Dance is the movement of the body with music to express feelings, emotions, experiences, or any idea.
One of the most basic purposes of the dance is to communicate emotions, not only in humans but also in animals. It is a way to release powerful feelings, joy, or anger, and it helps to generate and release emotions. Mostly, people dance for pleasure to experience their bodies and surroundings in a new way. Often it involves extreme movements, for example, arms stretched out, body twisted or arched, and the head lifted back.
It can be seen clearly that dance has been an integral part of many cultures, such as tribal wars, hunting dances, and even modern military marches. War dances were used throughout history to practice weapons or fighting movements and to train soldiers spiritually and emotionally for the batter. With time, societies became more complex, and many of the earlier religious and hunting dances lost their original significance and developed into entertaining folk dances. In all stages of life, all kinds of dances have gained much importance as a source of social cohesion and have also been used to display social identity and strength. In earlier Greece, citizens were forced to attend dance drama parties to inspire allegiance to the city-state.
The Elements of Dance
Dance can be categorized into the following elements:
These five elements are interconnected, and it is hard to separate them. But we can discuss each element to examine how these elements can be used to get different results.
The human body is a basic element during dance. Everyone sees the human body when they look at dance. The human body moves with rhythmic purpose and motion with music; that is called dance. Usually, a dancer uses a whole body or an individual body when moving, and sometimes the whole body is still; other times, the whole body is moving. At the same time, watching dance try to notice the positions. Is it symmetrical with left or right sides? What shapes are a body making? Are these shapes soft and round or sharp and angular? Is the body straight, curved, or twisted? It is very similar to a painting in which some colors are more vibrant. You may also notice that dancers work hard to train their bodies to attain balance, agility, and strength.
Action is the human actors involved during dancing and all the movements they perform during the dance. The dance action includes claps, slaps, jumps, falls in a place, and turns from one side to another. These movements can be categorized into two categories.
- Non-locomotor movement occurs only in one spot, including a bend, swing, stretch, rise, shake, fall, turn, tip, rock, twist, and suspend.
- Locomotor movement: Any movement that takes place through space, including a run, walk, jump, slide, skip, hop, leap, roll, crawl and gallop.
Actions mostly include large movements like catches, lifts, and carry done in a group or with a partner, as well as small movements like gestures or facial expressions. Normally, dancers work with a choreographer to refine and practice dance actions. When these actions are finalized, every dancer has to memorize these movements’ sequences to perform well.
Space is where the action of dance takes place. Here we are talking about something other than the final frontier. To explain it better, here are some ways that a dancer or choreographer uses to think about space:
- Level: Is the movement reaching upward or on the floor? Are they performing low, medium, or high?
- Direction: Do they moving forward, backward, diagonal, sideways, left, or right?
- Place: Is the movement done on space (public space, upstage, or downstage), or does it move through the spot (personal space)?
- Orientation: Which way are the dancers facing?
- Pathway: Is it a path made through space by the dancers straight, curved, or zigzagged? Or is it random?
- Size: Does the movement take up a big and wide space or a small and narrow space?
- Relationships: How are the dancers positioned in a space with one another? Are they close together or far apart? Are they in front of, behind, beside, over, alone, under, or connected?
The above-listed points help us to understand how to think of movements in space and imagine how many ways you can perform a simple movement. The most important thing to remember is that space can be outdoor and indoor. The concept of space is explored in many ways as dancers constantly change their directions and how many ways they can use the element of space.
Choreographers have to decide about timing to make their movements quick and slow and to repeat certain steps at different speeds during dancing. Therefore, time can be divided into the following steps.
- Clock Time: It is used to think about parts of a dance and the length of the dance measured in seconds, minutes, and hours.
- Timing Relationships: It is when dancers move about each other (before, together, after, sooner than, and faster than).
- Metered Time is when rhythmic patterns are performed with music (like 2/4 time or 4/4 time). If dances are done with music, then the movement can respond to the beat or can move against it, and the speed of the rhythmic pattern is called its tempo.
- Free Rhythm: A rhythmic pattern is less predictable than metered time; dancers may perform the movement without using music, relying on cues from one another.
The action of the feet stomping and hands slapping creates the complex rhythm the audience hears.
It is the fifth and last element of dance; we need it because moving bodies through time and space is not enough. Energy helps us to understand how a dancer is moving and using effort. It also tells whether their movements are strong and sharp or free and light. It also represents the quality, power, and richness of movements. The efforts made by dancers are used to communicate their meaning depending on the energy used. Finally, energy plays an important role in bringing out inner expressions of emotions on stage. We can think about energy in the following ways.
- Attack: It is a sharp, smooth, sudden, and sustained movement.
- Weight: If the movements show solidity as if giving into gravity, or light has a tendency upward.
- Flow: Does the movement seem bound and restricted with a lot of muscle tension, or is it free, relaxed, free, and easy?
- Quality: Are the movements tight, loose, flowing, sharp, swaying, swinging, suspended, smooth, and collapsed?
During a dance team performance, energy is a very crucial element. Therefore, the dancers use a percussive and sharp attack or may have pauses between movements that break the flow.
Types of Dance
There are many styles of dance; everyone chooses their attraction. Popular styles of dancing include:
This dance style mainly focused on strength, flexibility, and technique, primarily performed with classical music.
This type of dance includes partner-dancing styles such as the waltz, foxtrot, swing, tango, and rumba.
It originated in the Middle East, and this dance style is mostly used as a fun way to exercise.
This urban dance style involves kicks, turns, and leaps with music and is performed with hip-hop music.
It is a high-energy dance style, including kicks, turns, and leaps with the beat of the music.
It has become a popular way of exercise, and it is performed with a vertical pole. It requires muscle coordination, endurance, and upper- and lower-body strength.
It is a partner dance and emphasizes rhythms and sensations. Usually, it involves a mixture of Latin American, African, and Caribbean.
It is a type of folk dancing where 4 couples dance in a square pattern and exchange partners while moving around each other.
The name originates from the tapping sounds produced when the small metal plates on the dancer’s shoes touch the ground. It mostly focuses on timing and beats.
The Importance of Dancing in Human Life
It is a natural act and has become a form of meditation. Dancing increases our blood flow and metabolism, releasing endorphins, which give us a natural high. Some dances are cultural, some are spiritual, and some are completely for enjoying the moment, but their results are always the same and raise the level of energy. Dancing has many benefits; it can be a good workout and connect the mind with the body. There are a lot of places where you can enjoy dance, such as social venues, school functions, community halls, and your own house, and anyone of any age can participate. Dancing has become very popular for exercising, being active, and keeping fit. Now many fitness clubs offer dance classes, and dance plays a very important role in physical and mental health.
The dance will help develop muscles, tone the body, improve posture, improve circulation, balance, and coordination, and promote greater flexibility. Flexibility is very important and can decrease the chances of injury, especially in an active child. In addition, dance helps keep the mind and body focused, heightening everyone’s ability to perform other physical activities.
Dance increases our bodies’ circulation, metabolism, and physical fitness and burns all extra calories. It is observed that during the dance, everyone burns 5 to 10 calories per minute, depending on intensity and speed. Hip hop particularly involves large movements of the whole body. One main aspect of hip-hop is free-styling; this type of dance engages people to learn more complex routines that train muscles beyond the normal routine. In 60 minutes of hip-hop dance, you will burn between 370 to 610 calories.
Balance is one of the most important factors for athletes and also the same for dancers. It helps improve our performance and strengthen and excel in our dancing ability. A new study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology found that years of dance training changed the nervous system’s coordination with muscles for balancing and walking motions. It also helps to improve coordination and strengthen our reflexes, and it is a great way to connect our Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems in great shape.
Dance helps to increase flexibility and reduce stiffness, and flexibility also helps to reduce joint pain and post-exercise aching. It also increases coordination and agility with flexibility. After all, dancing is mostly concerned with flexibility and dance moves. It also helps to minimize the risk of injury during the dance and any physical activity. With the help of flexibility, you can adjust your body in multiple positions.
It is a little difficult to get up early in the morning, but taking a dance class in the early morning can help to increase your energy levels for the short and long term. Research published in The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition found that a weekly dance program can increase adults’ energy levels and physical performance. In addition, many dancers have found an increase in fat-burning and energy levels.
Healthy Heart & Lungs
The great advantage of dance is that you do not need to have super fitness; anyone can learn according to their pace; during the dance, blood circulation increase and help to reduce breathing issue. It is the best activity for those with a risk of cardiovascular disease and helps improve the condition of the lungs and heart from an early stage. The research found that people over 40 have less risk of dying of heart disease by participating in dancing.
It helps to improve stamina because during dancing flow of blood and oxygen increases in the whole body. So if you’re trying to stay pace in your running exercise, dancing can unexpectedly help you by building your muscle resistance and stamina.
Build muscles strong
Each dance move requires a dancer to support their body weight as they move on the floor; in this, all body excises, and this practice improves muscle growth. Therefore, dancing provides an effective workout for body muscles and mainly improves the small muscles that are neglected during other activities. As a result, these small muscles support small muscles and improve mobility, which means that a dancer can participate in a wide range of activities.
Increase Bone strength
As we already know, dancing improves muscle strength and bone density because it is a high-weight-bearing exercise. In addition, as we discussed, dancers continuously change their positions during dancing and re-balance their weight; sometimes, they jump and leap in the air. All these moves put stress on the bones and help in the growth and repair of bones.
Dancing plays an important role in mental health by improving mood with music beats and increasing blood circulation to reduce stress, anxiety, and dizziness. In addition, it helps the mind to stay sharp and focused on daily life tasks.
Improves Your Mood
Dance makes us feel happier when the feet dance with the beat of the music, the body secretes happy hormones, which help to improve your mood. Along with this, dance also helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. It also helps to build harmony between our body and mind.
Keeps Mind Sharp
Dance is not just a physical activity but also a mental workout. Remembering different dance steps, patterns, and different parts of the body is a mental challenge for dancers, but it helps to improve memory. In addition, this mental workout helps to improve mind growth and strengthen the networking system in our body.
When discussing the benefits of dance, we mostly discuss physical benefits and overlook psychological benefits. It allows us to make new friends and socially connect to increase our happiness and build strong bonds with co-dancers. It also improves bonds with friends, family members, and loved ones.
If you feel stressed at home, work, or elsewhere, you can turn on music and try hip-hop. Several studies have shown that many people release all stress by dancing because dance can act as a stress reliever, and when the body feels good, the mind does too. This physical activity releases neurotransmitters and endorphins, which work to reduce stress.
Improves Brain Functioning
Dance therapy focuses on the expression and body movement, which helps to remove depressive symptoms. As discussed above, dance improves memory; in the same way, dance therapy sharpens the brain’s functioning. It is said that mental and physical health are co-related to each other. Thus, when our body feels relaxed, our mind improves its functioning.
Reduces Neurological Disorders
During dancing, dancers perform different functions and positions; scientific facts show that dance therapy increases brain networking and circulation of chemicals that help balance mental health. Furthermore, the transmission of these chemicals reduces the risk of mental health and neurological disorders.
Along with many physical and mental benefits, dance also helps to improve confidence by learning a new skill and enhancing self-confidence. It also gives the feeling of pride and accomplishment by moving the body in beautiful new ways and increasing self-esteem.
Lastly, dance provides an emotional passage that helps people express their feelings by coordinating body movements with music. It is an ability that translates back to a sense of creativity in the real world. Dance encourages artistic expression and creativity and makes kids more confident to express themselves and explore their artistic creativity through dance. Its opens the door to a career path and new passion.
Dancing has been part of our culture in every aspect of life; it is a powerful exercise for physical and mental health and allows every age group to improve and enjoy daily life activities.