How dancers have related and communicated with their environment throughout time. Please write about the change of dance and communications using examples of primitive and tribal communities, and throughout biblical societies, to the present day - how this form of spiritual and natural form of communication with a connection to the natural environment and (the divine) has been lost due to Industrialisation and become a commercial form of communication. (Add aspects of dance as a healing method and dance and communications).
This project carries out an investigation on how dancers have related and communicated with the environment throughout time. The importance of dance in religious and magical gatherings is probably older than its use for recreation and entertainment. There is little doubt in many scholars mind that for the primitive man, dance was integrated in everyday activity expressing every kind of conceivable emotion; from the hunter dancing around his prey, to the prospect of war against another tribe and to the ritual ceremonies performed in dedication to the Gods. It was only as a result of when more difficult social and economic structure; (invasions and urbanisation) did dance become commercialised as a source of entertainment.
History shows that dance was used as an expression of how our ancestors would communicate with the divine. It was used as a fundamental part of life in healing, worship, family and connection to the natural environment. The use of dance in religious and magical gatherings is probably older than its use for recreation and entertainment. Research has shown through ancient archaeological findings how dance was an essential part of everyday life. It was only when industrialisation and urbanisation emerged did it now became a commercial form of communication.
The aim of this project is to investigate how dance was used as a method of communication throughout biblical societies, to this present day using primitive and tribal communities as examples. This project explores the history of dance from ancient to modem and how dance has changed dramatically due to industrialisation, highlighting whether any of these tribal dances are still in existence today, died or have been transformed with society
- Introduction to the meaning of dance in history and how it has changed through modernisation. Look into ancient tribal societies and how they lived their lives.
- A look into biblical societies, how dancing was used as an expression of joy, thanksgiving and enhancing their relationship with the divine.
- Provide information on how primitive and tribal communities used dance as a spiritual method to connect with the natural environment.
- The foundation of modern dance and whether any of it has derived from old tribal sacred dance that related to the communication of the divine.
- How the natural form of dance used for communicating with the natural environment has been lost due to industrialisation becoming a commercial form of communication
- Finally, a conclusion of whether dance in its natural form still exists in some parts of the world and how its being preserved through commercialisation,
Dance can be described as artistic form of non communication or to move in a graceful or rhythmical way. Its origins are lost in prehistoric times, but, from the study of many primitive tribes and ancient cultures, both men and women danced as a form of spiritual release intertwining the environment and the divine.
History shows that there are two types of dances that evolved as cultures developed; Social dance and spiritual dance. Social dances are those used on occasions that celebrated birth and commemorated deaths whilst magical or religious dances were used as an active worship to communicate with the Gods as well as to cure the sick. In religious dance, the medicine men of primitive cultures were believed to have powers that invoked the assistance of a God and were both feared, respected and were considered by many to be the first choreographers, or composers of formal dances.
The bible is known as the sacred writings of the Christian religion which tells the faith and history of ancient Israel. It dates back many centuries ago and is believed to be the eldest book that dictates how the first human beings from this world lived their lives.
In this book, dance is said to play a prominent role in communication and the expression of emotions to the divine. The bible was originally written in Hebrew, Greek and some bits of Aramaic language which resembles Hebrew. Some of the original Hebrew words in the Old Testament were kheel or khool meaning to twist or writhe, raw-kad meaning to jump or stamp and kaw-rar meaning to whirl. In the New Testament, the Greek term kheh-om-ahee means a circular motion. Like other historic religions, dancing was used to communicate with the divine
Many biblical passages show how the people of Israel danced as expressions of happiness, gratitude, and praise for the higher being:
- Ladies dancing in the vineyard to celebrate the yearly festival – (Judges 21:21-23) -
Jephtah’s daughter dancing and playing the tambourine – (Judges -11:34) -
Miriam led dancing and singing and praise to the lord – (Exodus 15:20-21) -
David danced before the ark of the lord to honour the Lord…
- King David dancing and jumping around in his sacred dance – (2 Samuel 6:14-23)
The bible emphasises dancing only to be used as a religious rite that was to be practiced for joyful occasions, national feasts and victorious battles. Males and females usually danced separately, not as form of courtship which is now seen in the modern society. Any form of dance not used for the glorification of the high being was regarded sinful. The only records in the bible of dancing for social entertainment were those of ungodly families who spent their time in luxury who’s end was believed to eventually come to a sudden destruction (Job 11:11-13); and the dancing of Herodians which led to the murder of John the Baptist. (Matthew 14:11) Hebrew words that have meanings related to physical movement were translated into English as rejoice.
Every instance of dancing in the bible that was acceptable was done in worship and in praise to the God of Israel. It was a way to express the emotions and keep in contact with the divine one.
Ancient Egypt was the birth place of one of the world’s first civilisations. This advanced culture rose 5,000 years ago. It thrived for over 2,000 years and so became one of the longest lasting civilizations in history.
Dance was an essential part in ancient Egyptian culture. According to Wendy Burk,  it evolved from the simple rituals used by hunters to find their prey. Performing the dances was believed to help in later hunts. A leader, called a priest-dancer, was responsible for seeing that the dances were performed correctly so that the hunt would be successful.
Eventually these dances were separated from their ritual and became an art of their own. This development paralleled the emergence of Osiris as Egyptian’s most important God. He was the symbol of a more developed civilisation on Earth, and belief in him guaranteed everlasting life. Dance was a crucial element in the festivals held for Osiris. These occurred throughout the year—in the summer, for instance, when the river Nile began to rise and the corn was ripening, and in the fall on All souls night—the ancient ancestor of Halloween. Egyptian art shows that Men and women never danced together, and the most common scenes depict groups of female dancers were often performing in pairs.
Dancing within the ancient Egyptian culture could be spontaneous as well as orchestrated for religious festivals:
“All the people of all the dwellings of the court heard (of the coronation of Hatshepsut); they came, their mouths rejoicing, they proclaimed (it) beyond everything, dwelling on dwelling therein was announcing (it) in his name; soldiers on soldiers [...], they leaped and they danced for the double joy in their hearts.”
(Breasted, 1988, p238)
As true in most primitive cultures, music was a part of these celebrations but not as important as the dancing itself. Egyptians had developed stringed, wind and percussion instruments as well as different sorts of whistle and harms in order to communicate with their Gods.
Research shows that dance was used by the Greeks to honour their Gods and therefore used it for religious, fellowship and worshiping ceremonies. They believed the Gods offered this gift to some selected morals only who in return taught the dancing to their fellow men. The following exerts that talks about the origins of dance comes from H.B. Cothherhills book on Ancient Greece who’s extensive research talks about the origins of dance in ancient Greece.
“Every fifth year the birth of the twin deities was celebrated with magnificence, amidst a great concourse, vividly described in the ancient hymn to Apollo: ‘hither gather the long-robed Ionians with their children and chaste wives. They wrestle, they dance they sing in memory of the God. He who saw them would say they were immortal and ageless, so much grace and charm would he find in viewing the men”
(Cotterill and Goethe, and Milton, 1913, P 152,)
In the classic Greek song, Apollo, another one of the Gods who is son to Zeus is regarded as the dancer. Zeus is regarded as the God of medicine, music and poetry. In a Greek line Zeus himself is represented as dancing. In an ancient province in Greece known as Sparta, Apollo was worshipped through the Gymnopaedia festivals and celebrations. They were performed by young boys, mature men and old men who focused on performing in a very dignified manner.
As well as for religious ceremonies, dance was also used for education. It was thought to promote physical health and encourage education positively. Aristotle, a famous philosopher in Greek history, born in Greece (384-322) B.C, studied philosophy, taught that education should be a blend of music and gymnastic training in order to improve moral training. Socrates who also is an ancient philosopher in Greece said that dance should be taught even more widely than it already was. He said that those honouring the gods most beautifully in dance were those who were the best in war; he claimed that to sing and dance well was to be well educated. As with the Jewish festivals described in the bible, Greek dances were not based on the relationship between men and woman but were either performed either my males or by the females.
As the Christian faith grew, along came dramatic rituals to be used for prayer. It came along with the Latin mass were dance was included along with the music and drama. Performed were what was known as miracle plays, mystery plays and morality play that taught the Church’s lesson in a theatrical manner. It became a form of entertainment rather that just part of a ritual practice. Both dance and song were used to communicate and express a full range of emotions.
Other dances that evolved in the era were the sword dances that were performed in Germany, Scotland and Western Europe. This was most likely due to the Vikings. Sword dances link the swords to form a pattern or lock and in some dances a man enacts a ritual beheading.
In various parts of Asia, traditions of dance date back to many thousands of years. Most theatrical dance forms of Asia were performed originally as parts of religious worship. Many folk dances also developed in Asia, but modern social dances reflect western influences. In some Asian dances, slight movements of the upper body, especially facial expressions and hand gestures communicate the message of dance. Many dances describe through gesture a historical event, a legend or a myth.
One particular dance in the Hindu religion that showed expression of spirituality and deep commitment to the environment is known as the Bharata Natayam. This dance was originally performed in the temples of India and combines rhythmically complicated dancing with Hindu legends told in a song.
The dance has been described:“…an offering of one self to the divine used by the devotee to connect with the supreme” (Vasanthi Srinivasan: Teacher of the Bharata Natayam) This particular type of dance dates back to second century AD., and was performed by young women who were offered to the Gods of the temple. According to Vasanthi Srinivasan, a teacher of the Bharata Natayam, this type of dance fell into dispute with Islamic law which came about as invasions from the Muslim community who outlawed it. The Bharata Natayam was originally used to pay homage to the Gods but as a result of invasions, it now emerged as a state art form and has never left the hearts and minds of the Hindu people. 
Despite the modernisation of the Bharata Natayam, the dance still shows its dedication and honour to the natural environment and divine in its movement.
“Before the dance starts, the earth on which it is to be performed is sanctified. And since dance is like trampling on the earth, the dancer asks permission of the mother earth to trample on her. In this way, the dance bears similarities to other native and indigenous dances. The dancer dances in her bare feet out of respect for mother earth.The Bharata Natayam is a narrative type of dance. The dancer uses hand and body gestures put to music to tell a story. The stories are traditional ones based on nature and human emotion. There are two primary texts from which the stories are drawn: the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The Mahabharata is about two fighting cousins, similar to the Greek Iliad. The one who brings about resolution is the Lord Krishna. The Gita, a special chapter in the Mahabharata representing the song of the Lord, is an elaboration of a moral code.”
Dance in the Hindu scriptures show how the manifestation of the whole universe was brought into existence by the dance of the supreme dance Nataraja. It is part of a sacred temple ritual were they pay homage to the divine. The temple dance had now evolved to what is known as the Hindu classical dance however as shown in the Bharata Natayam, still preserves many ritualistic ideology of Hindu worship.
The ‘Sun Chia Chai’ one of the first most significant forms of Dance found in ancient China. Archaeological findings show pictures of dancers that were in the middle of a mimetic process connected to their hunting. Early writings show how dancing was incorporated within every aspect of Chinese culture since the beginning of civilization.
As described by Yaron Moargolin, many can still feel the spirit of the ancient dances.
“In those, the dancers describe the course of the stars in the sky and bring the idea of heaven. In the dance known as the “yangoo” we can see the great movements of the dancer’s hands and legs which express the admiration to the universe. Those mimetic expressions has developed during the passing years and become an important part of everyday life in china. The dance was inspired by everyday relations between the regular Chinese man and his emperor, his friends or his body. It became very physical and after a while the classic dance came out of this. Until now, we saw only the happiness and joy in the ancient dances, but there were also bad feelings as fear and evil, which were expressed through dances. It was a war inspiration.”
(Margolin, 2003, p1,)
Ancient paintings and pottery show that there are believed to have been two types of dances that emerged, one being the military dance, this dance is highlighted with dancers holding their sticks full of feathers. There were also amour, flags, hunting and fishing equipments that were used in the dance. The second kind of dance was the religious dance to communicate with the earthly surroundings and to honour the environment. These worship dances were believed to have been developed through hunting. 
Belly dancing is a very ancient form of dancing. It retains its connections to the cycles of nature, the celebrations of fertility and light. It started out just as the many other historic dances began, a religious rite, it then evolved into folk art and through modernisation turned into a form of lascivious and entertainment. Belly dance is identified by swaying hips, undulating torso and articulated isolations employed in a range of dynamic and emotional expressions. The focus is on isolated movements of individual parts of the body with little notice given to footsteps.
During its history, belly dancing was performed as a separate dance between the sexes. To them, women were the goddesses who created the mystery of life through their bodies. The rolling of the stomach imitates birthing contractions and the kneeling of the floor is similar to how women of more earthly, primitive cultures would squat to give birth rather than lying on their backs in a hospital bed 
Dancing was sacred to the people who performed these acts. It was mainly used in worship rites and served as a meditating force between people and the world of Gods. Prehistoric people made up religious dancing to gain favour of their Gods. In many of these cultures, dancing provided on of the most effective and personal methods of communication. It was used to express feelings such as joy, anger or happiness without saying a word
A tribe can be described as a unit of socio-political organisation consisting of a number of families, clans or other groups who share a common ancestry and culture and among whom leadership is typically formalized or neither permanent. For many tribes, dancing was very much their way of life, where each tribe has its own distinctive dance traditions that were interwoven with life. In some secret societies in Africa, a special initiation dance is known only to its members. When new members learn the dance, it represents their acceptance into the group. This chapter explores how tribes used dancing as an effective way of communication and whether any of these tribes still exist in our society today or have been lost due to the forces of industrialisation and modernisation.
Kerala is now known as a popular holiday resort state in India, however early archaeologist findings show that the first citizens of Kerala were hunter-gathers. These people still inhabit the mountains of southern Indians today. The next race of people in Kerala is believed to be the Austriches. The Austric people of Kerala are of the same stock as the present-day Australian Aborigines. They were the people who laid the foundation of Indian civilizations. They also introduced snake-worship in Kerala. Traces of such worship and ancient rites have been found among the Aboriginal tribes of Australia. Austric features can still be seen fairly and clearly among the people of Kerala today
The tribal inhabitants of Kerala are believed to be about two hundred thousand years old. There are roughly about 35 different types of tribal chiefs among them. Centuries have failed to change them completely. They have been described as
“A unique example of communities in isolated existence, still preserving their life, customers and manners almost untarnished by the advancing waves of urban civilization. Though adapted to different dialects and customs, their artistic expression evidently reflects the distinct, secluded and primitive social structure and nature of people and it still survives as virile as state as ever in the tribal hamlets of the hilly tracts.”
(Kalakeralam Team, 2000, p1)
The tribes of Kerala have its own distinct dance traditions, like all tribal arts the dancing is the most direct expression of the innermost spirit. One type of ritual dance performed by is known as the Gadhika. The performance can be done as a ritual for having the safe delivery of a child. It begins with the principle performer invoking Lord Shiva for his help to cure the patients. Central to the belief is that a person falls sick when the Gods are angry. The participants of the dance involve both sexes whose function is to welcome both the Gods and Goddesses.
Tribal dance in Bangladesh regions were based on their customs and beliefs. Before they will go on a hunt, hunters would draw pictures of their prey and dance in a body imitating a hunt. The hunter for example will dance around his prey and even at times donned the fur of his prey. With the evolution of society, human activities have undergone many changes resulting in different dance styles. Tribes in Bangladesh that still exist include the Santals, Oraons, Murongs and Chakmas. They live in the hilly regions of Bangladesh and although some changes have taken place in the livelihood and religious beliefs they still tend to follow their ancestors in various religious and cultural festivals.
The Garos tribe perform their dance through what is known as a Nokma,  which is pleasing to the leader of the community. The dance is intended to express joy. A dance known as jariyali is also quite common in this region. The technique of picking fruits from the trees has been converted into a dance by the Garos. Dances are even based on the daily lives of pigeons. Thus, one dance shows how pigeons collect their food, feed and fondle each other.
The Chakmas are known to celebrate a religious fair called the Mahamuni. At the beginning of the festival the statue of Mahamuni (the great sage) Buddha is placed at the temple. Then the young men and women perform together in a dance which is inspired by deep devotion. In addition, dances are performed by Chakmas  to have a good harvest and rainfall, and sometimes just for entertainment. The dance arranged for rainfall is participated not only by young people, but also by the older members of the community who come forward with full pitchers to spray water on the young ones
A dance popular by the Oraon tribe is the karam dance which is performed on the occasion of planting and harvesting. It’s possible for this dance to last for a number of days and nights. Also the jhuma dance is performed for harvesting and the increase growth of crops. It is a unique and integral part of their social life. It begins with the dancers paying tributes to the god of crops with the dancers raising their hands and kneeling down to express their love and devotion to the Gods and Goddesses.  Through the dance they beseech the God to make them happy throughout the whole year to let them have better crops and to prevent them from various epidemics.
Tribal dances for the Bangladesh people were traditionally performed without any stage, makeup room, lighting etc. They were mainly to pay homage to the Gods and communicate through the environment. The musical instruments used could merely be a pair of bamboos. Television and tourism have had an impact on tribal dancing, and stage, musical instruments, lightning and makeup have all become made more elaborate.
The Anlo Ewe tribe is based in the southern east of Ghana in Nigeria. They are believed to have settled there in the 15th century (1474). For this tribe, dance drumming is an integral part of community life and an important necessity in the pursuit of the collective destiny, perhaps essence of their shared experience. For the Anlo-Ewe Tribe everybody must participate in dance. According to CK Ladzekpo
“Non participation amounts to self excommunication from society as a whole and carries with it severe consequences in a similar manner as non performance of some civic obligations in other cultures of the world. The most severe penalty for non participation is to be denied a proper burial. Receiving a good burial is extremely important to the Anlo-Ewe. In contrast to other societies of the world that demonstrate the importance of having a good burial by buying funeral insurance from commercial funeral homes, the participation of the Anlo-Ewe in the collective and shared experiences of the community is the only insurance towards receiving the proper burial.”
(CK Ladzeko, 1995 p1)
This describes how essential it is for the Anlo-Ewe tribe to belong to a good dance group as way of communicating its social culture with other members. An old Anlo-Ewe proverb translates “You should join a dance group before you die.” Dances such as this are a non profit venture as seen in western society.  You don’t receive monetary compensation in the manner that hired musicians or dancers receive.
On of the most sacred ceremonies practiced by the north American Indians is known as the Sun dance. This ceremony was practiced by many different tribes but shared many things in common, such as dancing, singing, experience of visions, vows and for some tribes self torture. Those who participated in the dance would have believed to have a sense of well being, contentment and harmony with the environment. Animals such as buffalos and eagles were also incorporated in the ceremony to act as the communicator between man and the spirit.
“Common elements of the Sun Dance ceremony involves a pledger who makes a vow to perform the dance as a result of a dream or vision, a sweat lodge purification, the building of the Sun Dance lodge, smoking the sacred pipe, and the actual dance itself…Participants dances while gazing at the sun and blowing eagle-bone whistles, while attached to the sacred pole by thongs and skewers through chest the muscles and pulled outwards until the muscles tore free. The original sun dance was an occasion when all the tribe would gather to reaffirm their basic belief about the universal and the supernatural through ceremonies, words and symbolic objects.”
(White, 1998, pxx)
The buffalo was the symbol of life, some attached the buffalo’s skull to their back. This form of self torture was considered highly honourable to the participants. The dance was a celebration of the generative power of the sun. It was important to their spirituality and a significant part of their life. It was only after intervention from the American government they banned the dance as it was seen insignificant to the new life of the west and they were repulsed by this new form of self torture inflicted. There were many who tried to bring the sun dance back to its original form and meaning but have not been successful.
The term Abakua dance comes from a secret society in Cuba. The Abakua tradition relates back to the African slaves brought to Cuba in the 18th century. The Abakua society was founded in Havana Cuba by the Efik, a subgroup of the Ibibio tribe. Their dance consists of basic motives: self expression and physical release. One of the most basic motives of dance is the expression and communication of emotion.
These motive forces can be seen not only in the spontaneous skipping, stamping and jumping movements often performed in moments of intense emotions, but also in the more formalised movement of “set” dances such as tribal war dances of festive folk dances. Yvonne Daniel (Rumba Dance and Social Change 1995, p36) describes the legacies in secret society coming from Africa being transported, replicated and transformed to a certain extent to fit the social environment of Cuba. Their dancing often re-enacts stories of mysterious beings who communicate through postures and gestures and the use of spirit masks. Here the emotions help generate emotions as well as communicate them through to others.
The Abakua dance (founded October 2000 by Franke Martine) company try’s to portray this in their performances. They are made up of both dancers and drummers, the percussion marking out of the rhythm helps intensify the emotion. Frequently the dancers take turns performing, and there is usually a great deal of informal communication among the members of the stage.
Present in our society today, there are a few tribes who keep their dance culture of paying homage to the Gods and divine. There are also some who use it as an aspect of healing and the preparation of a hunt. Despite all this, it does not seem to be an essential way of life as it was used during those times. Many have now been marked to entertain and impress the public.
The next chapter will now attempt to investigate these changes that took place throughout time to this present day and if any are still used as a natural and spiritual form of communication in the dances that are performed for entertainment today.
Today, very few of the ritual dances are now performed for magical or religious reasons; they are now usually done to entertain and impress the public. This section looks into how the native tradition of dance developed over time to this present day.
As already gathered, the Bharatanatyam, similar to the Kathak, another form of Hindu dance arose out of spiritual and religious devotion to the God Krishna. Ever since the 1550 B.C.E., the Kathak dance had a major influence in Northern India culture. This form of dance was employed in order to better communicate their tales to the masses. It was used as part of the daily traditions of religious worship along with instruments and vocal music.
History shows how Indian culture has been shaped deeply by many invasions of Indian history, especially the Moghul invasions of the 15th century. It was during this reign that Kathak dance was impacted most comprehensively, when dancers were enticed from the temples to the courts by the gifts of Gold and jewels.  Patronage soared as a social class of dancers and courtiers emerged in royal palaces, where dance competitions were held frequently. As the dance was taken to Muslim courts, it became more for entertainment and less for religious content. More emphasis was placed on the dance aspect and less on the expression and emotion.
Many other Dances from the Middle East spread their ideas to the Kathak dancers, as they also borrowed ideas from the Kathak to implement in their own culture in order to develop many different types of classical dance. Elements of beauty in the copious jewellery and costume of the dancers soon became the main focus, combined with poetic narration to tell the tales of drama, triumph and tragedy.
Many different emperors also contributed to the growth and development of the Kathak into different schools of dance. The Moghul leader is known not only to have enjoyed giving patronage to dancers but dancing himself. He brought teachers to his palaces to place more emphasis on the sensuous and expressive emotion. It became more famed for its complex foot work and fast, sharp accurate dancing and became a more sophisticated art form for entertainment. 
Today, Kathak has been recognised throughout the world as one of the seven classic dances as India, although it still retains the same roots. Presently, this classical dance is characterized by a combination of the temple and court forms, inclusive of both the devotion and romantic that shaped it over the years. The influence of theatre dance has presented itself in the movement towards dance productions of stories used for social entertainment.
The Gypsies as established today migrated from India to the west many centuries ago. While western dance has not directly borrowed anything borrowed anything from Indian classical dance, it has borrowed from Indian folk through the medium of gypsies. The language spoken by Gypsies is known as Romany which has been common words for Indian languages. The religion of Gypsies is a modified form of early Hinduism and earned their living by giving the performance of folk dances, along with the pursuing of other nomadic activities.
“Since song and dance has been interwoven from earliest times, these same influences have no doubt had their impact on the flamenco as well. One commentator (Gobin, P61) has traced a direct link to four major Indian cult dances (Katak, KathaKali, Manipuri and the Bharata Natyam). Nor has this Indian influence on Andalusia been an isolated phenomenon, for in studying Audalusia turbulent history, we repeatedly come across an Indian Cultural presence.”
(Peters and Schreiner, 1990, p93)
Roma migrated into Spain in the 15th Century and inspired various forms of the flamenco. The Flamenco and traditional Indian dances show great similarity. The hand movement is very similar to the Kathak. The hands and fingers in the Flamenco play very important role in the expression of dance. Dancing for the Roma community could also arouse similar to the occasions the Hindus danced for:
“Romani dances are for the most part spontaneous, prompted by special occasion such as birth, courtship, wedding, death, harvest, the coming of spring after the cold winter, or spiritual celebrations like that of St. Sarah - Sati Sara (the Indian goddess, Durga/Kali, the goddess of fortune for the Roma), which takes place in late May of each year. Romani dances are charged with emotional expression and passion, like joy, love, despair, grief, etc. They carry themes and symbols from everyday life as well as spiritual life, for example great devotion to family, strong connectedness with nature, the tension between freedom and oppression, hopelessness at one end and passion and love of life at the other”
(Hava- Robbins. 1999, P1)
Ritual dance can also still be found among the Roma of Eastern Europe. One very old sacred, and not well known, entails women dancing around a fire with their arms and upper body extended over it as if to keep going forever to sustain the warmth and life Belly dance, which is now found in our society, has spread throughout the western world now very much used for our own entertainment originates from the Middle East. It holds its origins in ancient fertility cults and is believed to have been danced in ancient temples in India. To conclude, the art of Romanic dance now lies in its ability to communicate with the audience and to improvise at any given moment, without losing the connection between the Now and the history of the great suffering of the Roma people.
Shugendo is an ancient religion within Japanese culture and is described as the knowledge obtained on the path resulting from ascetic practices of divine natural powers. Those who follow the religion are generally known as ‘yamabushi’, these are those who practice the religion in the mountains. Susan describes the mountains as being sacred as they serve as a natural environment for activities where the deities could ascend and dwell. “There was also the added the belief that the mountains served as a place where they could converge.” (Asai, 1999 p26).
Music and dance is important in all aspects of the Shugendo ceremonies in making contacts with the spirits, the folk Kagura which strongly influenced the development of the yamabusi Kagura. “ In the older forms of the Kagura, music and dance provided as a function response of the souls, and performances dedicated to the deities in order to appease them” (Asai, 1999 p34). One particular type of Kagura is known as the lions dance. It’s described as
“…Manipulated in the dance is the called ‘shishimal (lion’s dance). The central purpose of shishimal is to offer prayers to dispel all evil spirits present in certain areas. Together with singing and instrumental accompaniment, the dance functions to ward of evil or prevent destruction by fire.”
(Asai, 1999 P34)
Today, the Shugendo is kept alive through the nomai dance. This is due to those who went travelling from village to village to collect donations from individual households in exchange for performances of the exorcism dance (Asai, 1999, p37). This form of entertainment is what has enabled this dance to succeed today. The dance dates back over 1,100 years and is only allowed to be performed by those born in Yuza’s Sugisawa district.
“Nomai opens a window onto the richness and complexity of Japan’s folk performing arts. It is a medieval dance drama that blends music, dance, drama, literature and ritual symbolism into a single tradition. Itinerant priests known as yamabushi (mountain priests) introduced normi about 370 years ago. Yamabushi performed nomai as a vehicle in proselytizing to provincial audiences and eventually taught to villages to ensure its survival…Their trips brought into direct contact with a variety of performances given at temple and shrines, which served as communal and commercial centres.”
(Asai, 1999, pxvi)
Dance is a crucial aspect in performances. It’s an artistic expression combined with the sacred, its heritage and economic spheres of community life. It has successfully managed to maintain its ancient features of music, drama and sacred practices. However over time, a lot more emphasis has been placed on the comedy side of its performances in order to keep the audience entertained.
“Ancient Persia was a land that included parts of what are now known as Iran and Afghanistan.” (Encyclopaedia (P), 1986, p262b) The early Persians believed in Gods of nature such as sun, sky, and fire. They believed these Gods had social powers religious dance for the Persians is believed to have had a strong, religious spiritual edge. The reason why not many people know about it is because of the current political situation happening in Iraq. Ancient Persian dance consisted of the Mithra, the sun God. It was only as a result of Muslim invasions did spiritual dance cease to exist and was used foe ones own self pleasure; this included pleasing the ‘uncivilised rulers.’ The result of these invasions led to a number of ancient Persian dances leading to extinction. 
Today, dancing is not as important as it once was for the people of Persia, the only form of original dance is now found through the court of Qajas. The growth of the Qajas added with industrialisation has led to dancing becoming more of a social activity preserving some of the ancient Persians traditional way of dance. Dancing is now performed for ceremonies such as coronations, marriages and other important festivals. It’s only due to a small minority of Iranians that a fraction of what was known as ‘true’ Persian dance has been saved.
Due to this new revival of Iranian culture and arts, also with the added help of western societies, Persian Dance is now becoming more accepted. New dance shows that deal with Persian myths and literature is now becoming open to the public used through entertainment and art in order to preserve Persian heritage through commercialisation.
When the Africans arrived in America, along came their sacred and ritual traditions. Dancing is known to link African-Americans to the Africans more than any aspect of their culture.
“The native African heritage is obvious today in the West Indies. French and Spanish slave owners were more liberal than English and Americans in allowing the native Africans to retain their culture. According to Harold Courlander, the survival of African heritage in Haiti, for example, was due to the relatively liberal attitudes of the first French and Spanish rulers and the Catholic Church. The main objective of the Church was salvation of the soul.”
(Thorpe. 1989, p15)
Dance was detrimental to the African cultures as it was used as a form of communication as well as an expression of their own cultural heritage. The story of Latin popular music and dance reveals the triumph of the native African spent over the crushing forces of slavery and colonisation. For many years they were transported from West Africa to the Caribbean islands. Severe and harsh treatment brought about physical and cultural transformations. Thrown into the unknown along with other various and diverse cultures from Europe, they carved out ways to ensure their own survival and cultural expression.
In the late 19th century, slavery was abolished. The euphoria of freedom soon gave way to the reality of creating a new life, which involved migrating to different parts of America. New forms of theatrical dance developed first became popular among the poor and the working class. Blacks developed tap-dancing by combining traditional African dances with the Irish jive and a lively English dance called the clog. Black performers started to tap dance in places such as taverns and street corners. By 1870’s, they also performed in travelling variety shows. “Chorus girls danced the Cancan which originated in France, to entertain the cowboys along the American frontier”. (Encyclopaedia 1986, Volume 5, pg 24)
“The cakewalk, another famous black dance also started among the American slaves as a high stepping promenade that poked fun at the haughty ways of plantation masters. Whites began to dance the cake walk about 1890.” (Encyclopaedia 1986 Volume 5 pg 25) “Caught between the traditions of the past and new experiences in cities, blacks evolved into a social life that eventually became enmeshed in commercial urban entertainments”. (Gordon; 1990, p121)
Other island musicals, workers and dancers quickly followed as years went on and economic hardship followed in the Caribbean. The rising employment opportunities in New York led to thousands migrating. There were many jobs for Black dancers as their new technique and style was entertaining to the white audiences.
The same was also the case for the original inhabitants in South Africa. The urbanisation of white migrates, with the change in political power created changes in the economy and the social environment. This sort of change was bound to have an affect on the black South Africans way of life:
“A brief look at the development of Durban, townships and the shebeens within them will give us an idea about the urbanization process. By 1873 Africans were working in Durban and struggling for a living place there. From 1910 to 1939 South Africa developed a capitalist made of production. We can see the economy moved from an agricultural one to one that was more commercialised. In addition to an agricultural society South Africa moved towards urbanisation and industrialisation which brought even more Africans into urban centres”
(Haile Stone, 2001, p2)
The Aborigines lived in Australia for at least forty thousand years. It is possible that their ancestors migrated from southern Asia. European settles arrived in Australia in 1788, and there were about 300,000 aborigines living there and about 500 different tribes. The European thought the aborigines to be primitive people so they treated them badly and took over their land. Many aboriginals died as a result of this, however they were some who tried to help them and keep their heritage alive.
Aborigines lived by hunting animals and gathering plants. Singing and drumming were a large part of the daily life for aborigines. Some observers claimed that today aborigines living in the desert areas would sing all day as well as dance. The songs and dancing performed told stories of hunting, fishing and relationships between male and female. Dances often imitated animals or birds. Serious ritual or sacred dancing was quite distinct from light hearted camp dancing that men, women and children would share. An example of this is the initiation process;
“The final ceremony focuses on elaborated decorated pole, identified by strehlow as kauaua, erected on the ceremonial ground during the final night. The newly initiated surround the pole, considering it symbolic of the rala parra, the greatest of all tjurungas. Strehlow believed that to the initiates , it symbolizes the cause of the torment they have suffered throughout the festival. They seize the pole, lifting it up and down horizontally. With the pole on their shoulders they dance fervently about the earthen mound on the ceremonial ground”
(Gill, 1998, p170)
Not all aboriginal tribes are the same, though they are classed as one culture. There were close to 1000 different dialects traced of their language which means they are likely to be many different types of dance. Dancing was done with set arm, body and foot movements with a lot of foot stamping. Today this is known as “shake the leg”. The best singers and dancers enjoyed wide reputations of respect. During the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney, one form of aborigine dance was performed. This form of dance was traditionally performed at night time ceremonies by dancers painted with light-coloured clay. The dancing was used to evoke the Dreamtime, an Aboriginal religion that consists of a series of myths tying the people to the land.
There are now only two percent of the Aboriginals that make up the Australian population. Most of them have been influenced by European-Australian way of life. Nevertheless traditional Aboriginal ways continue in northern and central desert areas, but in a modified way. There is now a strong desire to maintain the Aboriginal heritage which is why there are a lot of groups that perform ancient aboriginal dance for theatres and shows to keep the culture alive.
Urbanisation and industrialisation has led to the decline and almost extinction of dances used for spiritual and religious reasons. This section looks into the effects industrialisation has had on primitive cultures and provides examples on how ancient forms of ritual dancing have now become a commercial form of dancing used for communication.
During the colonial period, the process of industrialisation and urbanisation saw ethnically different people brought together by economic interests. This, as well as the definite influence of western society, generated a new culture without conscious effect of politically determined guidelines. Many traditional musical instruments are still played throughout the country, although the desire for western instruments such as the piano and the guitar increases. The most common of course is still the drum and drumming plays an important part in the rituals, celebration and community communication.
Dance is an important part of musical expression among the African people, along with the ideas they express serve as reflectors of life and thought over the centuries of time, turmoil conquest and defeat. The influence of the west on Africa is well entrenched in music tastes of the current generation which has led to the introduction of night clubs around the big towns and many local bands play with the new formation of different types of music and dance to the increasingly westernised youth.
The impact of industrialisation has had a major influence on South Africa. Music and dance have been refined to become a marketing and commercialised industry making its mark internationally. An example of successful dance play gone global is “UMOJA - The Spirit of Togetherness”. An end to the apartheid in 1994 brought changes in tribal dances and changes to the economic and social structure. Many dance schools opened up and many plays that tell the story of South African music from tribal dances emerged. South Africa has now become the 25th largest market for recorded music.
The development of modern dance, show a wide range of diverse cultures being emerged together. Theatrical dancing won its greatest commercial success in motion picture and music commodities. During the 1930’s many movie musical features came into practice as a form of entertainment which attracted a variety of audiences to see these new forms of dance. With the birth of rock and roll in the mid 1950’s, social dances became a lot freer. Partners did not touch each other and made up their own dance moves on the spot.
In the early 70’s a popular style of dance emerged called the disco which was created by the blacks who moved in America. Many were eager to express themselves through this form of dance, which led to the formation of clubs and taverns where individuals were charged a fee to enter and possibly participate in the dances.
Social dance is now very popular in the West. This has had a major influence on other countries through urbanisation. The majority of people in the west, including the blacks now only dance for social reasons and courtship. This new environment and new forms of communication in the west has resulted in a lot of the afro Caribbean people loosing their religious and spiritual methods of communication their ancestors had through dance.
Despite this new loss of communication through dance, there have now been introductions of new dance groups who try to trace back the old method of dance their ancestors had through entertainment and commercialisation. One particular company is the Abakua dance company who try to portray this old form communication in its theatre production.
Today belly dancing is now seen as a form of entertainment. Since the turn of the century, belly dancing has grown enormously in popularity across the United Kingdom, United States of America and worldwide. Belly dance festivals, workshops, and seminars take place constantly, attracting large audiences of interested, involved men and women
We are aware that history shows how belly dance was originally performed by women for women in fertility rituals or with the intention to placate the Gods, ensure crop fertility and bring glory to a given city.
However as a result of western invasions, it has now been commercialized as being erotic and sensual performed at nightclubs for entertainment.
First introduced to the western communities through movies with a Hollywood flavor, more emphasis has been placed on the showing of more flesh and the exotic jewelry to draw more crowds for ones own pleasure and personal entertainment.
“Amira Mor, an instructor at Broadway Dance Centre in New York City, believes offering Middle Eastern dance is a smart move for studios. “It can generate more income for the studio from existing students, and it brings in new people,” says Mor, who has danced on “The Caroline Rhea Show” and in several music videos, including John Mellencamp’s “Another Sunny Day.”
McGeer, 2003 p12)
Pop stars such as Britney Spears and Shakira who have incorporated belly dance to their videos and performance are examples of this form of dance has been commercialised to become a leisured sport of entertainment.
One form of dance performed in Australia today is the Bangarra dance. A living tradition that goes back at least 40,000 years but also reflects the lives of indigenous people living in Australia today. Bangarra dance has said to have stunned audiences throughout Australia and the world with electric, startling and inherently spiritual dance works of immense theatrical presence. The blend of the new and the old is apparent in Today’s Bangarra show. Shedding the establishment and reclaiming of roots is the theme one piece is said to demonstrate.
Dance in India which once played an important role in worship ceremonies now plays an important part in India’s new industrialised commercialised entertainment business. With added influence from the west and the Muslim community from the Middle East theatrical dance has now developed a prominent role in the economy preserving India’s cultural heritage through entertainment. Indian Gods and Goddess are depicted into the dance used as a new form of entertainment to a wide variety of audiences.
Evidence has shown how dance was originally used by primitive and tribal communities as a spiritual and natural form of connection with the divine. Scholars have shown how dance was an integral part of everyday life accompanying both practical and religious rituals. It was only when industrialisation occurred and more complex social issues arose did it change to becoming a source of pleasure and a commercial form of entertainment.
Ancient Egyptians used it in simple in simple rituals to prepare them for a hunt as well as to honour their God Osiris. Greek mythology shows how dance was also used to honour their Gods and performed for religious, fellowship and ceremonies. Dance also played a prominent part in education and was thought to promote physical health and encourage education positively. Also in various parts of Asia it was used as an expression of spirituality and to show deep commitment to the environment. Archaeological findings and early writings also show how it was used in connection with their hunting practices and incorporated in every aspect of the Chinese culture.
These ancient civilisations have shown how crucial dance was as a way of life. It was as a result of western influence, various invasions, migration and industrialisation that led to dance now being seen as an art form used for communication. A strong example of this is the Afro-Caribbean community. The slave trade led to a lot afro-Caribbean’s loosing their identity, thrown to the unknown, among a variety of diverse groups, and a change to the environment led to a different type of lifestyle and new forms of dance being developed. There were some who tried to retain their old culture, but with the continuous economic hardship occurring in Caribbean and the rising opportunities in cities such as New York led to Blacks migrating.
There were many jobs available for blacks as dancers as their new technique was found most entertaining. Blacks were able to recognise this and use this new art form for commercial gain and use as a new form of communication to the audiences. The same sort of process is occurring in western African countries such as Zambia, in West Africa. During its colonial period, the process of industrialisation and urbanisation saw ethnically different people brought together by economic interests. As western influence increases, the more desire there is for western instruments such as the piano and guitar instead of the drum which plays an important part in rituals, ceremonies, celebrations and community communication. The result of industrialisation and urbanisation has also led to night clubs opening up in the towns with local bands playing westernised music to the increasingly westernised youth.
There are some whom may argue that not all sacred dances used to intertwine them with the environment has been lost, which is true to a certain extent as evidence show that Aborigines continue to live in northern and central desert areas of Australia, also other different types of ancient primitive tribes still exist in other parts of the world such as Africa and Asia. Despite this may of these tribes have been modified, a lot of industrialised countries want to take over this way of life as it’s seen as ancient and primitive.
When the European first settled in Australia, they found their lifestyle insignificant to the new developed world, so took over and industrialised their land. As a result many died and now only 2 per cent of aborigines make up Australia’s population today. What once was an essential part of their lifestyle is now being used as a commercialised way of communication, for example, In the Olympic games held in Sydney 2000, an ancient traditional form of dance used at night ceremonies to evoke dreamtime (an ancient aboriginal religion that consists of many myths) was used to open up the ceremony.
This is what has happened with many of the ancient dances performed for magical and ritual ceremonies. Only when more complex social and economic structures began to emerge and a leisured class came to existence did people begin to see dance as a source of pleasure, in some ways distinct from the most important issues of survival. Belly dancing, Bharata Natyam and Katak are just a few prime examples of how traditional dance has lost its cultural, spiritual identity of communication to the natural environment and the divine to industrialisation, invasions and urbanisation to become used for commercial forms of entertainment aimed at pleasing and connecting with the audience it is performing for.
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