Art is a critical part of everyone’s life and, like science it behooves everyone to have some working knowledge of it. Why? Because art develops the creative mind which needed for problem solving skills. There are two kinds of art – fine art and performing art. The difference between these is twofold:
Fine arts (writing, painting, sculpture) involve an external medium such as a paint brush, pen/computer or knife, etc. The performing arts (drama, music, and dance), involve the performer as the medium.
The fine arts are solitary. The performing arts are relationship based and involve an intimate and usually immediate relationship with spectators.
Singers use their voices to perform; actors use their bodies, minds, voices and emotions to perform and dancers use their bodies to perform. All performing artists use their personalities to perform.
Performing is a two-way communication between the performer and the audience. The performer is attempting to impress the audience with their skill at entertaining, inspiring and amusing. In exchange for the performance, the audience gives the performer their attention and admiration, (and for professionals, money).
Dance is the movement or stillness of the body – usually to music - for the expression of feeling, thought and interpretation of music.
Performance Dance vs. Recreational Dance
There are two kinds of dance – Performance dance and Recreational dance.
Recreational dance is done for the pleasure of the person dancing – not for spectators. It is subjective. It may be a part of a group – such as the 2-step or folk dance – but it is not intended to impress anyone. Recreational dance styles are social dances such as swing, salsa, folk, ballroom, rain dances, war dances, the twist etc.
Performance dance is done for the pleasure of the audience, as well as the performer. It is objective and subjective. Performance styles are ballet, contemporary, classical Indian styles, flamenco, belly dance, hip hop, etc.
Performance dance is theater dance and involves learning theater arts in order to perform. The performing artist must be able to work within the framework of the theater or a theater setting/situation including costuming, music, lighting, staging, stage manners and protocol, programming, choreography and ensemble work.
Dance as Sport
Dance is often called a sport and it is true, because it requires athletic ability. But performance dance is much more than sport – it is artistic athleticism, within the framework of theater arts. The dancer must be very fit – lean, strong flexible. She must also be a consummate musician, actress, comedienne and femme fatale. She must know theater arts, choreography and have, at least a modicum of skill improvising. She must be a great performer and know what her audience expects and what they are pleased by.
Knowing The Audience
The performance dancer knows that the audience derives pleasure from these four things:
Dance is a visual art. The audience sees the art through the beauty of the dancers body; the quality of the costume and the hair and make-up.
The audience judges the art next through the quality of execution of the movement; is it accurate? Is the dancer lithe (soft and flexible)? Is she strong and fast? Is she in control of the movement? How acrobatic and coordinated is she?
The audience judges the dancer for his/her interpretation of music and her musicality. Has she captured the mood of the music? Is she on beat? Is she interpreting the rhythm of a culture correctly? Does she dramatize movement in sync with the music (IE: build the dynamics with crescendos and diminish dynamics with decrescendos)?
The audience judges the dancer on her ability to be expressive and passionate. There must be a sense of humor, drama, sensuality, danger in her movement and expression.
Here are the things a dance performer must subscribe to and master:
Staying lean and fit through regular diet and exercise.
Developing technical ability through training and disciplined practice and rehearsing. Understanding choreography and improvisation.
Developing performing and theater arts knowledge and skills. Costuming, make-up, stage manners and protocol and programming knowledge.
Becoming musically skilled – understanding how to interpret music through improvisation and choreography.
Her resistance to not wanting to do any of these things - dance is very hard work. It is not for the faint of heart or frail of body