The term ice dance was coined for attempts to perform ballroom dances on the ice, and to create ballroom-style dances that could be performed on skates.
The genre was added to the figure skating World Championships in the early 1950s, and it became an Olympic sport in 1976. Ice dancers began to incorporate more and more elements of ballet and theatrical training into their performances, and by the mid-1980s leading dance teams were steadily moving ice dance away from its social-dance origins toward the domain of art dance.
While athleticism remained at the forefront, the lines between sport and art were starting to blur, and in 1992 the International Olympic Committee tightened the rules to steer ice dancing back toward ballroom dancing. It remains to be seen whether ice dancing will continue to be defined narrowly, or whether all forms of expressive skating to music will eventually be considered dance.
This according to What is the “dance” in ice dance? by Ellyn Kestnbaum (Proceedings of the Society for Dance History Scholars 22  pp. 243–248). Below, the Gold Medalists at the 2012 Olympics.
Carmen Tórtola Valencia (1882–1955), who may have reinvented herself as Spanish, made a flamboyant contribution to early modern dance in Spain, Western Europe, and Latin America between 1908 and 1930.
Her rapport with Spanish modernismo enabled her elevation from a music hall and musical theater performer to a solo concert dance artist with a large repertoire of classic, Oriental, and Spanish numbers. Tórtola Valencia’s career particularly flourished in the Hispanic world, while elsewhere she cultivated the figure of the exotic Other.
This according to “Early modern dance in Spain: Tórtola Valencia, dancer of the historical intuition” by Iris Garland (Dance research journal XXIX/2 [fall–winter 1997] pp. 1–22). Below, photographs of Tórtola Valencia and her exotic costumes.
Performed by Tonga men and boys in Malawi, malipenga involves competitive teams organized in a quasi-military hierarchy—titles include “sergeant”, “captain”, and “kingi” as well as “doctor” and “nurse”—dancing in rows and columns and wearing European costumes.
Rather than simply viewing it as a product of colonialism, malipenga should be understood in terms of the dynamic nature of ngoma traditions, an ongoing cultural feature that has survived the disruptions of the colonial period.
This according to “Putting colonialism into perspective: Cultural history and the case of malipenga ngoma in Malawi” by Lisa Gilman, an essay included in Mashindano! Competitive music performance in East Africa (Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota, 2000, pp. 321–345). Below, an example from Champhira.
Filed under Africa, Dance
A semiotics of sex roles in French society was played out in 18th- and 19th-century ballet by projecting it onto imaginary Native American societies.
In the 18th century, sauvage culture became a canvas for the projection of utopian sentiment with subtle social texturing, allowing the expression of fantasies of less restrictive sexual roles; in the 19th century, sauvagerie became grotesque and increasingly unrefined, shifting the emphasis from cultural to racial difference and affirming the status quo.
This according to “Sauvages, sex roles, and semiotics: Representations of Native Americans in the French ballet, 1736–1837” by Joellen A. Meglen (Dance chronicle XXIII/2  pp. 87–132; XXIII/3  pp. 275–320).
Above and below, Rameau’s Les Indes galantes (1735).
Related article: Comedy versus opera
Earlier treatises placed śṛngāra (love/the erotic) among the aesthetic qualities known as rasas, but the 11th-century Śṛngāraprakāśa, attributed to Bhojarāja, King of Malwa (inset), was the first to assert its supreme importance.
The treatise includes highly detailed typologies of love—for example, chapter 22 alone discusses 64 stages of love, each subdivided into 8 categories, each of which is then subdivided into 8 more categories, with hundreds of illustrations from poetic works in Prakrit and Sanskrit.
This according to “Bhoja’s Sringara prakasa: A landmark in the evolution of rasa theory” by V. Subramaniam (Sruti 190 [July 2000] pp. 37–41). Above, a classic image of Krishna and Radha in the moonlight; below, the legendary T. Balasaraswati’s depiction of Krishna’s childhood provides an embodiment of śṛngāra in bharata nāṭyam (filmed by Satyajit Ray).
Filed under Antiquity, Asia
In 18th-century East Anglia, agricultural workers often performed in the streets disguised in blackface and women’s clothing in exchange for largesse; this practice became known as Molly dancing. The dancers, who were often drunk, disreputable, and destructive, were regarded as degenerate by preservationists, and the practice died out in the 1930s.
Four decades later an expansion of the English folk revival fostered an interest in obscure traditions, and a resurrection of Molly dancing ensued. Its new incarnation is marked by a completely different cultural context, improved status of the dancers, and an emphasis on creativity.
This according to “Molly dancing: A study of discontinuity and change” by Elaine Bradtke, an essay included in Step change: New views on traditional dance (London: Francis Boutle, 2001, pp. 60–85). Above, Gog Magog Molly; below, the Ouse Washes Molly Dancers.
Filed under Dance, Europe
In his comic depictions of drunk dancing, Astaire used choreography to project social views and feelings about drunkenness, and to set up tensions between those qualities of inebriation and the precision and agility that his dancing embodied.
Memorable examples include the solo number “One for my baby (and one more for the road)” in The sky’s the limit (1943, above), the “Heat wave” production number in Blue skies (1946), and the classic duet with Marjorie Reynolds in Holiday inn (1942, below).
This according to “Stepping high: Fred Astaire’s drunk dances” by Sally Banes, an essay included in Writing dancing in the age of postmodernism (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1994, pp. 171–183).
When Maud Karpeles set out to document the tradition of the Britannia Coco-nut Dancers of Bacup in 1929, she was regarded with considerable wariness.
The dancers insisted on drawing up an agreement with the English Folk Dance Society that allowed documentation only—teaching of the dances or their unique tune, Tip top polka, were forbidden—in return for active support from the society. While the mass media have brought them national notoriety since then, the dancers point to the 1929 agreement as the cornerstone of their continuing ability to thrive.
This according to “’In a word, we are unique’: Ownership and control in an English dance system” by Theresa Buckland, an essay included in Step change: New views on traditional dance (London: Francis Boutle, 2001, pp. 48–59). Below, the Nutters perform their signature Tip top polka.
Exotic dance is a theatrical art form that communicates within its own aesthetic. It is a multisensory nonverbal performance in which audience members may become active communicators.
But eroticism unleashes passions that defy the dictates of social conservatives, who have stoked public outrage and incited local and state governments to impose onerous restrictions on clubs with the intent of dismantling the exotic dance industry.
While the fight happens at the local level, it is part of a national campaign to regulate sexuality and punish those who do not adhere to conservative values. Ultimately, the separation of church and state is under siege and U.S. civil liberties—free speech, women’s rights, and free enterprise—are at stake.
This according to Naked truth: Strip clubs, democracy, and a Christian Right by Judith Lynne Hanna (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012). Below, exotic dancers in Las Vegas talk about their lives and work.
Related article: Subversive belly dancing
The role of the belly dancer at elite weddings in Cairo illuminates Egyptian attitudes toward sexuality.
The dancer plays on ambiguous evaluations, using the wit associated with baladī-class women to subvert patriarchal constructions of sexuality. Song lyrics, dance forms, and musical styles are all important aspects of raqṣ baladī.
Using wit, gestures, and the raqṣ baladī genre of dance and music, the performer Fifi Abdou entertains through an elaborate joke form in which she deconstructs and reconstructs sexualized assumptions about Egyptian dance and herself as a sexualized dancer.
This according to “‘Oh boy, you salt of the earth’: Outwitting patriarchy in raqs baladi” by Cassandra Lorius (Popular music XV/3 [October 1996] pp. 285–298). Above and below, historic performances by Ms. Abdou.
Related article: Exotic dance and civil liberties