ArtLex Art Dictionary



ddance - Dance is an art form consisting primarily of movement of the human body. Usually it is a series of rhythmical movements of the feet and other body parts performed in time to music. Dance movements, generally stylized, can follow either prescribed or improvised steps and gestures. Dance has its own aesthetic and expressive potential. It can be done for the pleasure of either an individual dancer or a group of dancers, or of an audience. Many of the primitive forms of dance have a ritualistic or ceremonial purpose, often demanding specific costumes, sometimes masks, and many have long-standing traditions. Some dancers achieve certain mind-body states — sometimes mystical or spiritual ones. Some dancers persue it as a kind of physical exercise. Types of dance include folk, jig, waltz, flamenco, polka, ballet, modern, foxtrot, jitterbug, tango, cha cha, rhumba, hula, tap, and breakdancing, among many others. Postmodern dance can consist of the most ordinary movements — walking, sitting, slouching, leaning over, etc. A dance can be an occasion for dancing. Choreography is both the designing of sequences of dance movements, and the dance that results from it.

In Greek mythology, Terpsichore is the muse of choral song and dance.

Art about or made for dance:



see thumbnail to leftMycenaean, Group of Three Dancers in a Ring, c. 1300 BCE, terra cotta painted with slip, British Museum, London.



see thumbnail to rightEtruscan, Antefix, terra cotta, early 400s BCE, 21 7/16 x 12 3/4 x 6 1/2 inches (54.6 x 32.5 x 16.5 cm), J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, CA. A silenos and maenad dance in a Dionysiac revel on this Etruscan antefix. See mythology.



see thumbnail to leftChinese, Dancer-Shaped Pei Pendants, Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 25 CE), white jade, 4.6 x 2.5 cm, Henan Museum, China. Unearthed at Yongcheng, Henan. This pair of pei pendants is carved in openwork and engraved lines. Also see Chinese art and Han.




see thumbnail to rightIndian, Tamil Nadu, Shiva as Lord of Dance (Nataraja), Chola period (880-1279), c. 11th century, copper alloy, height 26 7/8 inches (68.3 cm), diameter 22 1/4 inches (56.5 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See Shiva.





see thumbnail to leftFrench, Lute Player, the Warrior, and Apollo, drawings of costumes for the Ballet royal de la nuit (Royal Ballet of the Night), c. 1650, Bibliotheque Nationale France, Paris. The ballet ends with the appearance of Aurore, who yields her place to the rising sun -- Apollo -- played the premiere performance by the young King Louis XIV -- popularly known ever since as "The Sun King." See Baroque.




see thumbnail to rightGeorge Catlin (American, 1796-1872), The Buffalo Dance, 1848, chromolithograph, from a set of prints: "Die Indianier Nord Amerikas", published in Brussels, Belgium. Such prints were effectively reproductions of paintings. See American Indian art.





see thumbnail to leftJean-Baptiste Carpeaux, The Spirit of the Dance, 19th century, marble, height 41 1/4 inches (104.8 cm), North Carolina Art Museum, Raleigh.




see thumbnail to rightSri Lankan, The Serpent Demon, a Kolam dancer's mask, 19th century, pre-1885, height 66 cm, British Museum, London. Sri Lanka is the island once known as Ceylon to the east of India. Kolam is a rural Sri Lankan form of drama involving both mime, dialogue, and dance, by actors who wear masks and costumes. The museum says, "The characters are divided into several types: humans (for example, princes, the drummer and his wife, the European), animals and demons, and the performances move from the depiction of village scenes to stories involving spirits and fabulous creatures from Hindu mythology. The Serpent Demon is a fierce character representing the evil power of snake poisons that can destroy human and animal life. The figure can be recognized partly by the presence of the cobras coiling to form a crown around its head and the snakes that emerge from its nostrils. There are several species of poisonous snakes in Sri Lanka; the cobra in particular is often depicted on demon masks that are used by dancers in rituals to expel evil from the body of a patient."




see thumbnail to leftEdgar Degas (French, 1834-1917), Grande Arabesque, c. 1885-90, posthumous cast, bronze, 40.0 x 50.8 x 34.3 cm, Tate Gallery, London.



Jose Guadalupe Posada (Mexican, 1852-1913), Happy dance and wild party of all the skeletons (Gran fandango y francachela de todas las calaveras), no date, broadside, engraving on type metal. See Mexican art.








see thumbnail to leftAgathon Léonard (French, 1841-1923) for Sèvres, Royal Porcelain Factory, Dancing Figure from the Table Centrepiece 'Dance with Scarves', 1900, bisque porcelain, height 47.5 cm, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. This Art Nouveau figure is one of fourteen in a set of female figures dancing and playing music. See drapery.




see thumbnail to rightHenri Matisse (French, 1869-1954), Dance (first version), 1909, oil on canvas, 8 feet 6 1/2 inches x 12 feet 9 1/2 inches (259.7 x 390.1 cm), Museum of Modern Art, NY. Matisse painted a second version of see thumbnail to leftDance in 1910, oil on canvas, 102 x 154 inches (260 x 391 cm), Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Dance, together with Music, was commissioned by S.I.Shchukin to decorate the staircase in his Moscow mansion.
Matisse took the motif of the round dance, used as a symbol back as far as French Renaissance, to represent the rhythm and expression of the 20th century. The spaciousness and expressive lines emphasize the dynamics of the figures. Simplified and schematic forms intensify the brightness and resonance of the three colors -- red, blue and green. Dance, Matisse once said, meant "life and rhythm." See circle, Fauvism, music, and rhythm.




see thumbnail to rightPalmer Hayden (American, 1890-1973), Jeunesse, no date, watercolor on paper, 14 x 17 inches, collection of Dr. Meredith F. Sirmans, NY. This and works by many other artists of the Harlem Renaissance were influenced by their enjoyment of jazz, an often improvisational musical form developed during the 1920s by African Americans and influenced by European harmonic structure and African rhythmic complexity. Jazz can be identified by its characteristic blues rhythms and distinctive speech intonations. Harlem has long been an important center for jazz. Palmer Hayden could have seen such dancing as this at the Savoy, Harlem's most famous jazz club.






Also see body art, finger paint, interdisciplinary, kinesthetic, performance art, permanence, puppet, and theater.






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