Dragon Dancing

Dragon dance is a traditional Chinese dance that is most commonly celebrated and seen at festive celebrations and gatherings. Experienced and trained dancers are the ones who perform the dance. The dance involves a high level of skill and coordination as dancers manipulate and control a long dragon figure where there are poles to hold onto by each performer and the dragon is broken into five sections. The focus of the dance and the audience is on the dragon’s movements which can and are captivating and interesting. Since the focus is more heavily on the dragon’s movements, there is not as much fancy footwork involved in dragon dancing.

The most common and popular place for dragon dancing is at Chinese New Year celebrations, not just in China, but all over the world. These dragons are a longstanding symbol of Chinese culture and are a symbol and representation of good luck for the community and the nation at large. In addition, dragons are long believed to be powerful, dignified, fertile and wise creatures, making them a great symbol for a new year. In addition, the fierce appearance but jolly personality of the dragon is something that the Chinese culture has always embodied, emulated and appreciated. In addition to the dragon itself being a symbol of power and dignity, the movements shown in traditional Dragon dances also symbolize power and dignity.

The key to successful dragon dancing is in the cohesiveness of the team performing. The timing is everything in assuring the dragon’s movements are swift, properly timed and executed. Even a small mistake can ruin an entire performance. In addition to coercion with fellow performers and teammates, there is also a requirement for performers to stay on time and on rhythm with the beat of the drum to which the dance is performed.

There are competitions for those who are proficient at the cultural dance and the competitions are held all over the world, not just in China. There are rules and regulations in terms of movement and requirements so often the dances differ from those that may be seen at other festive celebrations. There are judges and criteria that all performances, teams, individuals and dragons must meet to be eligible to win these various competitions.

Essential Items to Carry When Going For a Dance Session

To some, dance is done just to pass time but there are others who take it seriously. Being serious with dance means that you have to invest in the essentials required during a dance session. When undertaking a dance session, comfort is key so that you can make the best out of your session.

Getting comfortable over the dancing period requires a number of essentials. Those who participate in dance competitions are very keen to observe the requirements so that they can emerge as winners. Some of the essentials in a dance session include:

Dancing shoes

Dancing involves a lot of body movements and therefore you need to have a comfortable pair of shoes. The dancing shoes should also have a good grip especially in cases where the stage is a slippery one. This helps you avoid accidents while dancing. There are shoes specifically designed for dancing and you ought to acquire one before getting the stage.

Towel

A dance session is usually filled with a lot of activity and thus the dancers sweat. The main purpose of the towel is to wipe your sweaty skin so that you may continue dancing comfortably. Especially when dancing as a group, wiping yourself is important so that your partner can get comfortable dancing with you. You may also carry an extra towel to use when taking a shower after the session.

Water Bottle

Our bodies need to be hydrated regularly for healthy living. For this reason, dancers are required to carry water during dance sessions. Dancing can be at times tiring and will make you get thirsty. That’s why dancers are advised to carry water to quench their thirst.

Snack

Hunger will make you underperform during the dance session. A snack is not to make you full but it will help to keep you going during the session. You can take the snack between intervals to re-energize your body. You should be careful about your choice of snack. Dancers should opt for healthy snacks like fruits.

Reading Material

During a dance session, you will not be dancing all the time. There are many dancers in a dance session and hence everyone has their own time to perform. During breaks, you can read your materials such as books and novels. Reading will keep you relaxed as you wait for your turn.

First Aid Kit

This is a very crucial item for dancers. During a dancing session, there is a probability that one may get injured and thus the kit will help you nurse the small injuries. The kit should contain things such as antiseptic wipes and bandages.

For a successful dance session, you must have the above items.

Russian Dance

Russian dance, like dances in many other cultures, is an integral part of Russian culture and has been for a long time. In fact, many types of Russian dance date as far back as the 10th century. Because of Russia’s size as a country, there were many invasions and contacts with other countries and as such, a mix of different European dances and music influenced and helped create Russian folk dances. Traditionally, it was lower class Russian citizens and members of Russian society who would perform for the upper class who would watch the performances and not participate in the dance.

Today, Russian folk dances still play a role in the culture but the various Russian dances are no longer part of the lower class, mid and upper class can and do all participate in Russian dances whether for recreational or competitive purposes. There are even Russian ballets that are world famous.

The unique characteristics of Russian dance include furious and gentle music that the choreography is set to and performed to.

In addition, the squat work and the infamous knee bend and musical and rhythmic foot stomping are unique and differentiate Russian dance from many other styles of dance. The squat work is impressive as the squats are done at varying tempos as music speeds up and slows down and require serious balance and coordination.

The costumes are detailed and traditionally were handmade. The clothing is designed depending on the occasion as often special dances are done for different special occasions. Headdresses (called Kokoshnik ), embroidered shirts, aprons and even belts are also common costume elements for women. Red is one of the most common and important colours in these dances as it associated with the idea of beauty and being beautiful.

Costumes are beautifully designed with detail. Typically, the clothing for the dances is based on specific events, such as holidays, and varies between these events. Women wear holiday headdresses, embroidered shirts, belts, and ornamented aprons. Men wear shirts, a belt, narrow pants, and high boots. Red is incorporated in many of the costumes because it is associated with beauty in the Russian tradition. In Russian dances woman and girls often carry a pocket square with them. Girls and women often wear the traditional Russian headdress during performances.

There are several types of traditional Russian dance;

  • Barynya
  • Kamarinskaya
  • Khorovod
  • Kozachok
  • Squat Dance
  • Troika
  • Tropak
  • Yablochko

Russian dance is celebrated, observed and participated in all over the world by more than just those of Russian descent or with Russian roots. There are many ways to enjoy Russian dance styles. It is not an easy form of dance to learn as it is deeply technical.

Irish and Celtic Dance

Irish dance is not just one type of dance but rather a grouping of traditional dances that originated and are rooted in Irish culture. The dances can be and are danced solo, in small groups and in large groups as well. Performances are both recreational and competitive. These types of dances, in their original form and as they came to fruition, were influenced by French and English dancers in the 18th as well as the 19th century. Dance teachers were travelling experts who taught dancers and moved from city to city to do so, meaning that the dances continued to evolve as teachers experienced and were influenced by more culture and people.

Irish dance became and still is an integral part of Irish culture, especially for those who were Irish nationalists and those who participated in nationalist movements. The 20th century brought the commercialization of Irish dance, introducing competitive styles and concepts.

Some types of Irish Dance include:

  • Irish Step Dance; this type of dance became popular around 1994. Irish step dance is characterized by quick foot movements and rigid upper body. There are several types of Irish step dance but most use similar technical elements that involve performing on the balls of one’s feet and toes pointing outward as well as complex foot work and rigid torsos and upper bodies. These dances can also be performed in groups of two or more.
  • Sean-nós is unique and known for footwork that can be described as low to the ground as well as improvised movement, free arm movement and steps that are known to be “battering”. This type of dance, compared to other Irish dances, follows the beat and rhythm of music more closely.

Spontaneity is the key to this dance, with less focus on practiced and taught choreography.

Because of this, groups tend to dance one at a time and play off each other’s energy.

  • Ceili Dance is a social and competitive dance that is performed by groups small and large alike. This dance is more traditional in nature and demonstrates some of the most traditional elements and influence of Irish dance. It is a structured form of dance.
  • Set Dance is a social dance that is practiced in groups and involves complex and intricate footwork.

Unsurprisingly, Irish dance often accompanies Irish music. Interestingly, these dances became popular as dancers showed off the movements on top of barrels, bars, tables and other impromptu and make shift stages which is part of the reason that the dances involve such a rigid torso as these dancers tried to balance and concentrate their movements. As venues became more stages, and less bar top, the dances evolved and started to include the upper body more and more.

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.