Updated: May 16
Dance is an ever changing entity; it has been around for generations and will most likely be around for much longer. And like humanity, dance evolves to new styles and trends that sweep the world faster than you can count 5-6-7-8. With 2020 being the year of change and needed growth, dance has definitely been on the forefront of inclusivity for all. Now you may be wondering, “I thought dance was to just have fun and enjoy the music?”, well, you’re not wrong, but dance has such rich history that includes multiple different cultures and rituals that have been interpreted over time to famous styles of dance you know and love today.
Its rich history.
Starting from the beginning, relatively as mentioned above, dance dates back to traditions and rituals done in forms of celebration. Imprinted on the walls of caves in India, there have been paintings instigating the first signs of dance. Additionally, in Egypt, “The earliest form of structured dances were used by Egyptian priests to create and visualize storytelling rituals both for entertainment and religion.” Fast forward to Medieval Europe, dances were used as entertainment for the wealthy class, during renaissance era, dance was adapted into many forms of styles such as the waltz. During the Italian Renaissance, ballet was constructed and eventually made its way to Russia in the 19th century. While in Africa, many African tribes created dances unique to themselves, which is typically accompanied by vocals and percussive music. Dances typically fell into three categories, ritual (religious), ceremonial, and Griotic (storytelling); it is with these, that many modern day moves are interpreted from and are used in the everyday moves of current trends.
It is important to mention the impact of dance with the association of slavery and its adaptation. The slave trade imported with it many cultures and traditions with it while in the Caribbean and the plantation regions of the mainland, this created a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures that influenced the dances form Africa. Tribal dances remained to be an important entity for enslaved Africans, dances such as the Calenda which featured 2 lines parallel to one another making up of women on one side and men on the other. The dance consisted of approaching the opposite line without touching, then made its way to thigh-slapping, kissing and other forms of contact. The dance by nature creates some form of alarm due to its loud and confident moves. Naturally, plantation owners were opposed and the dance was eventually banned in some areas. However, the Calenda in addition to the gumboot would go on to inspire the Cakewalk and eventually the Charleston in the 20th Century; engaging in the high-stepping energy of more traditional dances. Among many dance forms in the African diaspora contributed to the evolution of Stepping in America This would then go on to arguably inspire the creation of Stepping in America.
Its modern impact.
Though this may seem like it is unrelated to modern context, traditional dances bleed through interpretation and modernization to the moves that you see and love today. For example, Beyonce’s “Sprit” +“Bigger” (extended cut) profoundly included a performance of African dance towards the end of the video. Queen Bey goes on to mention “The soundtrack is a love letter to Africa and I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa and not just use some of the sounds and do my interpretation of it. I wanted to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa.” Although Beyonce used traditional dances in her music video, many interpretations of modern dance are associated with the black community. A modern style which was previously referred to as urban took massive inspiration from the black community and still does to this day. It is with this style we have come to see many new dances through a vast set of artists such as Jason Derulo, Souljia boy, Chris Brown and many more. Fast forwarding to early-to-mid 2020, Tik Tok has taken the internet by storm, and many “Tik Tok dancers” have propelled this new era of dance into the world. Many famous Tik Tok dances derive from black artists/choreographers enlisting a new era of trend dances. On the opposite side of the world, Kpop—yes, Korean pop (you read that correctly) takes massive inspiration from the black community, not just from choreographers, but the majority of the music industry lies on the backbone of black producers, set designers, choreographers, and lyricists. Needless to say, the acknowledgement of dance and towards the black community has been and will be on the rise throughout the world.
What the future holds,
In light of the recent rise of rightful protests and riots towards police brutality and systematic racism towards the black community throughout the world, and most effectively the United states of America, many artists, students, and predominantly the younger generation have seen the impact of cultural appropriation and the need to change the existing narrative towards black artists and dancers. 2020 has proven to be the year of accountability, and the need to not only bring justice to those who deserve it, but celebrate, acknowledge and give credit to embrace the culture, traditions and arts that are created in the black community has delivered and embraced around the world. Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms have propelled dance in a new light through a vision of inclusion, diversity, culture and richness with the acknowledgement of dancers and in retrospect dance.
At the heart of it all, dance is a form of celebration and inclusion that stitches history and culture into the overall picture. Dance will forever change and new styles and trendy moves will evolve and take over the world and the internet. It is our homage to the black community to not only embrace the work that has been contributed but celebrated. It is important to learn from the black community for it drives us to inclusivity and historical recognition. If you would like to learn more about dance and the history of African dance, STU Arts Dance offers Stepping workshops where you can not only learn about stepping but also dance it. For more information check out our stepping page here, and for more information about our hip hop classes you can check it out here!
Can’t wait to see you all out there soon!