Dance Essay Outline

See also: Index of dance articles

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to dance:

Dance – human movement either used as a form of expression or presented in a social, spiritual or performance setting. Choreography is the art of making dances, and the person who does this is called a choreographer. Definitions of what constitutes dance are dependent on social, cultural, aesthetic, artistic and moral constraints and range from functional movement (such as Folk dance) to codified, virtuoso techniques such as ballet. A great many dances and dance styles are performed to dance music.

What type of thing is dance?[edit]

Dance (also called "dancing") can be described as all of the following:

  • an activity or behavior
    • one of the arts – a creative endeavor or discipline.
      • one of the performing arts – art performed for an audience and existing in time rather than as a permanent object.
    • Hobby – regular activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure, typically done during one's leisure time.
    • Exercise – bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness.
    • Recreation – leisure time activity
  • Motion – change in position over time.

Types of dance[edit]

Type of dance – a particular dance or dance style. There are many varieties of dance. Dance categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, tango is traditionally a partner dance. While it is mostly social dance, its ballroom form may be competitive dance, as in DanceSport. At the same time it is enjoyed as performance dance, whereby it may well be a solo dance.

Dance genres[edit]

Dance styles by number of interacting dancers[edit]

  • Solo dance – a dance danced by an individual dancing alone.
  • Partner dance – dance with just 2 dancers, dancing together. In most partner dances, one, typically a man, is the leader; the other, typically a woman, is the follower. As a rule, they maintain connection with each other. In some dances the connection is loose and called dance handhold. In other dances the connection involves body contact.
  • Group dance – dance danced by a group of people simultaneously. Group dances are generally, but not always, coordinated or standardized in such a way that all the individuals in the group are dancing the same steps at the same time. Alternatively, various groups within the larger group may be dancing different, but complementary, parts of the larger dance.

Dance styles by main purpose[edit]

Geography of dance (by region)[edit]

West Africa
Benin • Burkina Faso • Cape Verde • Côte d'Ivoire • Gambia • Ghana • Guinea • Guinea-Bissau • Liberia • Mali • Mauritania • Niger • Nigeria • Senegal • Sierra Leone • Togo
North Africa
Algeria • Egypt • Libya • Mauritania • Morocco • Sudan • South Sudan •Tunisia • Western Sahara
Central Africa
Angola • Burundi • Cameroon • Central African Republic • Chad • The Democratic Republic of the Congo • Equatorial Guinea • Gabon • Republic of the Congo • Rwanda • São Tomé and Príncipe
East Africa
Burundi • Comoros • Djibouti • Eritrea • Ethiopia • Kenya • Madagascar • Malawi • Mauritius • Mozambique • Rwanda • Seychelles • Somalia • Tanzania • Uganda • Zambia • Zimbabwe
Southern Africa
Botswana • Lesotho • Namibia • South Africa • Swaziland
Mayotte (France) • St. Helena (UK) • Puntland • Somaliland • Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
Central Asia
Kazakhstan • Kyrgyzstan • Tajikistan • Turkmenistan • Uzbekistan
East Asia
Hong Kong • Macau
Japan • North Korea • South Korea • Mongolia • Taiwan
North Asia
Southeast Asia
Brunei • Burma (Myanmar) • Cambodia • East Timor (Timor-Leste) • Indonesia • Laos • Malaysia • Philippines • Singapore • Thailand • Vietnam
South Asia
Afghanistan • Bangladesh • Bhutan • Iran • Maldives • Nepal • Pakistan • Sri Lanka
West Asia
Armenia • Azerbaijan • Bahrain • Cyprus (including disputed Northern Cyprus) • Georgia • Iraq • Israel • Jordan • Kuwait • Lebanon • Oman • Palestinian territoriesQatar • Saudi Arabia • Syria • Turkey • United Arab Emirates • Yemen
Caucasus (a region considered to be in both Asia and Europe, or between them)
North Caucasus
Parts of Russia (Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Adyghea, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachai-Cherkessia, North Ossetia, Krasnodar Krai, Stavropol Krai)
South Caucasus
Georgia (including disputed Abkhazia, South Ossetia) • Armenia • Azerbaijan (including disputed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic)
Akrotiri and Dhekelia • Åland • Albania • Andorra • Armenia • Austria • Azerbaijan • Belarus • Belgium • Bosnia and Herzegovina • Bulgaria • Croatia • Cyprus • Czech Republic • Denmark • Estonia • Faroe Islands • Finland • France • Georgia • Germany • Gibraltar • Greece • Guernsey • Hungary • Iceland • Ireland • Isle of Man • Italy • Jersey • Kazakhstan • Kosovo • Latvia • Liechtenstein • Lithuania • Luxembourg • Macedonia • Malta • Moldova (including disputed Transnistria) • Monaco • Montenegro • Netherlands • Poland • Portugal • Romania • Russia • San Marino • Serbia • Slovakia • Slovenia •
Autonomous communities of Spain: Catalonia
Sweden • Switzerland • Turkey • Ukraine
United Kingdom
England • Northern Ireland • Scotland • Wales
Vatican City
European Union
North America
Provinces of Canada: • Alberta • British Columbia • Manitoba • New Brunswick • Newfoundland and Labrador • Nova Scotia • Ontario (Toronto) • Prince Edward Island • Quebec • Saskatchewan
Territories of Canada:Northwest Territories • Nunavut • Yukon
Greenland • Saint Pierre and Miquelon
United States
Central America
Belize • Costa Rica • El Salvador • Guatemala • Honduras • Nicaragua • Panama
Anguilla • Antigua and Barbuda • Aruba • Bahamas • Barbados • Bermuda • British Virgin Islands • Cayman Islands • Cuba • Dominica • Dominican Republic • Grenada • Haiti • Jamaica • Montserrat • Netherlands Antilles • Puerto Rico • Saint Barthélemy • Saint Kitts and Nevis • Saint Lucia • Saint Martin • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines • Trinidad and Tobago • Turks and Caicos Islands • United States Virgin Islands
Oceania(includes the continent of Australia)
Dependencies/Territories of Australia
Christmas Island • Cocos (Keeling) Islands • Norfolk Island
New Zealand
Fiji • Indonesia (Oceanian part only) • New Caledonia (France) • Papua New Guinea • Solomon Islands • Vanuatu •
Federated States of Micronesia • Guam (USA) • Kiribati • Marshall Islands • Nauru • Northern Mariana Islands (USA) • Palau • Wake Island (USA) •
American Samoa (USA) • Chatham Islands (NZ) • Cook Islands (NZ) • Easter Island (Chile) • French Polynesia (France) • Hawaii (USA) • Loyalty Islands (France) • Niue (NZ) • Pitcairn Islands (UK) • Adamstown • Samoa • Tokelau (NZ) • Tonga • Tuvalu • Wallis and Futuna (France)
South America
Argentina • Bolivia • Brazil • Chile • Colombia • Ecuador • Falkland Islands • Guyana • Paraguay • Peru • Suriname • Uruguay • Venezuela
South Atlantic
Ascension Island • Saint Helena • Tristan da Cunha

History of dance[edit]

History of dance

Dance technique[edit]

Dance culture[edit]

Dance science[edit]

Dance science

Dance organizations[edit]

Dance-related media[edit]

Books about dance[edit]


See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Want a better grade on your paper?

This guide will help you organize your thoughts regarding an observed performance (specifically a dance performance)… it may prove helpful to you in preparing and writing your reaction to or critique of anything. In fact, I’ve even used bold print on statements of universal importance.

Those of you studying dance academically at the college or high school level have probably been  (or will at some time be) asked to express in writing your reaction to a dance performance. These essays go by many names (observations, critiques, reactions), however, the format is generally the same – two pages of double spaced… what?

  • What am I supposed to write about?
  • How do I describe movement?
  • What should I be looking for when I watch dance?
  • How should I format the paper?
  • What is expected of me?

Writing Your Reactions to a Performance

Preparation and Recording
  1. Develop some background knowledge. Read articles, class material, and descriptions of the dance company, artist, and/or dances you will be seeing. This little bit of additional knowledge can go a long way in helping you watch and write about the performance.
  2. Arrive early to the performance and read through any program notes and biographies.
  3. Keep a writing utensil handy to record notes in the program or in a pad of paper.
  4. Record keywords and phrases regarding what you see, feel, hear, and experience.
  5. Do not judge your own perceptions.
  6. Document details – movements, costumes, music, lighting, scenery, props – with descriptive words (adjectives and verbs) as they occur to you
    • Look for shapes and patterns in the organization of movement or ideas.
      • Are certain things repeated? Do the dancers move in lines or formations?
    • Notice relationships between dancers, between objects, between parts of the body
      • Is there distance between individuals or groups of dancers? Does the head follow the elbow in a turn or does the dancer focus outward, beyond himself?
    • Observe your feelings and images that come to mind, and how they change (or not) throughout the piece
      • Does the music make you tense or agitated? Do the movements remind you of popcorn one moment and falling leaves the next?
      • How does the performance affect you and/or others in the audience?
Structuring Your Paper
  1. Look through your notes and recall the thoughts, images, and aspects of the dance that struck you.
    • Are there themes or patterns in your responses?
    • Were your reactions to certain works stronger than others?
    • What stands out as you look at your notes?
  2. Determine what you will detail in your central paragraphs. Three or four paragraphs is usually appropriate. You may want to go ahead and draft these paragraphs, covering one or two dance pieces in detail or writing in depth about aspects of the performance (themes or motifs, costumes, lighting, etc.), for example. Each paragraph should have a clear focus and begins with a thought that sets up the supportive sentences that follow.
  3. Jot down a few thoughts or keywords that summarize this collection of paragraphs. This is helpful in creating your introductory and concluding paragraphs. Have you focused a lot on the color of things, be it in lighting, costume, or even mood of the pieces, for example? Again consider patterns as you seek to organize your thoughts.
Writing Your Paper
Your Introduction

Set the Scene — Include the name of the artist or company in your opening lines. Other possibilities include where and when and even under what conditions you are viewing the performance.

Your introduction should also set up the central paragraphs (the meat of your paper) with a thesis statement. A strong introduction will summarize in one or two sentences what is similar or related about the paragraphs ahead while giving the reader a sense of your prevailing reaction to the work. (For more on forming thesis statements see this article at the George Mason University website)

Your Observations

Use specific and descriptive language when writing about what you’ve seen.

  • Use action words that imply a quality or attribute of the movement (slithered, sauntered, bounded, careened instead of rolled, walked, leaped, or turned)
  • Use vivid adjectives to describe qualities of the lighting, costuming, or other elements (cast cheerless shadows, donned gaudy colors and fabrics, carved intricate pathways)
  • Generally, you’ll want to write in the present tense. What you see, hear, feel, and sense rather than what you saw, heard, felt, etc. There are cases that past tense might be appropriate but choreography or performance work is best described as something that continues to exist rather than something that has ended or passed. Whatever you choose, be aware and try not to mix tense within the same paragraph or even within the same paper.

Include your interpretation of how the work(s) develop, how they change in mood, how the themes or mood of the piece is expressed.

When offering your opinions of a specific element or how effectively the work is carried out, support these with specific examples from the work (be wary of attempting to support opinion with blanket statements of belief – “The dancer is astonishing. She is an amazing turner and moves better than anyone else on stage.” vs. “The dancer is astonishing. Her turns have a serpentine fluidity, making her a standout every time she takes the stage.”)

Your Conclusion

Sum up your overall experiences and thoughts about the performance or restate your thesis in more detail.

Relate what you’ve seen to your study or past experiences

Reading, Revising, and Polishing Your Work

  1. Read what you’ve written aloud to yourself or a friend. Is your meaning clear and does it read smoothly?
  2. Leave the paper and then go back to it, reading and making any necessary revisions. Cut or tighten redundant (repetitive) statements, phrases, or paragraphs.
  3. Check spelling (particularly on the spelling of names and titles within the production) and proper punctuation.
  4. Be sure the paper is formatted to your instructor’s specifications before handing it in.

Remember, your reactions, feelings, and opinions are neither right or wrong, however, how well you express these in your writing will determine your grade.

Composing an effective observation essay about a performance takes preparation and an openness to receiving the dance presented.

Your state of mind when viewing a work can affect your perceptions so, try to be rested when you watch a performance, clearing your head of to-do lists or other extraneous thoughts.

I hope you find this guide helpful for drafting your performance critique or simply an assistance as you view dance.

Have you written an Observation/Reaction paper or critique?

If so, what are some things new writers might avoid?

If you are new to writing about performance, what are your questions?

Post them below!

If you are not writing about dance but have made it this far, there are other articles here you may find interesting or applicable to your studies, research, or career:

Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world.

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Filed Under: Blog, College, DancingTagged With: academic, College Guide, critique, essay, high school, observation, paper, reaction, writing

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