The lights fades, the orchestra begins to come to life, the rustling of paper can be heard, and then the screen rises. The concert begins with a proposition, a prelude to what will happen. Suddenly, the star ballerina appears on stage. She is beautiful and the audience claps energetically for her. At the end of the show, she receives flowers and huge applause. This is dance. Dance is the transformation of ordinary functional and expressive movement into extraordinary movement for extraordinary purposes. Each culture tends to have its own distinctive styles of dance and reasons for dancing. As a result, dance can reveal much about a people and their way of life.
Every little girl in the audience wants to be the ballerina on stage that was just seen. How does a little girl fulfill her dream of becoming a professional ballerina? What are the steps she must take in order to be on a stage gaining recognition one day? First, a dancer must be classically trained. Many girls begin at the age of three or four whereas boys generally start lessons at the age of nine or ten. Ballet is a very strict form of dance, and provides the child with a great amount of discipline and dedication.
Depending on the girls dancing talent, a girl may receive a minor role in a large ballet production around the age of fifteen. Performing makes a dancer realize whether or not she wants to continue with dance for the remainder of her life. The first role a dancer receives in a professional ballet company is that of an apprentice. An apprentice makes minimal pay in comparison to the other dancers. The apprenticeship usually lasts for at least two years or until the company feels the dancer is ready to progress.
Two main kinds of dance exist: dances for participation, which do not needs spectators; and dances for presentation, which are designed for an audience. Dances for participation, include work dances (see below), some forms of religious dance, and recreational dances such as folk dances and popular, or social, dances. Because these dances are for everyone in a community, they often consist of repetitive step patterns that are easy to learn.
Presentational dances are performed in any spaces where an audience can watch. In the past, dancers entertained royal rules in their palaces; in many cultures they performed in temples as part of the religious ritual; in ancient Greece they were part of the dramas enacted in amphitheatres. Today, presentational dance is usually shown in conventional theatres, but it can also be seen in outdoor arenas, open-air public spaces, and even art galleries. The dancers may be professionals, and the dance is presented as art. The movements tend to be relatively difficult and require specialized training.
The physical and psychological effects of dance enable it to serve many functions. Dance often occurs at rites of passage, when an individual passes from one role to another. Thus, birth, initiation, graduation, marriage, succession to political office, and death may be marked by dancing in gatherings, pageants, festivals, spectacles, or ceremonies. Dance may also be a form of worship, a means of honoring ancestors, a way of propitiating the gods, or a method to effect magic. Dancing is mentioned in the Bible, and until the middle Ages it was often a part of Christian worship celebrations.
The Christian Church later denounced dancing as immoral, but it continued to be important to various Christian and non-Christian sects, among them the American Shakers and the Islamic whirling dervishes. Dance may be a part of courtship, since in some societies dances may be the only events at which young people of different sexes can meet. In contemporary society, dances also provide important occasions for young people to socialize. Social dances have evolved as work dances, the rhythmic movements helping the task progress more quickly and efficiently, as in Japanese rice-planting dances.
In many cultures, dance is also an art form, but it did not move into conventional theatres until fairly recently (1671). Ballet and the classical dance of Asia and the Far East were originally elaborate religious rituals or court entertainments that have gradually been adapted to the theatre.
The modern world will foster more borrowing of dances among different countries, and, along with this, the creation of new dance forms based on mixtures of various national styles. Modern peoples have lost the dances of the past millennia because no method existed to preserve them. Today, with film, videotape, and dance notation system such as labanotation, and Benesh notation, the dances of contemporary cultures can be preserved for subsequent generations.