Sunday, October 31, 2010
By the late 1600's, ballet had begun to evole from princely pastime enjoyed in palaces to a popular entertainment in public theaters. Leading the changes were Jean-Georges Noverre, and a pair of rival ballerinas, Marie Camargo and Marie Salle.
French ballet dancer turned choreographer, Jean-Georges Noverre(1727-1810) was known as "The Shakespeare of the Ballet." He believed that ballet was stiff and artificial and that a new narrative ballet, ballet d'action, offered a richer experience. He strove to unite ballet's elements - music, costumes and scenery, as well as choreography - in telling a story. Like Shakespeare, Noverre gave prominence to character and plot. In 1754 he produced his first ballet and in 1760 published his book, "Letters on the Dance," which set out his ideas. He encouraged dancers to be as dramatic as possible, to use natural movement, gesture, and facial expression, as well as their ballet vocabulary. Among other improvements, Noverre introduced the pas d'action, the step of action, of pantomime used to advance the story of the ballet. This and other innovations helped break the rigid formula of court dances, and led to the development of the dramatic possibilities of the ballet. Noverre helped change the ballet from a divertissement, a mere pastime, into a ballet d'action, a ballet of action that told a story of human emotions. Prior to Noverre, a critic of the period wrote that "dancing had become so little expressive of anything dramatic that puppets and machines might easily replace the dancer."
Letters of the Dance, or "Lettres sur la Danse"
Noverre was greatly influenced by Marie Salle and her ideas of freedom in dance, and the importance of emotion. He felt that technique alone wasn't enough for a dancer to master, but to bring alive the story or theme of the dance.
Marie Sallé(1707-1756) one of the most prominent dancers of her time, was a daughter of a tumbler. She was taught dancing very early and made her debut in 1718 at the St. Laurent's Fair in an opera-comique by Lesaye titled "La Princesse Carisme". She toured in fairs for years and in 1721 appeared for the first time in the Opera in Paris in "Les Fetes Venitiennes". She became a student of Francoise Prevost at the Academie Royale, but the jealousy of the older danseuse kept her from advancing rapidly. In 1725 John Rich took her to London where she first appeared in "Love's Last Shift" in entreacte divertissement with her brother.
Also a choreographer, she was a reformer in dance. At Covent Garden in 1734, she appeared in her own production of "Pygmalion". She discarded the cumbersome dress of the day and danced in a muslin costume, her hair down and unornamented. This was in line with her belief that dance should be natural and expressive.
Salle's rival, the Belgian Marie Anne de Cupis de Camargo(1710-1770)was known more for her extraordinary technique. Like Salle, Camargo dared to remove the heels from her shoes and caused a scandal by shortening her skirts. Camargo made her Paris debut in 1726. The ballet was a series of short divertissements, enabling a virtuoso to display herself in period dances and pantomime. A critic wrote, "Mlle Camargo danced with all the liveliness and intelligence that could possibly be expected from a young person aged fifteen.....Her cabrioles and entrechats were effortless, although she has still many perfections to acquire before she can venture comparison with her illustrious teacher. She is considered to be one of the most brilliant dancers to be seen, in particular for her sensitive ear for music, her airiness, and her strength."
Their tremendous rivalry was terrific for the box office. Their styles represented the ongoing argument between the virtuosic and the dramatic - it's the rare dancer who excels at both - and their dancing achieved new heights of each.
Even Noverre, who disliked her, had to admit Mlle Camargo had intelligence and made use of it in choosing a style which was lively and quick.
Voltaire immortalized them in verse, which stated in part, "Ah! Camargo. How brilliant you are! But, great gods, how ravishing is also Salle."
Friday, October 29, 2010
I have heard men say
that the greatest gift of all to give
is the gift of love.
I have heard, but I do not understand.
I am not sure it is a gift; a thing
to offer as a present.
I do not believe there is the power within us
to choose...to decide
where our love will go,
to consider possibilities,
then make a list
and add names to it, or cross them off,
and in the end proclaim:
"To these I will give my love..
to these my gift bequeath."
It cannot be so,
For if it were,
there would be no broken hearts,
no songs of love in vain.
It would be such a simple matter
when we received a gift of love,
to be fair
and give ours to the giver in return;
if we had the power...
if we had the choice.
I think we do not give our love;
it is taken from us.
Sometimes by those we want to have it,
by those whose love we've taken.
Sometimes by those who take it without knowing...
by those who do not care.
The ability to love
is the true gift.
It is God's gift to all of us.
But He doesn't give us
the power to dictate where it goes
He lets us discover love
in the midst of life's joys and woes.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Thanks to Love to Know Dance
From basic to elite, all dancers need to be continually challenged, and there is no better way to stretch oneself than to get into the spirit of competitiveness. Dance competitions allow you to push yourself to the limits as a dancer, while also providing you the opportunity to grow and learn from the creativity and tenacity of those you see competing around you.
Competition gives your dancing an edge it otherwise wouldn't have, and you will find yourself more motivated to put in hours at the studio, while refining technique and balance in ways you never did before.
While dance competitions keep you in check physically, they can also strengthen you emotionally. As any competitive dancer will tell you, one of the job requirements for a career in dance is a thick skin. An elitist cannot be intimidated by their rivals, and they must possess an outstanding amount of focus and discipline. Many dancers find they have not had an opportunity to get such "tunnel vision" when it comes to dance, until they begin competing and seeing how much of an impact the craft makes in their life.
Preparing for Competition
If you are a first time participant, you will need to know how to properly prepare for dance competitions. First, you will want to decide what sort of competition is ideal for yourself or your team. Is there a specific style of dance you would like to compete in? From ballet to hip hop, there is a contest or festival out there for every genre. You may also want to consider age groups and expected level of difficulty. The best way to succeed is to place yourself in the right categories and not get in over your head. Registering for an extremely competitive and difficult event, which will only lead to embarrassment and frustration, is not a good experience for any first time competitor.
Places to Compete
There are dance competitions all over the United States. Whether you prefer to dance solo or with a team, whether you prefer the classic style of ballroom or modern jazz, there's sure to be something for you in this list of dance competitions.
StarQuest hosts 40 regional competitions to determine who will win a place in the "World Finals." Performance categories include ballet, jazz, tap, pointe, hip hop, folkloric, production, character, clogging, and cheerleading. The competition features four age groups and opportunities for adult dancers and parents to participate.
I Love Dance offers 25 competitions around the U.S., hosting its events in hotels. Solo performers, duos, and groups can perform tap, ballet, jazz, lyrical/modern, song and dance, or acrobatic routines. They also feature a student choreography category.
Star Power Talent Competition provides almost 40 regional opportunities to qualify for the world championships. Performance categories include ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, musical theater, pom pom, drill team, and baton. The Future Stars division is intended for dancers new to competitive dance, offering them a low stress way to enter the field.
Showstopper includes 40 competitions in its yearly circuit, all leading to the national finals. Competitors can enter routines in tap, ballet, jazz, lyrical, hip hop, pointe, all male, and clogging. Showstopper also hosts dance conventions. Showstopper also hosts dance conventions
Nexstar - Performers can enter with routines in the usual array of dance forms. Competitive divisions are based on dancers' experience, from the "Just for Kicks" classification for dancers taking no more than three hours of class a week, to the NexStar division for students taking more than five hours of dance instruction a week. Following the competition, studios receive video and audio critiques from the judges.
DanceSport is the official organization for competitive social dancing in the U.S. The competition calendar will keep you informed of all USA Dance events. If you're thinking globally, the International DanceSport Federation competition roster lets you know about events around the world.
Before You Enter
Keep the following points in mind before you enter any event in the above list of dance competitions:
What do you want to gain from the experience? A teacher may enter young dancers in a low-key competition to give them a taste of the dancing life. However, an aspiring professional may only want to enter events that will enhance his or her resume.
Pay attention to registration deadlines. You don't want to miss out on your chance to perform.
Make sure you are enrolling in the correct category. Some competitions divide dancers by age, experience level, or both. Does a twenty-person dance team need to register for a different category than a group of five people?
Pay attention to all rules and regulations. There may be requirements for song length, costuming, or choreography. Don't be disqualified because you simply weren't aware.
Where will you perform? Dancing on a parquet floor in a hotel ballroom requires different consideration than a fully-lit stage, from the amount of make-up you wear to how freely you can move.
What dance division is the best fit for your performance? In many cases, this is a straightforward choice. You're not going to enter your tap performance in the ballet category. But in some cases, the musical theater division may be the best division for your Broadway-inspired tap dance, or hip hop may be more fitting than jazz.
There are so many competitions that you may want to budget your funds, and your time and energy, by focusing on just a few events. This will ensure you're giving every performance your best effort and hopefully lead to more successful competition.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Scene from "Spartacus"
Moscow and St. Petersburg have been friendly rivals in the ballet dancing and performing arts world for about three centuries. Both cities have magnificent theatres to stage their works in. Their differences mirror the differences in style between St. Petersburg, the home of the tsars, and Moscow, the bustling and vibrant metropolis.
St. Petersburg's ballet dancing company is the Maryinsky. Like its city, the Maryinsky has always been influenced by the refinement and elegance of the French. The Bolshoi Ballet Company resides in Moscow and its name means 'Big.' The Bolshoi dances with drama, conviction and passion. The Bolshoi men are famous for their power and the company sometimes sacrifices technical form to gain greater dramatic effect. The Maryinsky, on the other hand, maintains its technical purity and precision, and is known for its unparalleled corps that work together so perfectly they could all have one mind.
During the Russian Revolution, shortages and hard times brought along with it an unusual creative energy in traditional ballet dancing. It was during this time that the first daring acrobatic lifts were formed that later became the hallmark of the Soviet style. Unfortunately during this time Russia also lost many of its talented artists to other countries, because the government was so rigid.
In the 1930's, with the city now called Leningrad, the Maryinsky was renamed the Kirov after an assassinated Communist party official. The trend at that time put plot and story above design and vocabulary. Leonid Lavrovsky's Romeo and Juliet was one of the great ballets of this time and still forms the basis for many western productions. Agrippina Vaganova took over the company and her protegees included legendary ballerinas Alla Osipenko, Marina Semyonova, Galina Ulanova, Natalia Dudinskaya and Irina Kolpakova.
Subsequent directors Konstantin Sergeyev and Oleg Vinogradov continued to present classics. The reporatory expanded to include works by fokine and Balanchine. It contiues to produce sumptuous versions of the Petipa classics, including a restaging of The Sleeping Beauty. Today Leningrad is once again St. Petersburg and the Kirov is once again the Maryinsky. The company is still often called the Kirov while on tour for familiarity's sake.
The Bolshoi Theatre was founded in 1776, when Catherine the Great supported ballet training for orphans. During the Soviet era, government censors made it difficult for choreographers to explore ballet dancing fully, and the story lines had to be politically correct. For a time even Swan Lake had to have a happy ending.
Yuri Grigorovich, director of the Bolshoi for thirty years starting in 1964, managed to innovate within the system, eliminating pantomime in favor of dance. His signature work, Spartacus(1968), the story of a heroic slave, is ballet on a huge scale and features a massive, leaping male corps. Alexei Ratmansky, a choreographer and former dancer, became artistic director of the Bolshoi in 2004.
The Bolshoi first visited the USA in 1959 and the Kirov soon followed. Bolshoi stars Ulanova and Maya Plisetskaya thrilled American Audiences. The audience appreciated the Russians technique, style and also their willingness to repeat crowd pleasers. If a solo or extract drew great applause, they just repeated the entire sequence again. When Plisetskaya repeated The Dying Swan, she would even die differently the second time around.
Although historically there has been a recognizable difference in styles between the schools those differences are less evident today as the Kirov has become more dynamic. Evidence of this lies in the lesser known Perm Ballet. Founded in 1920, it presented its first season in 1926. The company has maintained strong ties and has been greatly influenced by the Mariinsky/Kirov Opera and Ballet borrowing from its standards and traditions. The company is different in that it draws all its dancers from its school, The Perm State Ballet, one of the most prestigious training institutions for ballet in Russia as well as the third largest classical company in the country.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
"When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go - downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know - downtown"
Petula Clark knew what to do to get herself out of a funky mood back in the '60s; a little exercise, a change of scenery and a great tune. A perfect cheering up recipe. When life gets rough, we all need a way to get ourselves back on track. If you're not sure what might work for you, try a couple of the following ideas and you'll be smiling in no time.
Studies have repeatedly shown that people who get involved in their communities feel happier. Many mental health counselors even "prescribe" voluntarism to their depressed patients. The act of doing something nice for others often causes the release of endorphins, giving you a natural high and busting those blues.
While the thought of exercising may in itself seem exhausting, working out has a plethora of benefits for the mind and body. People who exercise relate higher levels of satisfaction and happiness even during challenging life situations.
Spend Time with Friends and Loved Ones
Human beings are social animals. We need regular contact with close friends or family to help off-set the trial and tribulations life can sometimes present. In fact a recent study found that regular visits with friends worked just as well in curing depression as antidepressants. Friends help to boost self-confidence and self-esteem though their encouragement and positivity.
Put on a happy tune and dance, sing, or even indulge yourself in a little air-guitar. Groove to the beat and lose yourself in the song. Turning the beat around can turn the mood around.
That's right. Pretend to be happy. Research shows that the physiology of smiling actually makes you feel happy. So next time your face to face with a difficult moment just remember to turn that frown upside down.
There is just something about making a list that produces a sense of accomplishment. Checking items off that list is even more satisfying. Taking the time to write out what you want out of life will give you something to work towards and give your life more meaning.
Watch Funny Videos
There is nothing like sitting down and watching absurd snippets of videos. Even better is watching absurd animal videos. A cat that can flush the toilet or a precocious puppy will certainly get your mind off your problems and maybe even cause a chuckle or two.
Sunlight is a natural "pick me up" and proven to release hormones that will boost your mood. It also helps to re-direct your thoughts and focus on the natural beauty surrounding you. Take the time to enjoy the fresh air and the colors of nature and your mood will be immediately lifted.
Break the Routine
Unfortunately many people are creatures of habit. The day to day grind can be exhausting and repetitive. Take a different route home from work, try a new restaurant or spontaneously decide to go see a movie. Anything you can do to break your routine can help raise your spirits and get you back on track.
Everybody needs time to just sit back and do nothing. Take a few moments each day just for you and give your mind and body some down time. The older you get the more life seems to speed by. It is important to stop in the midst of it all and just focus on the now.
Whether you are male or female, getting a new haircut or relaxing in a nice, hot bathtub are great stress relievers to help forget the problems of a tough day. We have to remember to be good to ourselves.
The main thing to remember is that bad moods are not permanent. They will pass, and when all else fails you can take the advice of Petula and go Downtown.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
While most visitors think of New Orleans in terms of Mardi Gras and Jazzfest, there is a rich feast of things to do in New Orleans in the fall, from top-notch cultural and music festivals to the celebration of the deliciously dark side of one of America's most haunted cities.
Many prefer autumn, which offers New Orleans weather at its most pleasant. With the oppressive heat and humidity giving way to cooler days and sometimes brisk nights, one can focus on the sights, tastes and sounds of the Crescent City.
The crown jewel of autumn is Halloween weekend - when vampires and ghosts rule and the city celebrates with public masking, balls, concerts and parades - a time many call New Orleans' "Second Mardi Gras." It's a weekend for honoring those who have passed on in this community famous for its "Cities of the Dead," tombs above ground.
The first weekend of October features the Gretna Heritage Festival on the West Bank, a free ferry ride from the foot of Canal Street. The celebration features a banquet of regional food, crafts and musical talent such as Chicago, Better than Ezra, Allen Toussaint and Trombone Shorty.
Halloween events kick off early in New Orleans, as city builds toward the climax. Two nationally ranked horror attractions - the infamous House of Shock and the Mortuary - start early and run into November.
The House of Shock Horror Show is occult death-metal come to life. Before entering, visitors are assailed by an orgy of pyrotechnics in an outdoor stage show presided over by the demon Belial. That's just the warm-up. The attraction, which launches the first weekend of October, also features live Saturday night concerts by such acts as Ozzie, AC-DC and Kiss.
The Mortuary is a more recent addition to the Halloween lineup, but was recently hailed by the Travel Channel as one of America's Scariest Haunted Houses. The attraction inhabits a real century-old mortuary, near some of New Orleans famous cemeteries. The Mortuary showcases the tale of a mortician who discovered that one of his "clients" was a vampire; this led to unspeakable blood experiments; now he's looking for fresh fluids. This high-tech attraction, which takes you from the cellar to the haunted higher floors, opens the third weekend of October.
While you're in the mood, October is a great time to visit some of New Orleans' famous Cities of the Dead. Coming in from the airport, you'll pass between two of the largest cemeteries, with statues, monuments and thousands of the above-ground crypts. These cemeteries are open to the public - stroll them yourself, or join a tour. And they're much more pleasant in the cool of autumn. Top recommendations:
- St. Louis No. 1 - On Basin Street, a block from the French Quarter is the city's oldest and most famous surviving cemetery, with tombs dating from colonial days. The cemetery is bounded by thick walls containing "oven" crypts. Residents include international chess grandmaster Paul Morphy, Homer Plessy (of the Plessy v. Ferguson segregation case), Etienne du Bore' (who developed refined sugar) and many early governors and politicians. It's also the reputed resting place of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau - the Glapion family tomb of her descendants is covered with good-luck crosses and food, drink and written offerings from visitors. Scenes from a number of movies - including Easy Rider - were filmed here.
- Lafayette No. 1 - This quiet, park-like cemetery at the heart of the beautiful Garden District is at the intersection of Prytania and Washington streets. It is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city, and houses many victims of the Yellow Fever plagues of the 19th Century. Fans of vampire author Anne Rice will recognize the graveyard, which is mentioned a number of times in her books, and was the setting for scenes in the movie "Interview with the Vampire" and others. Rice played here as a child. The cemetery's main gate is across the street from New Orleans' most famous and highly rated restaurant, Commander's Palace; Lafayette's tombs can be seen clearly from the second-floor dining room.
- Metairie Cemetery - This is the cemetery of the rich and famous of New Orleans' golden era in the latter 19th Century. Famous generals are here, as well as architects and the wealthiest of citizens. Visitors can obtain a cassette player and two self-guided tour tapes at the cemetery funeral home near the main gate.
The weekend before Halloween, the Audubon Institute hosts "Boo at the Zoo," an annual event for children on the grounds of the city's top-ranked zoo. You can purchase a combo ticket for the zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas and the acclaimed new Insectarium, where visitors can explore the world through the eyes of bugs, and eat Cajun-fried crickets and other insect treats at the snack bar.
The first weekend in November, the Audubon Zoo also hosts the Louisiana Swamp Festival, a multi-day event featuring top Cajun and Zydeco bands, dancing and an array of food booths featuring sumptuous Louisiana fare. We recommend crawfish pockets and fresh hot Natchitoches meat pies.
Halloween weekend kicks off with several major events, including the Endless Night Festival and Les Temps du Vampyre, the annual coven ball of the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Fan Club. If you're in New Orleans over Halloween, expect to see downtown and French Quarter streets alive with vampires, fanciful creatures, fetish fairies and things that go bump in the night. It's an excuse for New Orleanians to open the closets and break out the Mardi Gras masks and beads for an off-season frolic - Halloween isn't just for kids anymore.
The weekend also features a major music festival, the New Orleans Voodoo Music Experience, which draws tens of thousands to a multi-day lineup of top musicians. It's the autumn counter melody to the spring's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The festival was once called Voodoo Fest - and is still popularly referred to by that name. But the real Voodoo Fest is more serious, and dedicated to the practice, rituals and music of the religion of voodoo. This fascinating celebration is also scheduled Halloween weekend.
Halloween parades aren't new, but since Katrina, a new parading organization, the Krewe of Boo has brought full Mardi Gras-level parading to the city. The krewe and parade were launched by Blaine "Mr. Mardi Gras" Kern, the artistic genius responsible for modern Mardi Gras float design, and builder of some of the world's most famous floats. The Krewe of Boo's Halloween Parade debuted in 2008, to the praise and joy of the toughest Mardi Gras customers - New Orleanians.
If you enjoy this taste of Mardi Gras, you can get more at Kern's Mardi Gras World, a year-round exhibit of some of the world's largest and most famous floats, such as the "Leviathan," signature float of the Krewe of Orpheus, and the "S.S. Captain Eddie" the blocks-long float featured in the Endymion parade. You can also get a unique look at Mardi Gras history on Jackson Square at the Louisiana State Mardi Gras Museum. Another unique museum, a short distance away from the French Quarter is the Backstreet Cultural Museum, dedicated to the history, regalia and music of the Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, and other unique cultural highlights of the city's African American residents.
The day after Halloween is All Saints Day, a special holiday in New Orleans, when residents visit the tombs of their departed loved ones, cleaning and whitewashing the tombs and decorating them with flowers and gifts. In many places in Louisiana, residents decorate the tombs with lighted candles, and the community spends the evening in the cemetery in the flickering lights, sharing memories, food and song. You can experience this unique ritual if you have a rental car, by driving across Lake Pontchartrain and exiting right at the first exit on the north bank on Highway 190. The community of Lacombe celebrates the All Saints night lighting of the graves at La Fontaine cemetery, just off the highway at the foot of the Bayou Lacombe bridge.
When day is done settle in at Cafe du Monde on Jackson Square, enjoy a cup of cafe au lait and a plate of steaming hot beignets, mounded with powdered sugar, and enjoy some of the world's finest people-watching.
For a Full List of Halloween Activities, Click Here
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Part of the beauty of ballet is watching the elegant, powerful, dazzling turns. Here are some tips from Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel on perfecting turns.
Gillian Murphy is a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. She trained in South Carolina and then at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Gillian was a finalist at the Jackson International Competition, a recipient of the Hope Prize at the Prix de Lausanne, and a winner of the Princess Grace Award. Gillian is well known for her fouettes, especially as the black swan Odile in Swan Lake. Her philosophy is "Turning is a gift, though it requires a certain dynamic and a certain fearlessness." Here are some of her tips:
* Don't move your front heel before you turn.
* Push off with both legs but keep your weight forward.
* Releve quickly and strongly. Pull up from the back of the leg right under your buttocks to get onto your supporting leg.
* Use a fixed spot. Free the head and relax the upper body.
* Great turns in ballet dancing come from your work at the barre and centre, especially plies, releves and petit allegro.
* Don't sacrifice form. There is no point to many turns without form and technique.
* Although there is a smaller turning surface when turning on pointe, there is no difference in placement, although you feel higher off the ground.
* You gain mastery through repetition, but not repition of mistakes. Take time to practice correctly.
Ethan Stiefel, also a principal dancer at the ABT, trained at Milwaukee Ballet School, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and the School of American Ballet before rising through the ranks at New York City Ballet. Ethan won a silver medal at the Prix de Lausanne and was featured in the film Center Stage. Ethan states that "Turning is the most mysterious skill an the hardest part of technique to talk about." A few of his turning tips:
* Learn to turn first, get coordination of the spot, then clean up your position and focus on your form.
* Relax and exhale so that you can float through your turns.
* Show a moment of stillness before you turn. Power and momentum in the pirouette actually originate in that moment.
* Success in a turn depends on a strong center. Strength and calmness come from your centre and when doing turns, it's your only friend.
* The music decides when a turn is done, and the turn decides for itself; its momentum tells you when to finish.
* Don't think of turning as a numbers thing. Just set yourself up and let your body do the work.
* Repetition is the key to improving your turns. Practice them over and over again.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
When beginning Hip-hop dancing it helps to have a basic understanding of its background and how it developed as an individual dance form. Before starting to learn Hip-hop moves it is a good idea to become familiar with Hip-hop music to learn about the rhythms and beat patterns employed - after all, you have to actually feel the music before you start to move to its vibe.
Hip-hop records by artists such as Chris Brown, Usher, Ciara, Eminem and Missy Elliot are worth a listen to pick up the beat flow. Especially recommended is Eminem's 'Marshall Mather's LP', being the fastest selling record of its day, it has easily recognised hits that expertly capture the Hip-hop feel and rhythm structures. Albums by Rihanna, P. Diddy and Nicki Minaj are also good choices.
~ Hip-hop dancing's roots:
Back in the 1970's, hip-hop dancing began in New York City and was popular in the African-American and Latino communities. It sprang up from Hip-hop culture along with MC'ing, DJ'ing, B-boying and B-girling and Graffiti writing. All these developing cultural movements combined to a way of life that expressed a new freedom in thinking and improvised performing. Adding to the East Coast beginnings of the dance, funk styles of dance developed in California at about the same time and soon blended together with the New York Hip-hop ideas.
The basic building blocks of Hip-hop dancing are combinations and moves; they combine together to make up a dance routine. It helps to remember that any Hip-hop dance will first be broken down in to combinations which in turn are pared down to counts; each count will further be reduced into individual movements. It's a bit like building a house, you need to add smaller parts to make up the finished whole.
The Hip-hop dance style was first practiced by professional crews - three main categories were recognised, these being breaking, locking and popping.
* Breaking, created in the Bronx in the early '70's is known as being the purest form of the Hip-hop dance. Its four basic moves are known as: Toprock - footwork moves done standing up; Downrock - floor movements down with support of hands; Freezes - a form of stylish pose; and Power moves - Acrobatic and flashy steps done to impress.
* Locking, originally known as Campbellocking was invented in Los Angeles by Don Campbell. It looks a bit like popping but is definitely a separate style on its own - the two moves often get confused with each other. Locking dance moves are frozen and 'locked' in to place in an extended pause before movement begins again.
* Popping; this was invented by Sam Solomon in Fresno, California. The dancer does a popping move by quickly contracting then relaxing muscles in the body. A jerking motion is the result, known as a pop or a hit. When the popping motion is done in time with the music's beats, the effect is stylish and almost freakish looking. This takes a lot of practice to perfect! Other styles of popping, like strobing, waving, gliding, sliding, floating and liquid are sometimes added to dance routines to increase interest and variation.
~ Let's Start to Dance! :
So, now you have the background basics, let's begin to do some Hip-hop dancing. Always remember to warm up your body first before beginning any Hip-hop dance routine - the dance itself is known for being very intense and energetic. Stretch your muscles well and make sure you are limber and toned up. Because Hip-hop dance is by nature quite improvisational, you don't need to worry so much about being perfect in technique and footwork - this is not ballet dancing! So start off being as relaxed as possible and feel the energies and funky vibe of a Hip-hop song or two.
Some basic Hip-hop steps that are good to learn are the Kick Ball Change, Crip Walk, Walk It Out and the Slip and Slide. You should master a few of the simple moves before getting in to more ambitious steps like the Soulja Boy and the famous, Michael Jackson inspired Moonwalk.
* Kick Ball Change - Start with your feet together, standing in an upright position. Kick with your right foot then return to the start position. Step right and put your body weight on to your right foot. Your left foot then steps sideways and your body weight shifts on to it. Easy!
* Crip Walk - In a standing position with feet shoulder length apart begin by making sure that your left heel is in-line with your right toes. Lift the ball of your left foot and move sideways to the left, your right leg should move behind the left at the same time. With your left heel still touching the floor return to the starting stance.
For a good instructional video, click here
Saturday, October 16, 2010
With her father and grandfather.
Born Margarita Carmen Cansino on October 17, 1918, in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Spanish flamenco dancer Eduardo Cansino and English/Irish-American Ziegfeld girl Volga Hayworth, Rita Hayworth became known to the world as one of the most glamorous actresses in cinema history, but she was much more than a beautiful face. Rita was an exceptionally talented dancer, and her performances showed a strength and sensitivity that set her apart from other actresses, and made her just as popular with female audiences as with male. Dancing-wise, she held her own opposite Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and more. In fact, she regarded her two films with Fred as her favorites. Rita loved dancing, and it showed.
I think that this video perfectly captures Rita's talent in a light-hearted, fun way with clips from the various movies she danced in. Song is Jump in the Line by Harry Belafonte.
Friday, October 15, 2010
A handout picture provided by Chilean President Sebastian Pinera showing a handwritten note with the message "All 33 of us are fine in the shelter", written by the miners
A country largely unknown, an industry known for danger, a collapse and miraculous tale of survival. In a world where violence and hatred make headlines, The chilean miner rescue has taught us all a lot about human unity, determination, perseverance and hope. For seventeen long days, families hoped, with that hope getting ever smaller that their men had survived. If they had survived, how deeply were they buried? Were they surface-side of the cave in or were they sealed in a stone tomb? Were the injured? Were they starving? As days became weeks the hope flickered but never quite went out.
Knowing that miners in the gold and copper mine knew to rush to refuges when a cave-in was imminent, knowing the leadership was strong and above all, wanting to save their employees, the company did not give up but drilled tentatively at first and then with a speed unknown before, to get through 200 meters of rock to where they estimated the shelter chamber was. In the chamber they knew was some food, basic first aid kits and air. Still, time was against them and to think of 17 men surviving on the small rations (tins of tuna figured large) was almost to hope too much. Yet, they never gave up, drilling until they knew whether their men were alive of dead.
However, on the seventeenth day of drilling, the drill faltered. The drillers sensed vibrations on the drill head which were not caused by the drill's motions. There was knocking. Then, a note was attached, a scribbled note which brought hope to the people of Chile and united the World in wanting the men to get out safely - 'We are here, we are alive' the note read.
Now the company, American rescuers and the world as a whole united in prayers, hope and determination to get the miners out. By Christmas was the set date but they hoped to get to them sooner. A rescue plan was hatched - a daring drill into a second and then a third shaft. A rescue pod the size of a single bed at best was devised and the rock tested to ensure it would not collapse. Night and day, the drill kept going. Camp Hope sprang up - a shanty, temporary town with school, shops and supplies. Camp Hope came to symbolize to the World the perseverance and determination of the Chilean people. They were going to get the miners out, no question about it!
Below ground, the men organized themselves into teams, removing most of the 500 tonnes of rock which fell down the ever enlarging shaft. Parcels of food, toiletries and basics were sent and the men started to believe they would be rescued. |They organized themselves into a routine, they went for runs, they wrote, they lived on a timetable to allow themselves to feel ordinary days and get the right amount of sleep. The rest is history, There will be tales of leadership, bad times, the closeness the men feel for each other having survived, the marriages and relationships changed forever by the experience and the lifetime it will take many of them to recover. These stories will feed the rest of the world for many years to come.
From all the hoping, waiting, perseverance, uniting and determination, one thing remains. Above all else, believe you can do something and you can. The men are now free. Whether any of them will return to anything like their normal lives is for the future but, for now, they are back among us and we give thanks and are joyful. What more can we say? The whole event has reminded the rest of us of human unity, determination, perseverance and, above all, hope.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in the Grand adage from Nureyev's staging of the Petipa/Minkus "The Kingdom of the Shades" for the Royal Ballet, London, 1963.
Margot Fonteyn, an acclaimed ballerina who had had an illustrious career with the Royal Ballet in London for nearly 30 years, was on the verge of retirement and trobled by an injury when Rudolf Nureyev arrived in a spectacular defection from the Soviet Union. Fonteyn invited him to dance with her in Gisselle in 1962. in what she called an experiment. But as even non-ballet fans know, it was the beginning of a legendary, 17 year professional relationship.
Fonteyn(1919-1991) and Nureyev(1938-1993)had a yin-and-yang rapport based on contrasting strengths. He danced with passion and power. His leaps and turns were thrilling. Fonteyn was the epitome of restrained elegance, with exquisitely nuanced emotional gestures. Their pas de deux were unforgettable - being paired with an opposite type highlighted the distinctive genius of each. More than just technique, what made them stand out was their ability to feel and become the roles that they portrayed, an art that has been lost in today's emphasis on technique over artistry and expression.
They danced the classic repertory - Romeo and Juliet, Gisselle, The Sleeping Beauty, among others, as well as more modern ballets such as the achingly romantic Marguerite and Armand choreographed expressly for them in 1963 by Frederick Ashton, taking its inspiration from the 19th-century novel La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas, best known as the broadway play and movie Camille. Even when Fonteyn was near the end of her career and no longer capable of her former technical virtuosity, her acting talent and dramatic presence in the role of the dying Marguerite created performances of tremendous poignancy. Nureyev was equally moving as her ardent lover. Fonteyn and Nureyev became known for inspiring repeated frenzied curtain calls and bouquet tosses.
They debuted Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, although MacMillan had conceived the ballet for Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable. Fonteyn and Nureyev appeared together in a film version of Swan Lake and Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, as well as Les Sylphides and the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux.
Despite their differences in background, temperament, and a nineteen-year difference in age, Nureyev and Fonteyn became close lifelong friends and were famously loyal to each other. Fonteyn would not approve an unflattering photograph of Nureyev. He said about her: "At the end of Lac des Cygnes when she left the stage in her great white tutu I would have followed her to the end of the world."
Offstage, too, they made headlines. In 1967, they were arrested after a performance in San Francisco, when the police raided a Haight-Ashbury party to which they had been invited. During the 1940s, Fonteyn had a long relationship with composer Constant Lambert which did not lead to marriage. In 1955, Fonteyn married Dr. Roberto Arias, a Panamanian diplomat to London and playboy. Their marriage was initially a rocky one due to his infidelities. She was arrested when he attempted a coup against the Panamanian government. In 1965, a rival Panamanian politician shot Arias, leaving him a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
The cost of his medical care is a reason why Fonteyn's career lasted until 1979, her sixtieth year, despite her suffering from an arthritic foot. Upon her retirement, the Royal Ballet honoured her with the title prima ballerina assoluta. She ended her days in Panama, remaining loyal to Arias in part because she was very devoted to his children from an earlier marriage. Because Arias's medical bills drained her finances, the Royal Ballet held a special "gala" in 1990 for her benefit. Shortly after his death, she was diagnosed with a cancer that proved fatal.
A dramatic image of her performing Swan Lake at the Bath Festival, Bath, United Kingdom, was captured by British photographer Des Gershon, taken secretly from the high gallery of the Theatre Royal, Bath, as she danced with the corps de ballet on the day she heard that there had been an assassination attempt on the life of her husband. The stress, worry and pain is clearly shown in her face with the remarkable single frame of a moment in time.
Fonteyn and Nureyev remained close even after she retired to a Panama cattle farm. When she was treated for cancer, Nureyev paid many of her medical bills and visited her often, despite his busy schedule as a performer and choreographer, as well as his own health problems (he was HIV positive and succumbed to AIDS in 1993). In a documentary about Fonteyn, Nureyev said that they danced with "one body, one soul" and that Margot was "all he had, only her." An observer said that "If most people are at level A, they were at level Z."
Like golden age Hollywood idols, they exuded mystery and glamour, and their partnership helped spark an unprecendented ballet boom in the years that followed.
Video of Fonteyn and Nureyev that Captures Their Partnership, Both On And Off the Stage, set to Sergei Prokofiev's music
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Picture the color and vibrancy of the swaying dancers in shimmering costumes, cavorting in the exciting, noisy streets during the Rio de Janeiro annual Mardi Gras carnivale and you'll get a sense of the magnetism of the dance known as the Samba. This is Brazil's national dance and it symbolizes the liveliness and hot-blooded passions of this sensual and exotic South American culture.
The Excolas de Samba dance school in Rio trains aspiring Sambistas throughout the year in the art of dancing this rhythmic and highly infectious dance but if you can't make it over to South America to get lessons from the experts in the art then a quick course of Samba basics follows. Put on your dancing shoes, get your Latin style mojo all fired up and let's get ready to party!
So, how to dance the Samba? Its origins can be traced back to the African slaves who worked for Portuguese rulers on coffee and soya plantations. These were energetic and hard-working people and the high fevered movements of the dance reflect this. You need to have a feel for the lively rhythms of the dance and of Samba music in order to begin the sway and characteristic bounce action required - the overall effect is a sultry and exciting one.
First of all the beat of the dance. The Samba is danced to music of 2/4 time however there are three steps performed to every two beats. It is a syncopated rhythm and needs careful counting in order to master. If you begin counting in your head - '1 - a - 2, 2 - a - 2' you'll start to get a feel for the musical patterning and will be able to step in time accordingly. Dancing the Samba successfully requires an energetic and sensual touch from performers. You have to feel the vibe of the music and reflect the happy, exuberant mood with a rocking, swaying, pelvic tilting motion.
Although many will know the Samba as a ballroom dance that is regularly performed by well-dressed couples in dance competitions, the original and true Brazilian dance that is most popular is actually a solo routine that can be danced in groups, like at the annual Rio carnivale. The steps listed are for a ballroom Samba:
~ Start with feet shoulder width apart.
~ On first beat of music slide your right foot backwards in a small movement and rest your body weight on this foot.
~ Then push your left foot back and transfer the body weight in a subtle movement on to the ball of the foot.
~ Then you raise your right leg and rest back with the transferred body weight.
The routine should be performed rhythmically and with a subtle bouncing motion where the knees flex up and down - this is often known as the 'Samba bounce.' It is a good idea to watch footage of professional dancers performing the Samba to get a feel and clear visual of what the dance should like when done well.
Remember to have fun while you dance the Samba - with a relaxed, in-time connection to the music you should be able to capture the subtlety and wonder of this popular and magical dance.
For an excellent demonstration, here's a video that teaches the basic Samba steps:
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Learning to unlock and manifest your true potential is crucial to success in every aspect of your life. If you feel stagnant, overworked, underpaid, or unfulfilled, practice these techniques to overcome any obstacle and put yourself on track to realizing your goals. A relative and dancer taught me these techniques, and they served her well. I still struggle at times, but I've come to believe in them also.
Step 1: Create Goals
Know What You Want
Write out a list or a brainstorm map of your current goals and priorities. This will give you a clearer idea of what you want and the necessary steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Once you have completed your list, tape or place it in a highly visible area to constantly remind yourself of your goals.
Create a Motivational Mantra
A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat. Write out a short phrase that positively motivates you toward your goals. For example, if you are looking for a raise at work, you might repeat the mantra "I am confident in my hard work and deserve to be recognized and compensated for my full potential."
Repeat your mantra in the morning as you wake up and in the evening as you go to sleep.
Step 2: Use Creative Visualization
Visualize Your Actualized Inner Self
Imagine an image, color, or symbol that represents your true potential or an aspect of yourself that you desire to enhance. Picture this image as though it were directly in front of you. Now, step forward into the image and feel it becoming a part of you. As you breath and absorb this feeling, imagine the symbol becoming larger. Remember to carry this image around with you and focus on it when you have doubts or feel like you need it to motivate you.
Visualize Your Future Success
Imagine a scene in the future where you can realize your full potential. Act the scene out in your head, and try to visualize everything as specifically as possible (really see, hear, touch, taste, and smell it). The more real the visualization seems, the more effective it will be.
Imagine doing whatever it takes to achieve your success. Feel the positive and confident vibe between you and everyone involved in your scenario.
Visualize Your Past Success
Recall an event in the past where you might have failed. Except now, look at that event through the eyes of your future (and more confident/natural) self. Through the eyes of your future self, the scene is very small. Imagine that the scene is playing in a movie theater while your future self watches, and the picture is so tiny and far away that you can barely see it.
Now, play the scene again, but this time imagine doing everything correctly and achieving a very positive outcome. The picture becomes very large. Think about what your "actualized inner self" would do. Notice that, during your positive "movie", you are feeling good, thinking clearly, and behaving confidently.
Repeat this process for every major failure. Go through these memories and imagine doing everything right.
Reverse the Flow of Negative Emotions and Thoughts
Pay close attention to how your body feels when you feel negative, stifling emotion or obsessive negative thoughts. Trace the sensation with your hands, showing how that negative sensation moves through your body. Repeat the gesture. Now, this gesture represents the negative sensation in your body and the negative thought and emotional processes that create them.
Slow the gesture down more and more, until you stop and begin reversing the gesture. Do the backwards gesture five or six times. This should stop or diminish the original negative thought process/emotion.
Now, hold your hand out and imagine any color, shape, or symbol that represents the emotion/thought that you would have replace the original. Really try to sense and see it in your hand. Now cover the effected area of the body with your hand and imagine that color/shape/symbol filling up that space and spreading through your whole body.
If it seems a bit silly at first, then you know it's working.
Step 3: Develop a Strong Support Group
Supportive friends can be a crucial factor in recognizing your true potential. Often, friends can offer objective opinions about your ideas, emotions, and progress on your projects and inner journey.
Friends, teachers, parents and mentors provide helpful feedback, allowing you to develop and realize important steps for your goals. Often, communicating your desires can make them seem more tangible and accessible. Then you can begin to work on these goals with a clear objective in a positive and supportive environment.
If there are people or friends in your life that stifle or block you, then you must communicate your needs and desires to them and let them know what behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate. This will help them respect and understand you more. If they are unwilling to cooperate and work with you, let them know that you require an environment of growth and potential. Let them know that you can be friends with them only when they can understand and appreciate that.
Most people will respond positively to sympathetic and compassionate communication. If they can't, then they will need to do their own work to realize their inner potential.
Be with people who are taking steps toward their own growth. Ask them what their processes are. Create a fun and rich environment of personal improvement. Close friends provide a strong foundation that could otherwise become shaky during deep personal change.
Step 4: Act Now
The final and most important point is to act. Don't let laziness and/or procrastination be your worst obstacle. There can always be an excuse for not doing something, but you should really be coming up with excuses for doing something.
A huge project, like a huge steak (or salad for the vegetarians), can seem overwhelming until you break it down into small bites. Then, every time you finish one of these smaller goals, you get a sense of fulfillment and completion. Imagine a steak so tasty that every bite gets better and better.
If you focus on chewing the small bites, and really enjoy the process of your inner potential coming to fruition, then your goals are constantly being met and you are continuously being fulfilled.
Also, remember that everybody is different, so don't feel as though you have to do something exactly one way or another, but don't be afraid to listen for good advice either. Find the style and path that suits you best. Use the best ideas from different sources.
Use these techniques and let your inner potential come out. Slowly take the important steps toward real inner change, communicating clearly, acting with confidence, and understanding yourself and the people around you.
The name "ballet blanc" is derived from identical white costumes worn by a female corps. Ballet blanc exsisted as a set piece separate from the main action, or story, of a ballet. It has grown out of Romantic ballets like La Sylphide, Giselle, Swan Lake and La Bayadere. Fokine created a tribute to ballet blanc in Les Sylphides, which really put empathasis on the corps.
The corps, like the chorus in Greek theater, is a character itself. Its power lies in its uniformity and simultanity rather than individual movements. Its patterns create forceful, sometimes even frightening, designs - the wilis' diagonal barricade against Albrecht, the snowflakes surrounding Clara, and the swans' fluttering formations.
Imagine a ballet company without its corps de ballet. There would be no lines of wilis in arabesque drawn magnetically together in Giselle, nor any grand polonaise for the ensemble in Theme and Variations. The corps de ballet is to a dance troupe as the spine is to the body: It provides framework, support, context, and aesthetic form. But as dance has moved into the 21st century, the demands on corps dancers have changed, making them more than just a backdrop for the principals. Ever more versatile and virtuosic as individuals, they face more emotional and physical challenges than ever, amplified by heavy work schedules.
While the corps is not acknowledged as much as the principal and solo dancers, these dancers earn every bit of their applause. Uniformity requires a lot of work and tremendous attention to detail. Members of the corps leave their individuality in the dressing room - every leg the same height, every gaze the same direction, arms and feet always together. They don't get to dance it their way. A corps dancer cannot land her pirouette wherever she ends up. Standing still for long stretches, usually with the weight on just one leg can be excruciating.
The corps are the junior dancers in a company, with the lowest pay, the lowest status, and in many ways, the hardest work - sometimes eight shows a week. But don't let that deceive you. Remember that when you look at the corps, almost without exception, every great ballerina started there.
Oct. 7 is Jayne Torvill's birthday. For those that may not know, not only is Jayne an excellent skater, but very actice in charity work as well. In honor of Jayne's birthday, I'd like to refer to an earlier post Torvill and Dean - Ice Dancing's Answer to Ginger and Fred and tell you a little about one of her favorite charities that she is Vice President of - Demelza Hospice Care for Children. It is also a charity that Torvill and Dean's show, Dancing On Ice supports.
The UK Demelza Community Team provides a hospice at home service for children in East Sussex and South West Kent with life-threatening and life-limiting illness and their families. The service complements the care offered at Demelza House, with the community specialist paediatric nurses going directly into the family home to provide care, crisis intervention, an on-call service and respite. The service enables the family to live life as a family in their own environment - and coupled with Demelza House's services - greater flexibility in available care provision.
Medical help and expert advice is available in the home. When a child reaches the end of its life the Demelza Community Team can offer 24 hour end of life care at home followed by bereavement support to members of the family, as required.
If you are a fan of Jayne, of Torvill and Dean and DOI, and would like to learn more about Demelza and make a donation, visit their Website or on Facebook Page
Monday, October 4, 2010
While the historically significant "big events" of the past are no doubt important, understanding how people of the past lived, worked and played can often provide valuable insight into the political and social climate of the time. As unlikely as it might seem at first glance, I believe that this is especially true when studying the history and evolution of ballroom dance.
It is impossible to pinpoint the exact origins of ballroom dancing, but most scholars seem to place the initial appearance of male/female partner dancing during the Renaissance period that existed between the 15th and 17th centuries.
In the Middle Ages, the period immediately preceding the Renaissance era, music, art, literature, architecture, work, social interaction and politics were either focused upon, or heavily influenced by the interests of the Church. Partner dancing appears to have been virtually unknown during the Middle Ages and the form of dance most often mentioned during this period; Burgundian Dance, definitely reflects the religious overtones that were reflective of this time. A late 15th century manuscript known as the Les Basses danses de Marguerite d'Autriche, describes the "dance" as more of a formal processional, not unlike the entrance that priests and altar servers utilize today. The absence of "dancing for pleasure" seems very much in keeping with the focus on faith that dominated this period in history.
With the Renaissance, however, the focus shifted and Europe began to expand its horizons both literally and figuratively. As the compass began to gain credibility as a navigational aid, travel became more commonplace. As travelers began to share their diverse cultures and ideas and the European monarchy began to replace the Church as a major source of power and influence, these changes were reflected in new approaches to lifestyle and entertainment, including dance.
Like the official state visits of modern times, in which presidents and prime ministers merge official talks with formalized social events like parades, concerts and state dinners, that may include dancing, European royalty of the Renaissance period also seemed to recognize the potential networking opportunities that the intimacy that both community and partner dancing could provide.
There were group dances, like the Branle which suggest something akin to what we would probably refer to as Square Dancing today. The inclusive nature of this dance could have been used to draw foreign visitors in, in an effort to build rapport and strengthen alliances with neighbors, which the government would surely have preferred to count as allies rather than enemies.
More athletic dances like the Galliard, designed to show off the prowess of male dancers might also have served as a subtle suggestion of a country's strength and military power. Perhaps, the subliminal message of, "If our men are this strong on the dance floor, just think of how well they will perform in battle," was the underlying intent of these displays.
As the Renaissance period of rebirth gave way to the "Age of Reason", the Baroque style of dance came into vogue. Beautiful, elegant dances like the Minuet were popularized in the court of Louis XIV and were marked by intricate, symmetrical patterns. This order and symmetry may have been a reflection of the advances in scientific thought and exploration, which were achieved during this period of history, as well as the dedication to logical thought and precision. However, the disparity between the precision and elegance of dances, like the Minuet, the Bouree and the Courante, among others, which were enjoyed mainly by nobility and the more down to earth "country dances," like the Gavotte or the English Hornpipe dances of the lower classes, seems to fit with the widening gulf between the social classes, which eventually culminated in the violence of the French Revolution and, to a lesser extent, the American Revolution.
By the early 19th century the Waltz began gaining in popularity. It's relatively simple steps did not require extensive instruction by dance masters or hours of practice, making it readily accessible to all social classes as a form of recreation. The egalitarian nature of the Waltz seemed to fit with the social climate of the times as the lower classes became increasingly impatient with wide disparities between their own lives and those of the wealthy that existed both in pre-Revolutionary France and Victorian era England.
The Waltz was not enthusiastically embraced by everyone, however. The sense of propriety, which some might say crossed over into prudishness, that defined the Victorian era, was inevitably revealed in the negative reactions that the dance received even as it continued to grow in popularity. Condemned as scandalous for its close embrace and constant whirling motion, the resulting opposition appears to have invoked the same dire predictions about impending moral decay as did the gyrations of Elvis Presley did well over a century later.
The strict propriety of the Victorian Age was followed by the Edwardian era, characterized by its ostentatious and celebratory mood. The Dansant or "tea dance" became a popular pastime for young people of this era. The Edwardian era was seen as an age of optimism, gaiety and excitement generated by the proliferation of modern marvels such as electric lights and telephones. The Waltz continued to be a popular mainstay during this period, but was joined by its even livelier cousin, the Polka. In America, Ragtime music began to appear and, with its lively, syncopated rhythms, came a string of Castle Walk and the Argentinean flavored Tango. The Castle Walk is also thought to have been the pre-cursor to Henry Fox's Foxtrot, which remains popular even today.
The carefree atmosphere of the early 20th century was briefly interrupted by the seriousness of World War I, but at the conclusion of the war, the Jazz Age of the 1920s began in earnest. Dancing became as progressive as the times. The Womens' Suffrage Movement, which culminated with women receiving the vote in 1920, appears to have given birth to the "flappers"; young women with bobbed hair and short skirts who rejected the narrow roles that had been assigned to women in earlier eras. The independent spirit of the flappers was reflected in the fact that most of the popular dances of the day, such as the Charleston, the Shimmy and the Black Bottom, did not involve the woman being "led" by her partner. Dancers sometimes performed the moves side by side or even as solo "challenge" dances.
The Stock Market Crash of 1929, and the ensuing period of economic disaster known as the Great Depression of the early 1930s, brought an end to the party life of the Jazz Age. During the Big Band era of World War II, partner dancing seemed to make a comeback with dances like the Swing, the Jitterbug and the Lindy Hop
By the 1950s Latin influenced dances began to be in vogue. The Cha-Cha, the Rumba, the Mambo, the Samba, the Merengue and the Bossa Nova enjoyed a time of great popularity until the advent of Rock and Roll. Like the Jazz Age before it, the Rock and Roll era of the late 1950s and 1960s led to a serious decline in male led partner dances. Dances like the Twist, the Jerk, the Pony, the Watusi and the Swim usually involved partners facing one another but moving independently using largely improvised steps.
Partner dancing made somewhat of a comeback in the 1970s when the movie, Saturday Night Fever, brought disco dancing into the limelight. Partnerless line dances like the Hustle and the Electric Slide also started to appear, accompanied by the Break Dancing craze which gained popularity also as a result of popular movies like Footloose and Flashdance.
As the Waltz had shocked polite society in the late 1890's, the 1990's ushered in the equally shocking period of "Dirty Dancing", again popularized initially by a film of the same name. The Lambada, a dance of Brazilian origin, began to rise in popularity at this time. However, with its overtly sexual movements it did not prove to have the staying power of the once scandalous Waltz
Now, in the early 21st century, television programs like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have led to a revival of partner dancing. In much the same way that African-American music and culture exerted an influence on the dancing styles of the Jazz Age, Hispanic music and culture is entering the spotlight, resulting not only in a renewed interest in older Latin dances, like the Cha-Cha and the Rumba, but also in somewhat of a Salsa dancing craze that is proving to be much more than a passing fad.
Dancing styles, like the rest of culture, are exhibiting greater variety than ever before. Nostalgia for the past perhaps motivates young people to revive older dances like the Swing and the Lindy Hop, while our increasing ethnic diversity and exposure to other cultures through the proliferation of the Internet encourages people of all backgrounds to explore many different styles of dance from the Salsa to the Soulja Boy. Like the rest of our world, the world of social dancing has a long and fascinating history.