Elements of Dance


As mentioned before, dance has its own vocabulary. Its own meaning. The elements of dance are the ingredients of dance. The different ways of combining and using the elements determine the expression of the dance, just as re-ordering words in a sentence changes the meaning of the sentence. The elements are described below:

Actions

Actions are what the body is doing. A rich movement vocabulary increases the capacity to express through dance. Actions can travel (locomotor) or move on the spot (non-locomotor/axial). They fall into the following categories: travelling, stillness, gesturing, jumping, falling, turning, twisting, contracting, expanding, and transferring weight. The following is an action word list (by no means complete):
run
skip
swing
leap
gallop
slide
roll
bend
flee
dart
float
soar
wobble
spring
vault
perch
settle
pause
hold
freeze
kick
punch
flick
shimmy
quiver
tremble
wiggle
twitch
flap
jerk
stamp
jab
inflate
grow
expand
rise
extend
spread
swell
open
close
shrink
shrivel
wither
dwindle
collapse
squeeze
crumple
melt
drip
creep
bound
balance
listen
shiver
vibrate
stretch
explode
sink
lower


The Body

The body is the instrument of dance. Students need to have knowledge about their body and its potential for movement. Awareness of the body is encouraged in the dance curriculum by learning about the following body concepts:

Whole body
Body parts - head, arms, hands, legs, feet, torso, elbows, wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles
Body zones - body areas of front, back, left side, right side, upper half, lower half
Body bases - whatever supports the rest of the body; for example, when standing -- the feet, when kneeling -- the knees.

Dynamics

Dynamics describe how the body moves. Awareness of dynamics is encouraged in the dance curriculum by learning about the following dynamic concepts:

Duration - the length of time needed to do a movement; duration is on a continuum of very short to very long
Energy - the muscular tension used to move; energy is on a continuum of a little to a lot
Even rhythm - movements of equal duration; for example, walks
Uneven rhythm - movements of unequal duration; for example, skips
Quality - characteristics of a movement; for example, strong or light
Speed - velocity of movements; speed is on a continuum of very slow to very fast
Time Signature - a symbol that denotes a metric or measured rhythm; for example, 3/4 or 4/4.

Relationships

To what or to whom describes the relationship. Relationship is the correspondence or connection between things, be they dancers to each other, dancers to objects, or a dancer's body parts to each other.

Space

Space is where the body moves. As dancers move through space, their bodies create patterns on the floor and in the air.
Awareness of space is encouraged by having students learn about the following space concepts:

General - the dance area
space
Personal - the space reached while stationary
space
Directions - forward, backward, sideways, upward, or downward
Focus - where the eyes or the intention of the movement is directed
Levels - high, middle, and low or deep
Pathways - the patterns or designs made in the air or on the floor by the person's movements; pathways appear as straight lines, curved lines, or combinations of straight and curved lines
Shape - the design of the body's position
Size - the magnitude of the body shape or movement; size is on a continuum of small to large.

Climax and Resolution

All dances need to begin somewhere, build toward something, and come to a resolution (beginning, middle, and end). When a dance builds in intensity and interest and reaches a high point, the high point is called a climax. A climax can be created in many ways such as: an explosion of energy from the dancers or an emotional out pour from an otherwise low-energetic dance.

Contrast

Contrast can be achieved by combining and/or juxtaposing unlike movements. This creates variety.

Repetition

Repetition of movement phrases or parts of phrases is reassuring for an audience. Repetition permits an audience to see the movements in more detail, allowing them to become familiar with the movement vocabulary the choreographer is using. Repetition can also be used to give movements emphasis.

Sequencing and Development

Sequencing and development refer to the ordering of movement (sequencing) in a meaningful way (development). When movements are purposefully connected to each other, they gain significance and take on meaning.

Transition

Transitions are needed when movements and dance phrases are connected. Transitional movements should promote continuity.

Unity

When all the parts work together to contribute to the whole dance, there is unity. Unity is achieved when the removal of any portion of the composition damages the whole dance.
Variety

Variety within a dance composition can engage and hold an audience's interest. Variety can be incorporated in several ways such as contrasting movements, changing emotions, or having new and innovative movements become integrated into the dance.

The Five Basic Positions

external image allfivepositions.gif
Turnout

Turning out is one of the most important rules of dance. It comes from ballet but spills over into all forms of dance as it helps the body move and become more supple. Turnout means turning the legs out of the hip socket so each knee is pointing to the sides of the body, away from each other. The feet make a V, or if you have what is called flat turnout, your feet may be able to make a straight line with the heels touching. Turning out of the hip socket helps the legs move easier without getting restricted by the hip bones. In the above picture, you see the dancer in second position with her legs turned out. This leads to greater mobility and strength as your body must maintain turnout throughout the class.