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Discovering Dance as Entertainment

This is an excerpt from Discovering Dance With Web Resources by Gayle Kassing.

As you read the introduction to this chapter, you may have recognized some of the forms of dance as entertainment that you knew or have even taken part in. Some of these forms are live performances, and others are performed for recorded media, yet others focus on commercial dance.Your first activity is an exploration of a form of commercial dance.

Activity 13.1 Explore

Dance in Commercials

Many television commercials use dance to sell products or services. To begin this exploration, spend some time surfing television channels. Select two of your favorite commercials that include dance. Write a one-page paper about one of the commercials. Describe the dancers, the setting, the dance, and why they are dancing. What message do you think is being communicated through the dance? Are the music and dialogue effective parts of the commercial? What product is being featured in the commercial? Do you think the dancing makes connections to the product to sell it effectively? What appeals to you (or doesn't appeal to you) about the dance and the commercial? Write a paragraph to critique the commercial. Search for this commercial on the Internet. In your paper, include a photo and a link for viewing the commercial online.

As a class, share your commercial review papers in the classroom or on the school or class's webpage. If several people selected the same commercial, post them together. Then select two other commercials posted that you did not view but capture your interest. In a class discussion, determine the top three dance commercials, and provide a rationale for these choices using the same criteria you used for your commercial review. On a sheet of paper or the board, post these "awards" with that group of commercial reviews.

Did You Know?

Cruise Ship Performers

The top cruise lines vie for passengers by offering an array of dance, musical theater, and media entertainment options. From shortened versions of Broadway shows to aqua theaters where an underwater civilization comes to life, each cruise line has multiple entertainment options for travelers. Behind the scenes, the life for dancers and other entertainers revolves around rehearsing and performing the shows. Dancers should have training in a wide variety of dance genres and styles. With two performances or more per day, or twelve performances or more per week, production show dancers have a busy schedule. A production show dancer may have additional roles on nonproduction show evenings and other occasions such as greet passengers or lead and escort tours of the bridge and backstage areas. On cruise ships, which can be like a small city on the sea, show dancers must be ready for living in close quarters and get used to dancing on a stage that moves with the rocking motion of the ship. In their spare time, dancers have staff access on deck and to facilities such as the pool and the gym. If you love to travel, this is a job in which you can dance your way to new destinations.

Exploring Dance as Entertainment

Dance entertainment is a vast topic and an important component of dance. As a viewer of dance entertainment, you see the collaboration between dance artists, directors, and media or live production staff. These collaborators create ways to use dance choreography to entertain audiences or sell products or services in various settings. To prepare for dancing in commercial or entertainment settings, you have to be versatile as a dancer. You must study social dance, folk dance, cultural dance, street dance, ballet, modern dance, jazz, and tap dance. When you explore the section on dance unions in chapter 15 and on the web resource, you will see job listings that outline the dance genres a dancer needs to have for these jobs. A job can be for a one-performance event, or it might last for years, such as a musical theater performance on Broadway or a yearlong touring show. Commercial dancers who go from job to job are called dance gypsies, because their work is constantly changing from one show to another.

History of Dance as Entertainment

Professional dancers have worked as entertainers since prehistory. In ancient Egypt, the first recorded professional dancers, along with acrobats and musicians, entertained royalty. In ancient Greece dance was part of theater. From medieval times through the renaissance, dance was entertainment and amusement for nobles and peasants alike.

During modern history as dance moved onstage, dance as entertainment was part of other art forms or as interludes between dramas and operas. In the 19th century, dance continued to gain stature through entertainment such as minstrel shows, circuses, spectacles, fairs, variety shows, and vaudeville performances. Dance performances took place outdoors, in music and variety halls, theaters, and arenas. When the transcontinental railway system linked the nation from coast to coast, dance as entertainment exploded. Entire troupes or stock companies or self-contained companies who performed all types of entertainment forms, traveled the country by train; they stopped in cities and small towns to entertain people for the night. These companies were made up of versatile triple threat performers - those who did all the acting, dancing, and singing roles required in an evening's entertainment.

In the 20th century, the love of dance as entertainment grew in new directions. Broadway revues evolved into musical theater productions. With the invention of motion pictures and then television, dance moved into entertainment mass media.

For Broadway shows, dance artists and choreographers from ballet and modern dance companies created dances in early-20th-century follies (elaborate shows with music, songs, and dances), revues, and then musicals. As musical theater dance developed, it continued to absorb the styles of dance genres such as tap dance, ballet, modern dance, and jazz dance. Each musical theater production had its unique choreography using blended styles. Broadway shows tour throughout the world, bringing classical and contemporary musical theater productions to millions of people.

Dance movies have been popular since the early days of film. Producing these movies took hundreds of dancers, such as in the work of Busby Berkeley in the 1920s as a Broadway dance director and in 1930s movies where he directed musical numbers which led to his fame. Dance movies became an important area of commercial dance. Dancers and choreographers have entertained and educated audiences in historical dramas, animated movies, movie musicals, and science fiction movies alike. Animated movies in which characters danced were the invention of Walt Disney and his creative staff. Characters such as Snow White and the dancing dwarfs, princesses, and all kinds of creatures perform animated dances. In the 1950s, Gene Kelly bridged the gap between animation and live characters when he danced with an animated mouse in the film Anchors Away (1945).

With the advent of television, dance moved into variety shows, such as the Ed Sullivan Show. They showcased a wide variety of dance artists and choreographers and made them household names across America. As television programming expanded, so did the opportunities for dance shows. The popular Dance in America series brought ballet and modern dance companies to homes across America. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) continues to provide diverse programming of dance as art, entertainment, and education.

Over the last decade, reality dance shows such as So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars have expanded dance audiences and their appreciation of dance. Televised dance or drill team competitions and other associated dance competitions present another aspect of dance as entertainment. Television programming now includes an array of dance entertainment, including sitcoms and documentary series on dancers, their personal lives, musical theater, and dance genres from around the world.

After Disneyland opened in the 1950s, amusement and theme parks became another mass entertainment medium. Dance became an important feature in theme parks across the nation and the world. Dancing characters from the movies reside in different areas of these parks. In each park, one or more companies of dancers perform short entertainment shows throughout the day, every day. Dancers perform blended historical, cultural, or social dance styles to entertain park visitors. The Disney concept of performers - being in character and onstage while walking in the park or dancing - spurred an entire entertainment industry. Other live entertainment settings, including cruise ships, casinos, and resorts, provide multiple dancing stage shows as entertainment for guests.

When Internet technology expanded, another entertainment site emerged that would support dance films, recorded dance performance, and ways to interact in real time with dancers and choreographers across the globe. In the 20th century the term dance for the camera was coined to describe dance that was filmed as art, education, or entertainment. Productions of dance for the camera include documentaries of dancers and choreographers, historical and educational movies, concert and cultural dance companies, and performances of choreographed artistic dance films. These dance films are broadcast on television, shown in schools, or shown as fine art films. On the Internet, anyone can post a personal dance video to be viewed by the class, the school, and often the entire world. Dance for the camera has expanded into a whole new dimension that requires understanding dance as well as the art of filming it. To create dance for the camera, you need to grasp the artistic and production values, choices, and processes that are part of creating a filmed work.

Explore More

You can see from this brief overview that there is much to explore in dance as entertainment and its commercial sector. The Explore More sections on the web resource will explore three dance entertainment genres: dance or drill teams, dance in musical theater, and dance for the camera.

Dance or Drill Teams

Dance or drill teams range from students in middle school, high school, and college to professionals who perform at local sporting events to televised professional sports. Halftime shows for many sports feature dance or drill teams. Dance or drill teams perform for school games and community functions, and they take part in dance and drill team competitions. Their routines showcase their ensemble technique, spirit, and enthusiasm for the crowds. Training for dance and drill team requires athleticism and artistry. Dance and drill teams began as a Texas phenomenon that has spread across the United States and around the world. Visit the chapter 13 on the web resource to explore more about dance and drill teams.
A dance team moves together to create a powerful effect.

Courtesy of Jennifer Dawson, Terri Ware, and Silver Star Dancers

Activity 13.2 Discover

Learn a Drill or Dance Team Combination

For this activity, your teacher or a classmate teaches one or more basic drill or dance combinations to the class. After everyone has learned and practiced the routine to music, take a few minutes to reflect on the experience. In your journal, write about what you enjoyed in the routine, what was challenging, and which type of routine you preferred and why. Share it with another student or in a group discussion.

Dance in Musical Theater

Musical theater dance spans school musicals, professional productions on the Broadway stage, and touring companies that travel to cities across the world. Becoming a musical theater dancer takes versatile dance training and other performing arts skills such as acting, music, and voice. The challenge in every musical theater production is to blend dancing, acting, and singing to portray your role. Visit the web resource to explore more about musical theater dance.
Musical theater productions feature a blend of singing, dancing, and acting.

Jim West

Activity 13.3 Explore

Dance in Musical Theater

Choose a musical from the list provided by your teacher. Form a small group with other students who chose the same musical theater production. Together, search the Internet to find a video of a major dance sequence or dance combination from that musical. Your teacher may provide you with a list of dances from which to choose. View the dance number, then answer these questions:

  • Identify each main character, and write a sentence or two about each person to describe their personality.
  • Where does the dance take place?
  • What inspires the characters to do this dance?

Describe the dance, the music, and whether it includes a song that is part of the musical number.

Collaborate as a group to develop, write, and present a 1- or 2-minute oral summary or a media presentation to the class to cover this information:

  • Provide the story line (plot) of the musical.
  • Identify the choreographer and give a very brief summary (two or three sentences) of the individual's contributions to the field.
  • Indicate the main characters by writing a two- to three-sentence biography about each person.
  • Describe the dance, the music, and the song in the musical number that you viewed.

Post a one-page summary of your group's information in the classroom or on the class web page. Add a picture that captures the meaning of the musical, or take a photo of your group in a memorable pose from the dance you researched. On your media presentation and one-page summary, cite the sources for your research.

Dance for the Camera

Dance in film, television, music videos, and other media forms provides entertainment for audiences. It also provides choreographers and dancers more media choices for presenting dance as an art form. Dance for the camera is term that covers entertainment, artistic, and multimedia forms of presenting dance. Filming dance has been instrumental in documenting its artists and works for the public to enjoy. Further, dance media has expanded dancers' views about how to complement or enhance a live performance. The final Explore More section investigates the types of media used in dance for the camera.

Learn more about Discovering Dance.

More Excerpts From Discovering Dance With Web Resources