Evidences of early dance, such as sculptures, carvings, and statues, prove that dance was one of
the earliest forms of art. Dancers used body and movements to express thoughts and feelings, so
dance was a form of communication. Its earliest purpose was for religious practices. Dance
rituals were performed to worship or to appease the gods.
There are 4 main types of religious dances:
Dance of Imitation
- These dances were often in imitation of animals. For example, Native
American dancers are seen to perform a dance in which they imitate the flight of an eagle. Dance
of imitation might also include the movement of the wind or of the water or of the swaying of
trees or of other movements found in nature.
- These dances were performed to restore the health of an individual by
warding off evil spirits or by pleasing a certain god/goddess. They were also sometimes used to
protect an individual, family, or community from danger and disease.
Commemorative Dances – These dances were performed by an entire community to mark
important events in the calendar. They were also used to celebrate milestones, such as birthdays,
adulthood, marriage and death (to ask for a peaceful transition of the spirit.)
Dances for Spiritual Connection – These dances were used to establish a connection with gods or
The movements for these dances were very basic and natural. They were based on the natural
rhythms of the body, such as the beating of the heart or the breathing. These dances didn’t
require any particular technique and were composed of simple movements: hopping, skipping,
running, stomping and swaying. Early ‘music’ has been very natural and basic as well: clapping,
humming, singing, shouting might have set the tempo at the beginning.
ANCIENT PERIOD 3000 B.C. TO 400 A.D.
In this period we begin to see a conscious element of the aesthetic. The Greeks incorporated
dance into their theatre. Poetry, theatre and dance were very important aspects of their life.
Dance was not a ritual but a pleasing form of art and entertainment.
In India there is a long tradition of dance. In particular, a dance called Bharata Natyam was
developed. Bharata Natyam was a temple dance that was graceful and required great skill. It is a
form of prayer that uses exact hand, eye and body movements. Feet are moved quickly. Bells and
other ornaments enhance the dance. It is still practice today.
MEDIEVAL PERIOD (400-1400A.D. - THE MIDDLE AGES)
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church affected every aspects of life, dictating what