How does your culture affect how you dance? Is dance just movement? Dance is moving your body in some kind of rhythm, right? But what is it really? What does it mean? Why do we do it? Dance means so many things to so many people that we want to explore what it is at its core.
What is Dancing?
Dance, the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself. -Britannica
But in our modern culture, if you google “dance” (perhaps looking for inspiration on something to write) you find expression, controversy, legal troubles, art, religion, cinema, and comedy. You find current trends next to ancient ritual next to flippant movement, all under the banner of dance. Dance is so much and so many things to different people across the world today.
Irish Culture: Dancing to Express and Heal from Pain
In Northern Ireland, Oona Doherty choreographs dances to express the pain of young people brought up during and in the wake of tremendous conflict.
With “Hard to Be Soft,” her aim was “to really understand the full scope of pain, and to dance it with love,” she said. “You’re not being an angry man onstage. It’s more than that. You’re playing someone in pain, who can’t handle that amount of pain, so it comes out in anger.”
Oona herself grew up in the aftermath of The Troubles, a 30-year violent conflict in Northern Ireland (and occasionally the Republic of Ireland, England and mainland Europe) over the official status of Northern Ireland. Although the conflict ostensibly ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, many still feel its effects to this day. This trauma is explored through Oona’s art.
Azeri Culture: Dance As an Unchanged Ancient Tradition
In Azerbaijan, ancient traditional dances to this day combine national music, choreography, and storytelling.
“The folk dances of Azerbaijan are rooted in ancient heritage and history and vary hugely in style, from the beautifully intricate to the impressively athletic”
Men and women’s dances in the Azeri culture have firmly gendered roles, with the female dancers focusing on chest movements and accentuating the eyes, as well as balancing multiple glasses of syrup on their palms without spilling a drop. Male dancers are more athletic and competitive, seeking to out-jump their contemporaries or complete difficult movements even faster.
Chinese Culture: Dance As an Ancient Tradition Reimagined
In Malaysia, divers are performing a Lion Dance underwater in an aquarium. In traditional Chinese culture, the Lion Dance involves a dancer putting on a colourful head and cape then dancing to mimic the movements of a lion while their partner operates the large lion’s head. They do this to the rhythmic beat of drums and clash of cymbals. In this case the dance is to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which falls in February of 2022.
The dance is said to invite prosperity and chase away misfortune. Around one quarter of Malaysia’s population are ethnic Chinese. The dance became popular in Malaysia in the 1970 and Malaysian lion dancers are now said to be among the world’s best, most daring and acrobatic.
Canadian Culture: Animals Are Dancers Too
In Canada, there’s a new viral dog video. And TikTok is, whether we like it or not, a huge part of dance culture. You don’t have to look far on the internet to find animals dancing. In fact, quite a proportion of the virtual world is taken up by the impossibly joyful tradition of animals doing dances.
“I hope this brings a smile.”
Animals once again showing us what it means to be human! Sharing something as simple and joyful as a dog bopping away to music because it makes you smile, and you want to share that with others.
British Culture: Dancing for the Perfect Photograph
In the UK, photographer Paolo Roversi has revealed that he made the Duchess of Cambridge and future queen, Kate Middleton, dance during his photoshoot for her 40th birthday. Roversi said he had her perform an “accelerated waltz mixed with a pinch of rock ‘n roll” during the Kew Gardens shoot and that her dress reminded him of a classical ballerina. Apparently, he wanted a sense of motion to achieve the perfect shot.
Saudi Culture: Dance Sparking Religious Outrage
In Saudi Arabia’s Jazan province, a group of dancers dressed in Samba outfits and danced in the streets to celebrate the 2022 Winter Festival. Many in the country spoke out against this as parts of the dancers’ legs, arms and bellies were exposed were exposed. Saudi women are expected to wear the traditional black, long gown called the abaya while in public and keep their knees and shoulders covered. Failing to do so is actually a criminal act. So, this dancing, which the locals of Jazan thoroughly enjoyed, has actually sparked an investigation due to strict Muslim conservative law within the country. The images were also blurred on television.
These are just a few of the endless stories surrounding our culture and dance in 2022 – this is just one Google search on one day. While the pandemic has made it difficult for dance schools to stay active, it’s clear that dance is as prevalent in our culture, our homes and our hearts as ever. Let us know if you like this educational round up of dance trends and news. We may revisit the topic. Until then, keep dancing, for whatever reason or none!