance as new forms of movement created a more abstract style. Body movements and physical expression took precedence as more abstract musings made it to the stage. This movement also attracted more avant-garde directors, broadening the scope of potential stories and themes that could be explored.
More recently, the past decade has seen a further transformation as electronics have combined with movement, along with forms such as street dance that focus more on the body. Technology has enabled instant access to different cultures’ dances, allowing people to more easily explore it as an art form and continue developing it further.
Dance, in its various forms, has carried us through the ages. We stand on the shoulder of those who have gone before us and move into the future, showing the breadth of human expression through each step.
From tap-dancing robots to moonwalking prodigies, it’s fascinating to look back at the evolution of dancing throughout the ages! It’s clear that in challenging times, the creative spirit of humans never fails to prevail. As the classic quote goes, “Dance like there’s nobody watching” — so let’s keep on tapping through time, and best of luck on your twinkle-toed adventures!