The History of Dance

For Thousands of Years Humans Have Expressed Themselves Using This Art Form

by Kayla Hollis, age 11

Shows like So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with The Stars, America’s Best Dance Crew and America’s Got Talent dominate our TV screens and feature talented dancers. Throughout history, dancing has been a way to express feelings and even a way to tell a story. For some people, it is a way to show off their strength.

Early pictures depicting dance have been discovered in caves in Europe and Africa. These pictures indicate that dancing has been around for many thousands of years. Some ancient dances are still popular today, like the voodoo dances in Haiti, which were created a long time ago and have religious roots.

During the 1400’s, ballet became popular in the royal courts of Italy, but was adopted and later evolved in France. King Louis XIV enjoyed dancing and because of his skills, in 1661 he opened the first European dance academy in Paris. Before the academy opened, most dancers performed their own freestyle moves. After the academy opened, dancing as a profession began to be popular.

The academy’s director, Charles-Louis Beauchamp, played a big part in standardizing dance movements. The five basic ballet positions are thought to have been his idea. In the early 1900’s, some dancers began to break away from classical ballet and started creating a different style. One American dancer, Isadora Duncan, made a huge impact on contemporary dance. Inspired by ideas from ancient Greece, she performed barefoot.

Dancing to music became a social norm starting in the 1920’s. In the 1930’s and early 1940’s, jitterbugging was popular. As for the late 1940’s and 1950’s, the rock’n’roll jive thrived. The twist was in during the 1960’s. And until today, dances such as disco, break dancing, and free expression have been popular.

Dancing is a form of art that is used in many different ways. It can be exiting or calm and mellow. People dance to entertain an audience, for enjoyment, or just because nobody’s around and they don’t have to be embarrassed. Every person has a unique style of dancing.

[Source: The Kingfisher Children’s Encyclopedia]