The most important part of the dance is the ability to tell a tale without words – in fact this was how stories were passed down through the generations before the written word was invented. It was also a primitive way of displaying affection for someone of the opposite sex, and many marriages were based on the success of a courtship dance.
Medieval times saw the rise of country dances in Christian communities around the world. These organised gatherings were a way of socialising and bringing the community together. Also known as folk dancing, the style of moves and musical instruments varied by country and origin and many forms are still popular with traditionalists today. The 17th century saw the rise of high-society ballroom dances – although they were invitation-only affairs for the elite, essentially they also offered social interaction and became highly sought-after events for their prestige.
The dedication and focus required for ballroom dancing turned the art into a competitive activity; it is now even recognised by the Olympic Committee as a sport, although it is unlikely to be included in the next games. This classification has enabled dancers to compete against each other to prove their prowess, as well as widening its appeal and expanding its remit from hobby to profession.
The lean years between the world wars saw a dance explosion as people wanted to escape the reality of the depression. During the 1920s and 1930s a craze of endurance dance events were held where thousands of people would gather to keep a dance going for 12 or 24 hours, literally to the point of exhaustion. The comparatively sedate tea dances after the Second World War again gave way to danceathons as rock-n-roll gripped the world in the 1950s and 1960s. Modern discos and clubs have more of an individual feel but plenty of American colleges have revived the traditional dance marathons as fundraisers.
Out of nowhere
Flashmobs, which started at the turn of the 21st century, are sudden and brief gatherings of people in a public place, according to the Oxford English Dictionary – to perform an ‘unusual and pointless act’. More often than not a crowd of people execute rehearsed dances to entertain baffled onlookers, with the thrill for flashmobbers being in the secrecy and unison of moves between an otherwise unconnected group of individuals.
Spreading the news
Since the launch of YouTube in 2005, watching and sharing viral videos – a short crazy clip of someone doing something crazy – has become a popular way to while away spare time. This recent phenomenon has prompted many couples to spice up their wedding dance by mashing up classic choreography with modern dance, with the hope of multiple YouTube hits adding special novelty to the wedding memories of everyone in attendance.
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