Dance is something that everyone knows about, but not many people understand. As an avid dancer and competitor for over ten years, I’ve learned to embrace the many forms of dancing in this world. It’s hard to put a single definition on dance – ‘it is graceful, it is feminine’ – because there are just too many types of dancing, each with a unique style. What I can say right now, is that dance is a discipline that requires immense control of the body to accurately communicate the intent of the dance, but it is also flexible enough to allow individual emotions and personalities to shine through.
Today, I would like to explore with you four very different types of dance: ballet, Chinese, ballroom, and hip hop. 1 Ballet is an art form that originated in the 15th century during the Renaissance. As you can see from the picture, the ballerina wears pointe shoes – basically regular ballet shoes (hold shoe) with a box on top. The ballet shoe is usually made of satin or regular cloth, is sometimes covered with leather on top, and has leather soles for good traction.
The ballerina also wears the tutu, which used to be heavily adorned (and therefore very heavy), but designs have been simplified and streamlined as much as possible to give the feeling of weightlessness. An important component of ballet is the line. Just as in math, lines go on forever, ballet enforces the concept of line both in the hands, in the legs (hence the importance of pointing), and in the combination of the two. People traditionally think that ballet is an exclusively female art form, but through the years, men have been able to add a combination of gymnastics and other stunts to make it a dramatic experience.
2 Chinese dance is something that I find very hard to pinpoint with one description – as you may know, China’s history huge, and there are many different types of Chinese dance from the different Chinese regions. One thing I can confidently say is dancing with props is common. In this picture, the girl dances with ribbons that are usually over ten feet long for each arm; in the next picture, a Mongolian dance, the dancers dance with real porcelain bowls and often with cups (like these), and chopsticks; in this picture, a Dun Huang dance, though the dancers are empty handed right now, it is very common for them to pick up a flute or another type of Chinese musical instrument.
Another thing that is emphasized in Chinese dance is femininity. While in ballet, the chin is always up, the body extended to the most extent, in Chinese dance, the chin is usually tucked to symbolize a sense of shyness. That’s not to say that Chinese dance is not as dynamic as other types of dance…maybe another short clip may help? 3 Ballroom is honestly one of my favorite types of dances, and today, I’ll be talking about Latin dance specifically. Latin dances are made up of samba, rumba, chacha, jive, and pase doble.
The difference between the dance styles is the emphasized beat, (give example), and therefore, its rhythm. One of the biggest differences between ballroom and other forms of dances is its emphasis on hip motion, how the hip controls the leg action, and vice versa. Also important is the process through which the weight is transferred between feet – vertically or horizontally. Speed and sharpness are factors that are crucial to being a good ballroom dancer, and part of the agility comes from the interaction between the partners. Resistance from the male (not even a push), signifies changing direction, lowering the hand preps for a turn, and such.
Costumes are generally tight and minimal, but usually decorated with sequins and tassels, to make sharp turns more noticeable. 4 Finally, hip hop is a form of dance that originated on the streets of cities, and is closely connected to breakdancing. For many dancers, shoewear only includes sneakers, but more professional dancers often use danzsneakers, which provide good ankle support, arch support, and a flat top for toe stands. Hip hop often focuses on bodily isolations and gymnastic feats – backflipping is common. Mostly, hip hop conveys a sense of attitude and independence.
It’s a very new art form in comparison to the others, and we are yet to see where it will take us. 5 So we’ve talked about four different types of dance – ballet, Chinese, ballroom, and hip hop. But keep in mind that there are so many more – jazz, modern, lyrics, just to name a few. Next time you see a dancer, don’t immediately dismiss their art as just a girl sport, but realize that it is a discipline that takes an entire lifetime of practice and training to reach a grace and flexibility unparalleled in most other sports. Perhaps you may want to try dance yourself…I’m sure it will be a life changing experience.