October 11, 2013

What on earth is dance?!

I want to start asking the question “What is dance?”.   Many people I meet through dance classes and teaching, or elsewhere in my artistic work, express varying ideas but they often find it easier to say what they don’t think dance is… when I ask what they think dance is, things get a little muddier.


The debate about what dance is is of course ages old, with some people feeling that Ballet or anything related to ballet is the ultimate form of dance, while others preferring a large dose of Hofesh Shechter.  To me dance is how I express myself, my thoughts, ideas and emotions through movement, whether with music or in silence, whether a slow and simple solo or a full-scale ballet or contemporary production.


So if you have an idea about what you think dance is, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.  Can you put it in a sentence or two? What dance classes have you taken or performance have you been a part of and thought “Now this is dance!”?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

11 Comments on “What on earth is dance?!

Carolyn Wooldridge
October 12, 2013 at 10:58

A good sculpture is when you can’t just look at it but feel impelled to touch and carress it. For me Dance is similar………when through the medium you’re experiencing – be it music, poetry, silence, relationship, nature, colour, art, spirituality and many others – you feel impelled from within your body to move, to take part, to share, to express your innermost feelings, emotions………and yes, your thoughts too. Dance is expression of who you are as an individual and therefore can be shared through any dance style.
There is also the dance of life……….. of nature, colours, moods, interactions, our senses and the rhythmns of life with its ups and downs, its peaks and troughs……… how many of us actually stop long enough to reflect on these?

October 12, 2013 at 12:10

I can’t help offering the old cynical – and a bit naughty – definition of dance as “The vertical manifestation of a horizontal desire”! Sorry …

philippa abrahams
October 12, 2013 at 12:32

I can’t answer that question just as I can’t answer, “what is art?” To define it is to limit it. So all artforms are what the artist or participant says it is for them. One definition of dance could perhaps be drawing in space with the body. At least that is what I think today, tomorrow may be different!

Jean Anderson
October 12, 2013 at 13:33

There’s a phrase which has become rather trite in my view “Dance like there’s no-one watching” but I suppose it intends to highlight the intrinsic joy that dance can bring to us all whatever our level of experience “good for the soul” comes to mind. The confusion lies in the purpose of dance- pure enjoyment, therapy, performance – perhaps it is always a blend of all three!

October 13, 2013 at 13:31

Dance is a sequence of movement and non-movement having a rhythmic pattern that is responding to a music which can be heard by the Dancers and audience (if present). Dance also makes use of the mood, style and other aspects that may be present in the music.

I am not defining music beyond the requirement that it is sound ordered by measures (rhythm).

I think the above will stand even if the dancer is responding to a rhythmic pattern in his/her own head, conscious or unconscious.

To comment: without a minimum such definition it would be difficult to differentiate Dance from some other discipline. In other words I am assuming that your question is not privately casual or flippant but rather in the long intellectual tradition which has already concluded that water stops being water when it is wood or plastic. A critical requirement in this tradition is that we do not make use of the term being defined in the definition of the term.

Philippa. The point of attempting to say what something is; is to define the thing/object or activity rather than the person performing. Hence although I can define a category which has the label Dance I am incapable of even beginning to define a category of Dancers; mainly dancers like are like scientists, politicians and so on. Does this bring clarity some clarity?

October 13, 2013 at 22:42

Dance to me is when I feel most completely myself.

Teresa Matus
October 14, 2013 at 13:41

I Like Philippa’s comment. Dance to me is expression through movement, but I suppose there needs to be some “intention” within the movements, but I believe it is like any art form, including literature; the audience/reader/viewer find their own meanings which if often for me, just the pure pleasure of feeling my spirit engaged & flowing/leaping with the dancers.Lifted UP or moved deeply.

Hazel Hawes
October 14, 2013 at 22:02

It’s so simple, you hear the lilt, you feel the beat, you tap your feet and your heart touches the sky and you pass the joy on to your class.

October 15, 2013 at 20:28

For me, dance is an exploration of the mind through body movement.

Almeric Johnson
October 22, 2013 at 07:02


Off the top of my head

It is the expression of emotions through, static or in movement, using our bodies. Mime artist, for example, can simply change the expressed mood by a facial or a physical shift and we the audience apply our individual interpretation. Another dimension is the relationship that groups on stage when interacting can evoke an emotion that emendates from the shared collective cognitive emotional intent.

November 25, 2013 at 08:44

Dance is the joy of expressing all aspects of the human spirit and experience through coordinated physical movement, usually through the interpretation of music.


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