History of Dance

Second Edition

Gayle Kassing, PhD


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Kassing, Gayle.

Title: History of dance / Gayle Kassing, PhD.

Description: Second edition. | Champaign, IL : Human Kinetics, [2018] |

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2017002407 (print) | LCCN 2017002883 (ebook) | ISBN

9781492536697 (print) | ISBN 9781492536710 (e-book)

Subjects: LCSH: Dance–History. | Dance–United States–History.

Classification: LCC GV1601 .K37 2018 (print) | LCC GV1601 (ebook) | DDC


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ISBN: 978-1-4925-3669-7 (print)

Copyright © 2017, 2007 by Gayle Kassing

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Permission notices for material reprinted in this book from other sources can be found on pages 287-289.

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Glance at the Past
Dancers, Dance, and Dance Works Through the Centuries
Significant Dance Works and
How to Use the Web Resource

How to Access the Web Resource


Capturing Dance From the Past
Studying Dance in a Historical Context
Gaining a Sense of History
Tools for Capturing Dance
How a Dance Historian Captures the Past

Part I: Dance in Early History

Chapter 1: Dance at the Dawn of Time
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Dances in Prehistory
Significant Dance Works and

Chapter 2: Dance in Ancient Civilizations
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Dances of Ancient Egypt
Significant Dance Works and
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Dance in Ancient Crete
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Ancient Greek Dance
Significant Dance Works and
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Dances of Rome
Significant Dance Works and

Chapter 3: Dance From the Middle Ages Through the Renaissance
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Dance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
Significant Dance Works and


Part II: Dance in Modern History

Chapter 4: Dance at Court: The Late 16th and 17th Centuries
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Court Dances and Ballets of the Period
Significant Dance Works and

Chapter 5: Dance From Court to Theater: The 18th Century
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Dances of the 18th Century
Significant Dance Works and

Chapter 6: Romantic to Classical Ballet: The 19th Century
Glance at the Past
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Dances of the 19th Century
Significant Dance Works and
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Dance in Russia
Significant Dance Works and

Chapter 7: Dance in the United States: The 17th Through 19th Centuries
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Dance in 18th- and 19th-Century America
Significant Dance Works and

Part III: American Dance in the 20th Century and Beyond

Chapter 8: Imported Influences: 1900–1929
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and

Chapter 9: Emerging American Dance: 1930–1944
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and


Chapter 10: Maturing Classics: 1945–1959
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and

Chapter 11: Chance and Change: 1960–1979
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and

Chapter 12: New Directions: 1980–2000
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and

Chapter 13: Global Interactions: 2000–2016
Glance at the Past
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and
Dancers and Personalities
Significant Dance Works and



About the Author


Dance as a performance art offers a multimedia experience in which movement interacts with sound,
costumes, and lighting in the presence of an audience. Similarly, in history, generations of people have
interacted with and responded to social, technological, and artistic movements and political and economic
events. By studying the history of dance in an environment of arts, culture, and technology, we can see it from
a multimedia perspective. The tools available in the 21st century allow teachers and students to create a
multimedia environment that facilitates a visually, textually, and aurally integrated view of the history of

In our technologically saturated era, the senses are bombarded with images, music, and movement. The ability
to create a multimedia view of a period of history depends on technological capabilities and access to certain
tools. Visual and auditory glimpses of various historical periods through the use of video clips of dance
performances allow you to see history in a new context and thus draw new meanings from it. This book
provides you with methods for perceiving, creating, responding, and connecting to the history of dance
through integrated arts and technology.

History of Dance, although written for dance history courses, also supports general education courses in the
humanities and fine arts. As a study of prehistory to the present, the book focuses on dancers, dance, dance
works and literature, and dance as an art form in the context of social studies, related arts, and technology.
The interactive environment is supported by the national standards for education in dance, arts, social studies,
and dance literature in the context of history, society, and culture. The introduction (Capturing Dance From
the Past) outlines tools from dance and other arts and disciplines that will facilitate your studies within a
perspective of history, related arts, and technology.

The following sections explain how each chapter has been designed to help you learn the history of dance.


Glance at the Past

Each chapter begins with a snapshot of the historical scene, sketching in the major cultural, political, and
economic events during the period covered. A look at the society and arts of the time completes the picture. A
time line identifies the major historical, societal, artistic, and technological events and gives you a visual sense

of the entire period. Less attention is paid to history and society in part III, the 20th and 21st centuries,
because it is assumed that readers have studied U.S. history; instead those overviews function as triggers for
memories of the events. The information about 20th- and 21st-century society includes fashion, trends, and
arts movements. Gaining an essential understanding of history and society prepares you for the primary focus
of the chapter—dance.


Dancers, Dance, and Dance Works Through the Centuries

Each chapter centers on three topics: dancers, dance, and significant dance works and literature. These topics
provide you with an initial exposure to the major elements in dance history and a starting point for further

Dancers and Personalities

This section presents the major dancers, choreographers, and personalities of the period. Each entry begins
with a brief biography that includes the person’s early history, career accomplishments, significant works, and
contributions to dance.


This topic identifies and briefly describes the major dances of the period, including their purpose, forms, and
supporting arts. In parts I and II, a section called Dance Designs categorizes the features of dance forms and
dances. Underlying any dance design are the elements of space, time, and energy or effort. These elements are
then incorporated into a dance structure that relates to the dance accompaniment, costuming, and
performance space. Not all of the design elements relate to every dance or dance form. Although each dance is
unique, those with similar design elements or structures can be grouped into categories, thereby providing a
basis for comparison between categories and historical periods. The design elements include

the types of movements or steps,
the number of people,
relationships or formations,
dance structure and type,
dance accompaniment,
costumes and other accoutrements, and
the performing space (which may include the time of day, if important).

Dance design has changed through the ages; some elements have supplanted others in importance. Chapters 1
through 5 look at design in terms of individual, community, social, and professional performance. As dance
became a performing and theatrical art, it separated from dance as an amusement or social pursuit found in
the ballroom and other settings. Dance innovation in society; in ballrooms; on the musical, theatrical, or
concert stage; in dance clubs; or on the streets has played an important and enduring role in cross-fertilizing
new dance ideas and movements. This continued exchange among dance forms in various settings and within
the context of society, arts, and history enriches dance performance, whether as a social pursuit or a
performing art. In part III, the attention to design fades into the background while the exploration of
significant works appears, as dance genres, forms, and styles emerge.

Like dance design, musical accompaniment is an important collaborating art that influences and is in turn


influenced by dance. The types of music and the composers who supported dance are interrelated with dance’s

development as both a social and performing art. Also important are the street wear of the time and dancers’
costumes and other adornments. A summary of dance costuming, shoes, and other paraphernalia paints a
picture of the dancer during a specific period. Costume design was a significant part of dance’s transition from
social amusement to performing art. Performance spaces too have varied considerably throughout history;
those spaces, along with the technological innovations that transformed them, are important elements in the
development of dance as a performance art.


Significant Dance Works and

This section lists major choreographic works of the period with the choreographer, date of initial
performance, and in some cases additional information. Important dance authors and scholars add another
perspective about some historical periods and provide avenues for further research.

At the end of each chapter, four questions prompt the reader to review and summarize important information.
Finally, each chapter ends with a list of vocabulary terms. These terms are prompts for students to develop the
definitions or descriptions based on the chapter’s information.


How to Use the Web Resource

The main text of each chapter provides concise information about dancers, dance, and significant dance works
of the historical period. A fundamental study could stop there, but more remains to be explored. The web
resource, which you can access at, includes research projects, web
links, supplemental learning activities that build on this foundation and allow further delving into the history
of dance, and more. Your course of study may be a survey or an in-depth history of dance; how deep you dig
into that history depends on your motivation, time, and the extensiveness of your course.

By focusing on dancers, dance, and significant dance works in each historical era, utilizing the right tools to
gain understanding, and participating in activities that extend your knowledge, you will acquire a well-
rounded view of dance from the dawn of time through the beginning of the third millennium—and beyond.
Engaging in the history of dance through visual and video representations, audio recordings, reading and
researching, and personal experiences of performing, creating, responding, and connecting will give you a
foundation for understanding and a springboard for studying dance in the 21st century.


How to Access the Web Resource
Throughout History of Dance, Second Edition, you will notice references to a web resource. This online content
is available to you free of charge when you purchase a new print or electronic version of the book. The web
resource offers supplemental learning activities, study aids, web links, and more. To access the online content,
simply register with the Human Kinetics website. Here’s how:

1. Visit
2. Click the second edition link next to the corresponding second edition book cover.
3. Click the Sign In link on the left or at the top of the page. If you do not have an account with Human

Kinetics, you will be prompted to create one.
4. Once you have registered, if the online product does not appear in the Ancillary Items box at the left,

click the Enter Pass Code option in that box. Enter the following pass code exactly as it is printed here,
including any capitalization and hyphens: KASSING-5NB2W-WR.

5. Click the Submit button to unlock your online product.
6. After you have entered your pass code for the first time, you will never have to enter it again in order to

access this online product. Once you have unlocked your product, a link to the product will appear
permanently in the menu on the left. All you need to do to access your online content on subsequent
visits is sign in to and follow the link!

If you need assistance along the way, click the Need Help? button on the book’s website.


Special thanks to my husband, Bernard, and my daughter, Shana, who have supported my personal history of

On the History of Dance project, I wish to extend a special thank-you to Ray Vallese for his support. I also
wish to acknowledge Bethany Bentley for her guidance through the editorial process. My special thanks
extend to the HK staff, whose professional publishing expertise is of stellar quality. Together, we transformed
a dream into a book. It is an honor to work with these dedicated professionals, who contribute to resources
that lead the way to developing tomorrow’s teachers and leaders throughout the world.

Thanks to University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty members for their support in providing the talented dancer
models, beautiful period costumes, and facilities for photographing the cover and a chapter-opening
photograph: Susan L. Ourada, MFA, Associate Professor, Director of Dance Studies; Janice Stauffer, MFA,
Associate Professor of Theatre and Film; and Laurel Shoemaker, Associate Professor of Theatre, Head of
Tech/Design Program, Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.

Thanks to University of Nebraska–Lincoln dancer models Déa Dreán Baker, Rachel Becker, Jazmine
Huertas, Tanner Krecklow, Alexis Spurgin, and Madeline Thelen for their many contributions during the
photo shoot. Thanks to Bernard Wolff for his beautiful dancer model photos for the cover and a chapter-
opening photo.


Capturing Dance From the Past

An Introduction

“The dance is the mother of the arts. Music and poetry exist in time; painting and architecture in space.
But the dance lives at once in time and space.”

Curt Sachs

Dance is a moving art. It exists during a brief period of time and then it is gone, only to remain in the memory
of the dancers and the audience. Similarly, historical events leave remnants such as oral traditions, writings,
and visual and other artistic representations. So how can you capture dance long enough to study its history?
Actually, you are making dance history today and therefore could become one of tomorrow’s dance history
makers or historians. You capture your dance and interpret it for yourself or others through your
choreography, writings, or videos for the present or for the future. You are a link in dance tradition; you
connect one generation to the next in the history of dance.


Studying Dance in a Historical Context

Studying the history of dance from prehistory to the present may seem overwhelming. Vast numbers of
people, dances and dance forms, dates, events, causes and effects, and historical periods can easily blur into an
incomprehensible jumble of information that is difficult to connect to a specific period. To achieve a basic
understanding of any history, you have to use tools to help you achieve the desired results. History of Dance,
Second Edition, offers various ways to dig up the past and a systematic method to guide your study of dancers,
dance, and dance works chronologically by linking them to historical periods.

The major focus of the history of dance is on the dancers, dance, and significant dance works and literature
within a specific period. Understanding each of these components, and how they relate to each other and
interrelate with other arts in a historical and cultural time frame, is the primary way to discover the who, what,
where, when, and why of the history of dance.

As 20th-century dance history scholar and author Selma Jeanne Cohen pointed out, dance does not happen in
a vacuum; it exists as part of the tapestry of arts, culture, society, and history.

Why study the history of dance? History may repeat itself in many ways, but each time it reappears, it
manifests itself in new ways within the context of events, ideas, or arts styles. Sometimes studying the past can
give insights into current events or trends or help you make predictions about the future. Attempting to
understand the underlying concepts of the history of dance and the differences in its various periods provides a
fascinating study. These concepts function as a rich resource that can support other dance studies, research,
and choreography.

In studying the history of dance, you focus on

dancers and other people who contributed to dance during a given era;
dance, by reading about, viewing, performing, or reconstructing a dance, or by learning about the types
of dance and dance forms of the period being studied; and
significant dance works and literature, which provide an understanding of the important contributions
of dance during that time.


People drive the events of history. In the history of dance, the people who drive the events are the dancers as
well as the dance creators, choreographers, directors, and other personalities involved in dance. Their successes
and failures contributed to the cause and effect of events in the history of dance. Although these people were
driving forces, they were influenced by events that transpired during their lives. Visual, dramatic, and musical
artists and other personalities bequeathed much to the development of dancers and dance. Studying the
dancers, choreographers, and personalities who propelled history is interesting and important. The most
difficult part to capture is the essence of the dance.



Dance has often been called a mirror of society, a response to historical events as well as political, economic,
even religious movements, and definitely a social statement—no matter where and by whom it is performed.
In some historical periods social dances, such as those in the court and theaters during the reign of Louis XIV
of France, were very similar to those performed onstage. In other periods many differences separated dance in
society from dance in theatrical settings. For example, ballroom dances and classical ballet performances in the
later 19th century had little in common. Within a given period, social and theatrical forms of dance contained
important components that cross-fertilized each other as they developed.

How people danced and the types of dances they performed are linked to society and the historical period.
Dance design encompasses the elements of space, time, and energy (effort) as a basis; specific design elements

the types of movements or steps,
the number of people,
relationships or formations,
dance structure and type,
dance accompaniment,
costumes and other accoutrements, and
the performing space (which may include the time of day, if important).

What, how, and when people performed the dances are important components in understanding dance in a
particular period, and the information serves as a basis for comparing two or more dances or dance forms.

Yet a larger question to be answered is whether dance functioned as a social amusement or professional
endeavor. Why and with whom did the participants study dancing, and what else did they study in order to
prepare as a performer? These important discoveries change with different time periods. These questions and
many more place dancers and their dances within the context of society and history.

Significant Dance Works

The study of dance works opens the door to the larger world of dance scholarship and literature within a
historical context. Significant dance works comprise the foundation and sustenance of dance as a performing
art. The writing about these works forms the core of dance literature. Historical dance manuals of written or
notated dance works provide insight into another time. Reading them may require fluency in a foreign
language or a contemporary or historical notation system, and the ability to understand the writing style and
allusions or nuances associated with the period is essential. By deciphering floor patterns, reading written
instructions, or decoding historical notation, researchers explore past eras that require extensive knowledge
about dance as well as its related arts, culture, and society.

Studying a written or notated dance work or viewing a reconstructed performance provides a window into


understanding the dance. By coupling that experience with writings and critiques about the performance, you
can move beyond the steps, figures, and floor patterns to learn more about the dance and the dancers who
performed it.

Significant dance works are important contributions from choreographers and dancers. In addition, often
these works record and assimilate dance movements or pioneering efforts into the development of dance and
art. Therefore, studying these works is like studying literature. When you view a performance and set it within
a context of dance and history, you gain insights into dance and its history. In attempting to capture dance
and to understand a historical work, you have to use a variety of resources as learning tools. Likewise, reading
dance literature of the time or scholarly writings about the period will provide innumerable insights, allowing
you to gain a sense of history as a basis for the dance of that period.


Eighteenth-century dance notation. At a glance it looks like a series of decorative designs, but the page
includes specific steps, positions of the arms, and figures.

Photo Les Arts decoratifs / Nom du photographe.


Dance literature often supplies the theoretical, factual, and critical underpinnings that support dance. As a
genre, dance literature encompasses a variety of sources. For example, the historical, theoretical, and
philosophical segments include examples of seminal works such as 18th-century English dance master John
Weaver’s early history of dance, 19th-century Italian choreographer Carlo Blasis’ theoretical writings about
dance, and 20th-century American critic John Martin’s The Modern Dance. These are only three of many
dance literature works you will encounter. Dance literature records autobiographies, biographies, impressions,
and events. Librettos, dance-drama scenarios, choreographers’ notes, and critical writings of dancers capture
the essence of dance and dance works through the ages. Each chapter of this book includes selected works to
provide additional avenues of study.

Other sources include journal articles and books by dance writers or scholars who study microcosms, a small
part of a larger landscape of the history of dance. These in-depth research gems synthesize many sources and
years of research to provide insight into a particular topic within the broader scope of dance history. Similarly,
electronic recordings of dance steps and movements, choreography, and interviews with choreographers,
dancers, and musicians provide invaluable resources about an art that vanishes before your eyes.

Music, drama, literature, and the visual or fine arts provide various conduits for studying dance and its
relationship to developing or declining artistic movements. History offers an even broader foundation from
which to see the impact of social, political, and economic events and changes on dance and other arts.

Dancers, dance, and dance works are situated within the larger contexts of geography, history, society, and
culture. Likewise, dance as an art is supported by and reactive to performance settings, visual arts, music, and


dramatic arts (including costuming, decor, and lighting design).


The interrelated arts model provides a visual representation of conduits, connections, and a context for
studying the core topics of dancers, dance, dance works, and literature.


Gaining a Sense of History

History involves what people did, what they created or contributed, and what events happened within the
context of a time frame. A historian analyzes and then synthesizes a great deal of information from a variety of
viewpoints. This process requires some detective work, sifting through what seems to be true and what is
opinion, and then deciding which major factors underlie or contribute to the cause and effect of an event. But
first you have to answer some questions such as these in order to gain the basic knowledge that will allow you
to understand a historical period:

Who, what, where, when, and why were the historical, political, economic, and social events that
interacted in a particular place in a given time period?
What causes and effects can be determined as they relate to history, arts, and dance?
Who, what, where, when, and why were the arts that contributed to the culture and society of the
What ideas can be understood about the people, period, dance, arts, and culture of a specific place,
region, or country?

Understanding dance within the context of other arts, society, and historical settings and times helps you
perceive how dance changed from one century to the next. Through these changes you can see the
interrelationships and subsequent developments in dance. But central to these changes is the role of the
dancers. Who performed the dances? What were their roles as participants? Where, when, and why did they

People and Events

History is about people and events. Learning about people who activated the events during a particular time
frame is the key to understanding that period. Historical events incite people’s actions or reactions. These
ideas transfer to the history of dance, too. For example, Catherine de’ Medici, as regent queen of France,
produced elaborate ballets to celebrate political events; on a smaller scale, nobility throughout Europe copied
these ballets. Events have economic, political, or religious effects on people, nations, and times. Another view
to consider is the response of society or arts movements to people and events.

Economic, Political, and Religious Contexts

Economic, political, and even religious events or movements can be integral to or catalysts for a historical
period. These elements build context for the period. Consider each separately and then together to gain a
sense of the times that relates to society and the arts, including dance.

Relationships …

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