Dance Through the Decades

Dance has been a popular form of expression since records began, with different cultures adopting their own particular movements, often telling a story. The earliest mention of dance comes from Indian and Egyptian paintings. Throughout the centuries, dance has evolved in many ways, some of them controversial at first, but always entertaining. It can be performed as a solo individual, a duo or as a group.

The 1920s

Following the end of the First World War, people were looking to escape the horrors of that era, and dance played a significant part in finding this escapism. Popular dances of this time included the Charleston, the Foxtrot, the Shimmy, the Tango and the Waltz. Some of these dances require that couples hold each closely, which was considered somewhat scandalous, particularly by older generations.

The 1940s

The rumba was first introduced in this decade and was an instant hit with its seductive Latin tempo. There are two distinctive styles of the rumba, American and European, and it is often featured in international competitions. Swing and jazz also came to the forefront in the 1940s and encompassed the Lindy Hop, also known as the Jitterbug. US servicemen are said to have popularised this style of dance during WWII

The 1950s

Rock ‘n Roll both describes the music and the dance style of the 1950s. The beat of the guitar is akin to that of a blues style rhythm and has accompanying fast dance movements, widely adopted by teenagers. The style of dress was particularly essential and gave rise to the term “teddy boys” who often were involved in gang fights. In cases of injury, they had to rely on old fashioned doctors, as opposed to today’s generation who can find the useful livi app to get medical advice. The hand jive is a popular 1950s dance and was often performed by synchronised groups of youngsters at high school dances.

The 1960s

The 1960s were a period of unrest and rebellion and strangely led to a series of dance crazes with odd names, including the Mashed Potato, the Hully Gully and most famously the Twist. These were usually formed as a line dance, with each individual performing the controlled movements at the same time as the others. The end of this decade saw the rise of flower power, with youngsters dancing as though seemingly in a trance.

The 1980s

This decade heralded the arrival of rap, hip-hop and as made famous by Michael Jackson, moonwalking. This iconic pop star was also responsible for the video of his hit single Thriller, which led to hordes of people emulating zombies and graveyard ghouls. A dance which was often attempted but with less than successful results was that of the Robot.

It remains to be seen as to which dance craze will be seen in the future, but more than likely it will be introduced by the younger generations.

Bollywood Dance

Bollywood as a term was the blending of two words, Bombay (a city in India now known as Mumbai) and Hollywood, a city in the United States that requires no explanation. Bollywood refers to an Indian genre of music, dance, movies and acting.

The form of dance is a unique type of dance that is no longer practiced and taught exclusively in India. The dance is practiced at competitive and recreational levels all over the world. This genre of dance is characterized by facial expressions, overstated body language and movements and other cinematic and dramatic elements that make the story easy to follow for viewers.

The genre is more than just dramatic cinematic elements and is deep rooted in history and tradition. India has long practiced this and similar types of dance. Bollywood dance tends to be a more modern and hybrid version of traditional Indian dances such as Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Bhangra.

The basic elements of Bollywood dance include:

  • Hand Movements; Bollywood is rich in hand movements that serve as a type of sign language that are an integral part of telling a story and portraying the message that the routine aims to convey. Interestingly, different historic Indian dances have different hand movements that mean different things, for example hand movements (known as hastas) for certain types of dance are done with one hand and others with two.
  • Costume; another integral part of Bollywood dance is the costume. You may be familiar with the bright costume colours as well as the large number of accessories that tend to accompany outfits. These bangles and bracelets and other namely metal accessories make noise that enhance the experience.

Latin Dance

Latin dance as we know it today is a loose term that encompasses several dances from Cha Cha Cha to Flamenco to Caribbean dances that are lesser known to western and European audiences. These dances draw influencesand originated from a variety of influences and cultures, some of which include:

  • Indigenous Roots

Many Latin dances have indigenous roots, drawing inspiration from native Mexico, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. Dance was essential part of these native and indigenous cultures. Not only was dance a form of entertainment but also symbolism of beliefs, combats, and large events.

  • European Influences; Spanish and Portuguese colonists moved into indigenous empires and eventually brought their fancy and forward-thinking dances with them in the 17th and 18th century. These dances moved across Latin America and were incorporated into existing dance forms.
  • African Influence; Fast forward to the 19th century, dances were a symbol of elite societies and different dances had different meanings and status associations. African slaves started having an influence on Latin dance as people became fascinated with polycentric rhythms and movement as well as whole foot steps and other dance elements.