The metamorphosis of dance

What is dance? Is it a set of coordinated rhythmical movements, a nonverbal expression of emotions or simply an aesthetically pleasing form of entertainment? The answer to this question is all of the above, as there is no one definition to sum up the intricate and intertwining definition that explains the ideology of dance. Personally I feel that dance is a self-expression of ones innate emotions to the accompanying music. Be it performed for self-enjoyment or in a coordinated group, dance provides a platform for individuals to express themselves psychologically and physically through their body movements, facial expressions and the usage of space.

Dance is a universal form of art. It is found in every culture, especially lineage-based societies. According to Kraus, he stated that dance is important in lineage-based societies as it is used as a means of worshiping, a way of expressing, reinforcing tribal unity and strength, framework for courting or mating, a means of communication and a therapeutic experience.[1] For example Native Americans from the Plain Indian tribe would perform the Sun Dance 'war dance', asking the gods for strength and victory in warfare. And Sikhs livings living in the northern state of Punjab, India would perform Bhangra dance during the month of Lohri, to celebrate the harvest festival.

In the past dance was more a necessity, then a form of entertainment, as it was used in social rituals and celebrations. The dancer was regarded highly in a village or tribe, as they were viewed as the communicators to the gods/deities. These days in most modern societies a dancer is known mainly as a skilled artist or an entertainer. No longer do we regard a dancer highly in our society, this is due to the evolution and metamorphosis of humans. Through the inception of science, radical thinking of philosophers and religions such as Christianity, we have a better understanding of how the world works and would rarely look upon dance to solve modern day affairs.

Though not all lineage - based dance has ceased to exist, some dance has continued to exist in modern societies due to cultural upkeep. One such dance is Bhangra; performed mainly by Sikhs - followers of the religion Sikhism, Bhangra began as the dance of the harvest festival- Lohri and presently it is also performed for weddings and other festive occasions. Bhangra is performed by both sexes; it includes acrobatic performance, which is physically demanding. Over the years Bhangra in India has metamorphosed from a harvest dance, to one that is found in many Bollywood movies and also commonly used as a form of aerobic exercise all over the world.

Within the small Sikh community context in Singapore, Bhangra is performed for mainly the same reasons as in India, but the style of the dance has changed slightly to include modern styles such as Hip-Hop and break-dance. This is primarily due to western influences in Singapore. Bhangra performers in Singapore have metamorphosed the traditional dance and made it more audience friendly to the youths of today, who are heavily influenced by western culture. Not only has the dance changed, but also the music that accompanies Bhangra dance. Most of the current Bhangra musicians are based overseas in countries such as Britain and America, thus the western influence in their music and lyrics.

To conclude, I feel that the metamorphosis of dance is occurring due to the current unstoppable phenomenon that is globalization and will continue to occur, as the world will continue to go through the evolution of change and advance to more integrated and contemporary forms of dance.

Bibliography

  1. Kraus, Richard, et al, History of the Dance in Art and Education. 3rd ed. Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1981.
  2. Chapter 3, The Roots of Dance: Lineage-Based Societies and Pre- Christian Forms from Kraus, Richard, et al, History of the Dance in Art and Education. 3rd ed. Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1981.

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