A Crash Course in Dance

A kinetic art form better experienced than explained

Dance is a kinetic art form, so it's better experienced than explained. However, we understand some audiences may want additional information before taking a chance on different types of dance. While we aren’t trying to define what dance is, we hope these categories and brief explanations provide an entrypoint and help you navigate the dance offerings available through your TDF membership.

One of the most powerful aspects of dance may be its inability to be condensed into words- the best way to learn more is by seeing it for yourself. Don't feel like you need to "get it." Just open your mind and respond to what moves you, whether that's appreciating the performers' physical ability, feeling strong emotions or simply letting it wash over you. It's all "correct."

As choreographers explore the intersection of different styles and draw on the unique abilities of their dancers, dance continues to evolve and spawn new forms. Some forms can be traced back to ballet as either direct descendants or as a rebellion against ballet’s strict structure. Some choreographers are expertly integrating social dance styles into their work giving homage to the multitude of places from which dance stems. And still there’s more- some forms focus on pushing the limits of dance expression in a myriad of ways.

Regardless of genre, dance, in its essence, uses what we all have: the body. We all have a body, and every day we all move through space. Whether you're dance curious or a devotee, we hope these categories help jump-start your dance adventures through TDF. 

Ballet

Ballet performances feature dancers wearing pointe shoes and often incorporate a narrative. The movement offers clean lines along the center axis of the dancer's body. The torso is usually upright, while arms and legs are elongated as the dancer moves in and out of balancing on pointe, turning, jumping and performing supported lifts. The steps are codified and become recognizable the more you see ballet. Giselle, The Nutcracker, Carmen and Swan Lake are some of the best-known full-length story ballets. However, there are many others, and new original ballets are constantly being created and staged by contemporary choreographers.

 

Modern-Contempo Dance

Modern-contemporary dance comes from a long line of movers and shakers who broke away from ballet's rules. Modern dance still relies on a technical background that stems from ballet, but the steps are less codified, giving the choreography a greater range of possibility. Modern dancers are usually barefoot, and the choreography can run the gamut from simple everyday actions, to sweeping sequences of motion, to jumps, lifts, floorwork and more. There is a lot of cross-pollination; other styles or artistic mediums are often incorporated into modern dance performances. Most of the time this style doesn't have a linear story; often there's no narrative at all, so there's a lot of room for interpretation.

 

Dance Theatre

Dance theatre is rooted in dance but incorporates elements of theatre, such as spoken text, props, singing and more. The movement has a vast range, from wild abandonment, to small and gestural, to everyday actions. There are usually characters and a semblance of a story, but don’t expect a plot or a linear narrative. It may seem more like a collage of scenes or images. As with modern dance, there's a lot of room for interpretation.

World Dance

World dance is rooted in cultural traditions. Sometimes a performance is a straightforward presentation of a cultural custom or celebration. At other times, it's a synthesis of cultural practices blended with another form of dance, usually ballet or modern. This fusion allows the choreographer to explore a larger movement vocabulary while highlighting important aspects of a specific heritage.