Dance through history . . .
Dancin’ feet! Do you know the latest dance? Bet you would if you could . . . dance. “Tom,” I said, “For my birthday, come on, dance with me.”
Now that we got ourselves onto the dance floor, I began to wonder about the history of ballroom dancing. Dance history is difficult to access because dance does not often leave behind clearly identifiable physical artifacts that last over millennia, such as stone tools, hunting implements or cave paintings. It is not possible to identify with exact precision when dance became part of human culture. I suspect millenniums. We do know though, early dance, like 18th century sequence ballroom dancing in Jane Austen’s world, was used as a method of healing and expression. That has not changed.
Modern ballroom dance has its roots early in the 20th century, when several different things happened during and after World War I. The first was a movement away from the sequence dances toward dances where the couples moved independently. This was foreshadowed by the waltz which had already made this transition. The second was a wave of popular music that led to a burst of invented dances. The third event was a concerted effort to transform some of the dance crazes into dances which could be taught to a wider dance public in the US and Europe.
Here Vernon and Irene Castle were important, and so was a generation of English dancers in the 1920s. These professionals analyzed, codified, published and taught a number of standard dances. It was essential, if popular dance was to flourish, for dancers to have some basic movements they could confidently perform with any partner they might meet. Here the Arthur Murray organization in America, and the dance societies in England, such as the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, were influential.
Later, in the 1930s, the on-screen dance pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers influenced all forms of dance in the USA and elsewhere. Much of their work portrayed social dancing, although the performances were highly choreographed, meticulously staged and rehearsed.
Ballroom dance may refer to almost any type of partner dancing as recreation. However, with the emergence of dancesport in modern times, the term has become narrower in scope, and traditionally refers to the International Standard and International Latin style dances. The styles, while differing in technique, rhythm and costumes, exemplify core elements of ballroom dancing such as control and cohesiveness. There are variations that are popular: American Smooth and American Rhythm which combine elements of both traditional Latin and Ballroom dances.
Talented children dancing cha-cha-cha at a junior Latin dance competition in the Czech Republic. You should see kids like this dance live, they are terrific. Studying dance is hard work. For these competitions, it takes hours and hours and hours of lessons and practice.
Competitions, available for the ambitious, are sometimes referred to as Dancesport, range from world championships, regulated by the World Dance Council (WDC), to less advanced dancers at various proficiency levels. Most competitions are divided into professional and amateur, though in the USA pro-am competitions typically accompany professional competitions.The International Olympic Committee now recognizes competitive ballroom dance. It has recognized another body, the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF), as the sole representative body for dancesport in the Olympic Games. However, it seems doubtful that dance will be included in the Olympic Games, especially in light of efforts to reduce the number of participating sports.
Swing . . . one of my favorites. I also love the Waltz, it’s dreamy. We dance three days a week, private, practice and group. An amazing exercise. The benefits are astounding.
Personalized too! Birthday surprise for me at our ballroom dance party! And Tom next to me did it, went from never danced in life, to dancing with his wife. That’s me.
What’s your favorite dance?
Thanks to Wikipedia!