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Understanding Dance

Appreciating Dance

It really is this simple: dance is the human body in motion. In one form or another, dance is a part of our history.

  • It is thought that early societies used dance to celebrate the planting and harvesting of crops.
  • Kings and Queens of the 16th century celebrated royal weddings with lavish spectacles that included elaborate displays of dance.
  • In the 19th century, people attended the theatre to watch dance as a way to escape their harsh realities for a few hours.
  • Today, along with numerous concert dance performances, the advertising, music video and feature film industries continue to keep dance a part of our everyday lives.

As an audience member, you may feel like you don't understand what you're watching. You're not alone. In Paris in 1913, crowds rioted in the streets after the premiere of Vaslav Nijinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring. Their reaction demonstrates the anger and frustration they felt because they didn't understand the dance set before them.

To avoid frustration and embarrassment because they don't "get it", many people close themselves off to dance completely. However, then they miss out on the way dance can be enjoyable, exciting, thought provoking, creative and enriching. Dance can make you see and think about life and the world in new ways.

You may have heard comments like "I don't understand it" or "it just doesn't mean anything to me". For the uninitiated, it can be hard to make distinctions between forms, styles or choreographers, and dance of all kinds can seem the same.

In fact today, the range of styles, philosophies and techniques is extremely varied. Canada's vibrant dance scene alone offers a wide variety of viewing options. Internationally, the range is even greater. If you don't like a particular choreographer or company's work, chances are good that there is another you will enjoy.

The key is not to pressure yourself. The truth is, you really can relax. There is no right or wrong interpretation. Whether or not a dance performance suits your particular tastes, if you are open to the experience, you will get something out of it.