History of Dance and Discovery Workshops

The History of Dance on-site school show includes many facts about dance, including its origins as social interaction in cultures throughout the world.  The students learn about dance as a ceremonial, social, and religious form of expression from the beginning of time.  Dance began to be seen as entertainment in the 1600’s in Italy through the performances of street entertainers.

The greatest leap in dance becoming an art form was under the inspiration of France’s King Louis, XIV, also known as the Sun King for his great and generous patronage of the arts.  Here is where the students learn about codified languages, and how this applies to math, sports, computers, English, and classical ballet.  They learn how classical ballet terminology is spoken in the French language, they learn the translation of these words both through verbal and visual presentation, and they learn it is virtually the same today, over 200 years later.

There is discussion at this point of the practice hundreds of years ago of not allowing women onstage in any theatrical productions, that men and boys performed all the roles of all the genders (this is indeed good for a laugh and angst by the boys in the audience when told how the men and boys of “old” had to wear dresses and make-up!)  When women were beginning to be allowed a place as entertainers on stages throughout Europe, the fine idea of flying a woman onto the dance area through wires attached to the back of the costumes, and how this was the early precursor to women being allowed onto stage into the newly developed pointe shoes, it brings a new found appreciation of the theatrical history in general and women’s roles in particular.  Classical ballet works are presented both in an informal classroom environment and attire, and then also with elaborate choreography and costumes.

The lecture then moves on to the beginnings of classical Spanish dance in Spain with traditional classical dance demonstrated.  Chronologically, we move on to the formation of modern dance and discuss the early pioneers of modern dance, especially  American, Isadora Duncan, who took her work throughout Europe.  We  use dance to demonstrate the different modern styles, and show how modern dance has greatly influenced classical ballet.

The next area of the performance lecture/demonstration includes a rhythm study where the students participate either sitting down or standing, depending on the performance venue capabilities.  They learn the impact of music on dance, and how the dancer(s) depend on the music and its rhythms for both continuity and musicality.  The students learn the meaning of choreography (the art of  making dances) and in most venues, they learn some basic choreography.

It is at this point that Tap Dancing is introduced as an American dance form, completing the above study of rhythms.  The students learn the origin of tap dancing:  When the young slaves were captured and brought to America, they were forced to leave their beautiful native instruments behind.  To communicate with one another, from village to village in Africa, they used to drum out messages to one another.  Once they were in America, they used wooden blocks to drum messages from farm to farm and plantation to plantation.  Eventually those blocks made their way to the feet of the slaves.  Later, after emancipation, over 100 years ago, the blocks were replaced with several tops from “Coca-Cola” bottles, and then were eventually replaced by the
heel and toes taps we see on shoes today.  This is vital information for the young African-Americans to know their ancestors were indeed the foundation and creators of the American dance form so popular around the world today-TAP dancing.  Tap dancing is then presented to the audience

We complete the lecture with discussion about another performing dance form that was developed in the United States–JAZZ dancing.  Jazz dance began developing from the early music of Scott Joplin, and with each succeeding decade of changing music, so changed jazz dancing (ie:  the ROARING  20’s music lead to many interpretations of “flapper” dancing and the Charleston dance).  Vaudeville dance and many Broadway and film dance extravganzas were the result of the early jazz dance roots.  Jazz dancing is then presented to the audience.

The lecture usually ends with a group of dances, ranging from classical ballet to the more contemporary dance styles.

The entire show and presentation ends with a question and answer period with the students.  The dancers come out and interact with the students one-on-one.  It is not unusual for some of our dancers to actually work with some of the students, teaching them how to partner the ladies of the company, and be lifted by the male dancers.  It is great fun, and the kids especially love these sessions.  The questions are wonderfully thought out, and we answer as many as the time allows.

It is not unusual for the students to write us, send us drawings and notes.  It is amazing how much of the information they truly retain.

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