Dance Styles

Ballet

Ballet is dance form with it’s origins from the Italian renaissance courts of the 15th & 16th Century. It quickly spread to the French Court of Catherine de’ Medici. Bizarrely enough it was King Louis XIV who invented pointe work as he was vertically challenged and stood on the tips of his squared cut shoes.

The predominance of French in the ballet vocabulary reflects this history. Ballet spread across Europe in the 17th Century, which migrated through the rest of the world. In the 20th century styles of ballet continued to develop and grow, into sub-genres such as neo-classical ballet, contemporary ballet and post-structural ballet.

Ballet: the world ballet comes from the French and was borrowed by the English around the 17th Century. The French word in turn has it’s origins in Italian “balletto”, a diminutive of “ballo” (dance). Ballet ultimately traces back to Latin “ballare” meaning to dance.

Salsa

Salsa is not easily defined. Who invented salsa? The Cubans, Puerto Ricans, the Afro-Caribbean’s? Salsa is a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances. Each played a large part in its evolution. The word Salsa means ‘sauce’ and it is generally agreed that it is a generic term for the fusion of the Cuban rhythms and the hot and spicy American instrumentals.

The music was brought over with the immigrants in the 50’s and 60’s and taken into the clubs in London and New York.

Salsa is still in its early days and is still evolving; it is the fusion of many Latin rhythms which have been taken into the clubs and different clubs dance different styles but with the same basic step pattern. It is kept small and compact as space in the clubs is limited.

The Salsa is similar to the Mambo where you have 3 steps over 4 counts of music. Turns have become an important feature and generally the dance moves backwards and forwards and not side to side using 4/4 time with 40-52 bars per minute.

Freestyle

What is freestyle dance? A tough question to answer as there are many answers. Perhaps it would be prudent to discuss where movement originated from to see the evolutionary path of freestyle. Movement can be traced back to the early African American Indian tribes. They would have numerous ceremonies/rituals, which would be celebrated by the villagers. Some of the villagers (with guidance from the medicine man) would dance, showing co-ordinated hand, head, arm and body movements with vocal expressions. The other villagers would beat on the drum to keep them all in time. Unfortunately the slave triangle came about and they got transported to different countries where their influence helped turn dancing into a socially acceptable form of entertainment.

It was this mixture of cultures and rhythms, which were constantly ever changing, that helped give birth to disco. Disco was danced in the underground clubs way before Saturday Night Fever came about and popularized disco dancing overnight. Everyone wanted to learn disco and dance schools were inundated. Disco was categorised as dances with synchronicity, slight hip action with high-energy music. Since the popularisation of disco in the 1970s the dance style has mutated and evolved and will always do so, making this a very exciting dance form in deed.

Rock n Roll

There are many candidates for the title of the first Rock n Roll record, but it is arguable as to whether any such things exist. The roots of Rock n Roll are deep and wide. But it is clear that this style developed between 1916 – when the words “rocking and rolling” were first heard together on a record – and 1956, by which time “Rock n Roll had become an international musical and social phenomenon. Rock n Roll was primarily formed from a combination of styles such as boogie woogies, swing, jazz and gospel. Although Rockabilly (which is an earlier form of Rock n Roll had a strong influence from country music).

The steps of Rock n Roll evolved from other dance styles from Charleston to East/West Swing to Lindy Hop to Jitterbug to Jive to Rock n Roll. Along this path is Country and Western Swing Dance, which aligned itself to Rockabilly.

The massive popularity and eventual worldwide view of Rock n Roll gave it a widespread social image. Far beyond simply a musical style, Rock n Roll as seen in movies and on television influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes and language.

Tap

Nobody could have predicted that the collision of cultures in the New York centuries ago would result in Tap, the uniquely American dance form. Yet the fusion of British isle Clog and Step dancing with the rhythms of West African drumming and dancing in colonial times created an ever-evolving art form that continues to flourish today.

In the mid-1600s, Scottish and Irish indentured laborers brought their social dances to the New World. Slaves in the southern United States imitated the rapid toe and heel action of the Irish Jig and the percussive sensibility of the Lancashire Clog, and combined them with West African step dances that were known as “Juba” dances and “Ring Shouts.” As a result, African dance styles became more formal and diluted, while European elements became more fluid and rhythmic, eventually resulting in a uniquely American Tap hybrid.

But Tap didn’t become a stage dance until the rise of the Minstrel Show in the late 1800s. The term “Tap” came into popular use as late as 1902. In the late 19th-century there were two techniques: a fast style in wooden-sole shoes (also called Buck-and-Wing) and Soft-Shoe, a smooth, leather-sole style. These styles gradually coalesced, and by the 1920s metal plates, or taps, attached to shoe bottoms, had been added to leather-soled shoes.

During the transition to the big screen, unfortunately, many of the masters were past by in favour of white entertainers. With the demise of vaudeville during the 1930s, performers turned to flashier Tap routines with increasingly dangerous acrobatics. In the 1950s Tap lost it’s popularity, due to many reasons some of which were the changing style of music and the trend towards classical balletic dances in films. Tap still existed in the clubs and continued as a social dance for pleasure.

At the end of the 1980s, inspired by the Broadway success of Black and Blue (1989), Sophisticated Ladies (1983) and in Jelly’s Last Jam with Savion Glover, as well as in the movies White Nights (1985) and Tap (1989), many young African American male dancers became interested in Tap again.

Today, Tap continues to evolve into a varied cultural tradition that is both intergenerational and multiracial. No longer considered mere entertainment, Tap is finally receiving it’s due as a dynamic art form that encompasses a range of eclectic and individual styles.