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Character Dance

Character dance is not specifically a single dance style, but more of a type of performance. True to its name, character dances are when a dance is performed with a story and named characters that the dancers play. Some of the more famous character dances are the ballets Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, and the Nutcracker. When it comes to character dances, each one has techniques specific to that dance, due to the theme, dance type, and sometimes choreographer.

Giselle

Out of the character dances I mentioned, I figured Giselle would be a good choice to elaborate on because, while it is well-known in the ballet world, it might not be as well-known to others. I also feel that Giselle is one of the most interesting ballets because of its darker, other worldly themes. Giselle is about two hours, and consist of two acts.

This ballet is about a young girl named Giselle who has a heart condition, but a strong love for dance. She falls in love with a Loys, a peasant boy, who, little does Giselle know, is actually Albrecht, the Duke of Silesia. Hilarion, a jealous love rival wants to expose Albrecht’s true identity to Giselle in order to break Giselle and Loys apart. After Giselle’s mother chides her for dancing too much, the Duke of Courland and his daughter Bathilde appear after a hunt. Giselle and Bathilde become fast friends. While that is happening, Hilarion works  to prove Loys’ deception by finding a sword with the Duke’s crest on it. Later, when everyone is dancing, Hilarion uses the sword to expose Loys’ identity. At the same time, Giselle finds out that Loys is also Bathilde’s fiancée. Overwhelmed by pain and sadness, Giselle commits suicide.

Do not worry, my friends, this is not the end!

Giselle then becomes a ghost of sorts, and joins Myrtha and her group of young girls in their dark endeavor. This endeavor leads to Hilarion’s death, as the girls make him dance until he dies. The girls then turn on Loys. Giselle begs to save Loys, but to no avail. Giselle and Loys dance until Loys is nearly dead, however, he is saved just in time by the morning sunlight. Giselle retreats to the afterlife, and Loys mourns the loss of his one and only love.

The end.

I know, I know, it is a very dark and sad story. Although, it is a breathtakingly beautiful ballet. Here is an excerpt of Giselle and Loys performing their dance:

If you are interested in seeing this wonderful ballet, it is still a popular choice for big dance company performances so it often shows many times throughout the year. Occasionally, it will even show at large performing arts centers such as the Straz center. If you are even slightly interested, go check it out! I would recommend this ballet to anyone.

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Jazz Dance

The first thing that comes to mind when you think “jazz” might be “music” or “hands.” But, believe it or not, jazz is much more than just jazz music and jazz hands. Jazz is a relatively broad style of dance.

As I mentioned in my contemporary dance post, jazz is one of the most popular types of dance nowadays, one of the main types that you can find at almost any studio. Jazz is also one of the styles that I dance the most frequently. Jazz dance might be a tough style to pin down, but I enjoy it because of its diversity. Recently, my jazz class and I performed one of my favorite dances to date—a flamenco dance! That dance was a good example of the diversity, because even though it was a jazz dance, it was a Latin styled jazz dance.

Originally, jazz dance was inspired by jazz music in the 1900s. However, even then, it was a broad dance style. Throughout the years, jazz dance has often been influenced by the popular dance styles at the time. What jazz was 80 years ago, might not be considered jazz today.

Here is an example of what can be considered modern jazz:

 

For more information on the history of jazz dance, click here.

Jazz is a diverse and ever changing dance style, though it is still highly enjoyable for people of all ages and experience. Be sure not to miss out!

 

Irish Dance

I always thought of Irish dance as a slight variation of tap dancing. While some movements are similar, Irish dance actually came first. So In one way, the beginning sentence might be true. However, it is still a hasty generalization. Irish dance is very different in many ways as well.

First of all, the term “Irish dance” is more like a category in which various dance styles reside. For example, Latin dance has varying styles such as the Tango and Salsa, and Irish dance has styles such as Ceili dance and step dance. Speaking of step dance, this type of Irish dance is one of the most well-known and is often confused with the tap dancing I mentioned above. Step dance and tap dance can easily be confused because of the similarity in the movements and concept. The unique feature of making your own music with your feet is shared by both dance styles, though each style uses different shoes and techniques. For the shoes, tap dance and step dance make a slightly different sound because of the material on the shoe. Tap dance uses metal on the toe and heel, and step dance usually uses fiberglass. In technique, step dance focuses more on the legs and feet with a more isolated upper body, whereas, tap dance mainly focuses on feet but is still a full body dance style.

Here is a visual that will help exhibit the differences:

Irish step dance:

 

Tap dance:

 

For more information on the history of Irish dance, check it out here.

For more information on step dance, you can click here.

Contemporary Dance

You might have heard of this type of dance because it is among the mainstream types of dance that are popular today. These dances usually consist of ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap, and contemporary. Contemporary is very popular at my studio, though I, myself, do not do it as much as jazz or ballet.

Contemporary is similar to lyrical dance, with its usually graceful movements and powerful, emotion-filled performances. Lyrical and contemporary can both be danced barefoot or with special dance shoes. The shoe is a half-sole dance shoe that looks like this:

contemporary-dance-shoe

This shoe is used because it can be difficult to turn and do pirouettes in bare feet.

As with many other types of dance, there are various techniques and styles that make up the type of dance called “contemporary.” Both ballet and the accurately named modern dance, were contributors to the history of contemporary dance. As the name suggests, contemporary dance is, indeed, contemporary, as it is relatively recent in its manifestation. At least, the name “contemporary” is recent. Because of its mixed beginnings and various techniques, contemporary dance has most likely gone through history by a different name, in multiple different cultures.

Rather than explaining, here is a beautiful contemporary piece from So You Think You Can Dance that exhibits the powerful and emotional aspect I mentioned earlier:

For more information on contemporary dance, click here.

While the history of contemporary dance may not be as detailed or lengthy as ballet or some of the other types of dance, it is still a very beautiful and beloved dance style that will surely take a place in history to come.

Latin Dance

In Central America, Latin dance was already in motion many years before European influence turned it into the Latin American dance we know today. You might recognize some of the popular Latin dances such as, Samba, Cha Cha, Salsa, or Paso Doble. There are many different types of Latin dance derived from various places, though for this post, I will speak about two of my favorites: The Salsa and the Argentine Tango.

Salsa Dance

As one would guess, Salsa does have strong roots in Cuba, though it also has other influences. Salsa’s mixed origins come from places such as Puerto Rico, Africa, and Colombia, where Salsa dance went by a different name. The name “Salsa” actually started in New York and represented a variety of dances, usually of Hispanic origin. Other Latin dances like the Cha Cha and Rumba have contributed to what we know as Salsa dance. What I like about Salsa dancing is the fun atmosphere and upbeat rhythm. People Salsa dancing always look like they are having such a good time that, when added with the enticing rhythm of the music, I can’t help but join in!

Here is a video of a great Salsa dance from So You Think You Can Dance:

If you want to learn more, you can find a brief history of Salsa dance here.

Argentine Tango

Despite the name, the Argentine Tango actually has mixed origins, similar to Salsa. In fact, the exact origins of the Argentine Tango are unknown. Though the exact origins are unknown, it is true that the Argentine Tango did have its beginnings in Buenos Aires. In the 1880s, many people from Europe and Africa came to the ports of Buenos Aires to find freedom. Because of this, cultures mingled and the Argentine Tango was born. Even though the Argentine Tango used to be much different, I love what it has become. The Argentine Tango never fails to enthrall me with its dramatic and beautiful flair.

This is a video of a wonderful Argentine Tango, also from So You Think You Can Dance:

You can find a more thorough history of the Argentine Tango here.

Well, that’s it for my Latin dance post. As always, there is a lot more to Latin dance than I have mentioned. Feel free to check out more of the culture and beauty of Latin dance when you are able. Maybe even take a few dance classes? You won’t regret it!

Keep on dancing, my friends. Till next time!

Japanese Traditional Dance

First, I’m not some kind of expert on this topic and I do not plan on acting like it. Despite this, Japanese dance and culture has always interested me, so I have learned a few things along the way. Many of the traditional Japanese dances are slow and graceful, yet strong and steady. I find that words from Mulan’s song “Lesson Number One” fit very well: “Like an oak, you must stand firm.” And “Like a cloud, you are soft. Like bamboo, you bend in the wind.”

Kabuki

Kabuki is a type of traditional Japanese dance drama, almost like a play that focuses on dance. It often requires elaborate costumes and makeup. Kabuki began in the Edo period (1603 – 1868) and involved various dances mainly performed by women. However, these women were prostitutes, and because their trade did not fit with public standards, they were banned from kabuki by 1630. Because of this ban, men dressed up as women and performed instead. Even to this day, only men perform kabuki. Makeup and all!

Here is a photo of modern kabuki actors in action:

Kabuki.jpg

Regardless, kabuki is still a beautiful art form, and can even be scary or funny as well, depending on the genre of the chosen play. The history of kabuki is more than 400 years old and there is much to tell. If you are interested in learning more about kabuki, here is a link to the brief history of Kabuki.

Bon Odori

Bon Odori, or “Bon Dance” is traditional Japanese folk dance that was originally used to welcome deceased ancestors hundreds of years ago. Bon Odori is still present in many festivals, through there are variations for each region. For example, there is the traditional Bon Odori that is performed at most festivals, or the more upbeat Awa Odori that is performed at the Tokushima Prefecture’s Awa Odori festival, or even the odori that is performed at the Owara Kaze no Bon festival in Yatsuo. All of these are very fascinating to me. One aspect that is specifically fascinating is the attire. Usually, summer yukatas are worn, along with large straw hats that cover the face. Here is a photo of the owara dance from the Owara Kaze no Bon festival:

owara-kaze-no-bon

If you have found interest in Bon Odori and its many styles, you can learn more with the overview here.

If you want a peek at a Bon Odori dance, here is a video:

If none of the dances that I have mentioned here caught your interest, fear not! I have barely scraped the surface with this post, and I urge you to look deeper into the amazing world of traditional Japanese dances.

Keep on dancing, my friends. Till next time!

Step one: Ballet

Ballet. You might be wondering why I am going to talk about such a basic type of dance. I mean, ballet is just a common and boring sport made for girls, right? Wrong. Ballet, like any other type of dance, is an art in which people of any size, gender, or ethnicity can express themselves. Ballet is, indeed, a well-known classic, though there is a reason for this. It is actually the foundation for many other types of dance. Practicing the basics of ballet can even help in other sports such as gymnastics, martial arts, and football, among others. This is because ballet is great for improving muscle tone, coordination, and flexibility.

When it began, ballet was much different than it is today. Ballet started out as court entertainment for royalty in the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth century. In fact, it did not even start in France! It originated in Italy when an Italian queen married a French king. The clothes and shoes that the dancer wore were very impractical compared to nowadays. Take a look at a now and then comparison:

Then:

early-ballet

Now:

Modern Ballet.jpg

There is so much more tell about ballet and its history, but if I tried to talk about it all, I would be here all night. If you are interested, you can learn more of the basic history here.

Now, I adore dance in all its forms and fashions, but ballet is very special to me. I was never very tall, or as skinny as all the professional ballerinas I saw, but I soon realized that did not matter. I simply loved dance and wanted to be a ballerina. I had the passion and that was all that mattered. This goes for everyone. Never let boundaries stop you, no matter what stands in your way. Especially gender. I have heard many young boys refuse to even try ballet, claiming that it was too “girly” and “boring.” This breaks my heart. As I said, ballet is for anyone, and male ballerinas are some of the most powerful and strongest men I have ever seen. They are able to leap to incredible heights, and do it effortlessly. If you are still not convinced, you can watch this short compilation of leaps and jumps from male ballerinas:

I’m trying to keep my posts brief and inspiring yet informational, but I might have let my passion run away with this one (haha). Anyway, thank you for sticking with me, and I hope you enjoyed this post/rant about ballet and its history.

Keep on dancing, my friends. Till next time!